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Nov 13, 2012

Rival codes wary of football, says Gallop

New Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop claims rival codes have every right to fear the awakening of the sleeping giant on the nation's sporting landscape.

On his first day on the job, the former longtime head of the NRL said the ongoing success of the Socceroos along with the blistering start to the A-League season would not be going unnoticed by rival codes.

The arrival of world-class players Alessandro del Piero and Emile Heskey has created unprecedented levels of interest in the A-League and in-turn football - momentum Gallop is keen to build on.

And having spent the best part of a decade telling anyone who would listen that rugby league could usurp the AFL as the national code of preference, Gallop now says football is the sport the rival codes must fear.

"If football gets its act together, which we're seeing right now, then the other codes need to be really worried about it," Gallop said.

"I can absolutely see a period of great growth and in that regard the other codes should be concerned about where football is placed at the moment.

"I think they would be looking at the results (in the A-League) over the last six weeks, seeing that we're now well and truly on the road to qualification for the World Cup in Brazil and concerned."

While Gallop went to great lengths to detail his interest in the code - as he retold his excitement the night John Aloisi confirmed Australia's berth at the 2006 World Cup - he admitted he would spend much of his first few weeks listening to fans and key stakeholders in the game.

But football fans will soon learn to appreciate Gallop's willingness to be an administrative face for the game - unlike his predecessor Ben Buckley - who was often criticised for shying away from the media.

He declined to comment on the fact his former employers had yet to find a replacement - five months after he was shown the door - but admitted he still had a soft spot for rugby league.

Gallop was adamant his long history in sports administration would outweigh his lack of football experience, claiming much of the ethos he brought to rugby league also applied to the round ball game.

"This is a very cluttered market, a very competitive market," Gallop said.

"You need to have the same principles in place in football as you have in the other codes - fans need to be coming along to games with a genuine belief that their team can win."

And Gallop believes he can add to that fan base by a greater engagement of the footballing community.

One of football's longstanding criticisms is the elite level's detachment from the grassroots, amplified by the less than smooth transition from junior levels.

Fees for juniors are also greater in soccer than other codes.

It was an issue Gallop said he was looking forward to addressing in coming weeks.

While the codes may have changed, some questions remained the same, with Gallop wasting little time in putting expansion on the back-burner.

"To tread cautiously," Gallop said when asked about his thoughts on expansion.

"The experiences not only for football but for other codes where you expand too quickly are obvious, but I've said before I believe in fishing where the fish are.

"I think this game's got that right by opening up the Western Sydney Wanderers franchise - the game's plans don't currently envisage expansion soon."

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