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Leadership and support is a winning combination

LONG-TERM A-League watchers could be forgiven for imagining they heard a series of loud thuds last week - it was probably jaws hitting soccer boardroom tables throughout the country.

The reason? A different message emanating from head office.

When asked about the issue of declining crowds at a couple of the clubs that are bucking the A-League's generally positive trend, David Gallop said something that was so out of touch with past exhortations, so removed from the reality of past years, I certainly was surprised.

Yes, he pointed out, these are issues that require attention and the league would be supporting the clubs to work through the problem together.

Hang on, you'll what? Work together? Provide support?

Actually show some moral and strategic leadership as the body that runs the league and is responsible for its marketing and overall direction?


Wow! That's a fundamental shift in the attitude at the top.

It was music to the ears of a football community fed little but blame when things haven't quite gone to plan. In recent years we've heard that the management of clubs hasn't been good enough, that clubs haven't marketed themselves well enough, that they have not engaged the community.

But there has never been an admission of guilt on behalf of those running the game that not enough support, guidance or leadership has been shown over the journey.

What a breath of fresh air this new approach by Gallop has been. He has immediately accepted responsibility on behalf of the league's governors to collaborate and lead the clubs to better outcomes.

It will come through their acquired knowledge of what the whole league is doing.

This is not only a major departure from the past, but a critical step forward in improving decision-making at club level; it lends greater political and commercial weight to the clubs rather than the silo approach that fails to leverage the strength of all clubs and gives natural advantages to some over others.

''We're all in this together,'' is the new message out of head office. It could not be more welcome.

The reason for pointing out what is a small but immensely important detail is that this approach places the game in a better place to handle the financial uncertainty of the Newcastle Jets.

Aside from the financial implications, which are difficult to judge without full knowledge of the inner workings, the game is in a far different place from just two years ago.

First, the new broadcast deal provides greater revenues and the game faces future challenges from a far better position.

Further, the long-awaited collaborative approach is significantly boosted by the impressive Damien de Bohun, the head of the A-League.

De Bohun's willingness to consult and work with key stakeholders has not gone unnoticed across the game, meaning that while we have a long way to go before the league is free of short-term liquidity or strategic issues, the management of them has undergone a drastic shift.

There have always been fantastic people involved in football, real jewels even in the toxic environment of the past, or even in the more recent leadership void.

But the signs so far are clear that the culture and management style at head office is heading in the right direction - just as the game enjoys a range of positive indicators that provide confidence absent just a few years ago.

Where once there was only hope and passion, today there is a confidence and inner strength.

Let's hope that the Jets come through, but if the worst does occur let's hope the game today shows that it can face any problem.