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Gallop hails waking giant as boom TV deal looms

FOOTBALL FEDERATION Australia is set to unveil a new TV deal on Monday that will deliver an expected $160 million over four years, more than double the value of the previous broadcast rights.

The package will include Socceroos and A-League fixtures to be shown live on Fox Sports and delayed by one hour on SBS. It will officially begin on July 1 but the new Fox Sports-SBS arrangement has already begun, with the free-to-air station broadcasting delayed international matches.

The broadcast deal has been negotiated over a long time, and was the former chief executive Ben Buckley's final commitment to the game before stepping down.

The FFA chief executive David Gallop took in yesterday's match between Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix - the new chief's first taste of the round-ball code's game-day atmosphere in an official capacity. And while the former NRL supremo was sympathetic to Newcastle's plight, after an embarrassing 3-0 defeat, he preferred to look on the positives for the competition as a whole.

''Not a great day for the home team, but still enjoyable for me,'' was his post-match assessment. ''It was good to see such a healthy crowd [13,116], when you consider Wellington are not going to be able to have too many away fans here. I think that's a good sign.

''It was also indicative of the closeness of the competition. Every sport wants to run a competition with a belief that their team can beat any other team, and that's the sort of competition that the A-League is at the moment, which is pleasing.''


Having viewed football as a rival when he was at the helm of rugby league, Gallop was excited by the A-League's potential to become a major player.

''I think the sleeping giant metaphor, we've moved beyond that now,'' he said. ''The giant is well and truly awake, out of bed, and out the front door, from what we've seen in terms of success of the A-League this season and also the continued growth of grassroots football.

''Obviously there needs to be continued emphasis on connecting the grassroots to the elite level of the game, but work is being done in that regard, and that will be an important focus for me in my job.''

Gallop acknowledged Newcastle's proud footballing history, which dates from clubs such as Minmi Rangers, founded in 1884.

''There is a rich tradition of football in the Hunter,'' he said. ''Connecting the current game and the history of the game is very important; football has got some pretty deep roots in the Hunter.''

Gallop was relaxed about recent media coverage of the financial position of Jets owner Nathan Tinkler, whose business and horseracing empires have experienced some well-documented setbacks.

''It's not a concern at this stage, simply because nothing has happened to indicate otherwise,'' Gallop said. ''There's obviously a lot of publicity, but one of the focuses for us is supporting our owners, and Nathan has been a very important contributor. So I'm looking forward to understanding the business model and helping all out private owners.''

Gallop said he had spent time with Jets management watching Sunday's game ''but nothing in depth''.

Not surprisingly, he was excited about the possibility of luring superstar David Beckham to the A-League but added such a prospect was still speculative.

''It would be fantastic but we're not counting our chickens in relation to it,'' he said. ''What I can say is we're very comfortable that there is legitimate interest.''