The likes of stars such as Alessandro Del Piero, Dwight Yorke and Juninho playing for Sydney FC could become a memory for the Sky Blues despite their premiership-winning team delivering off-field success that will put the club in its best financial position.
A flurry of sponsors, a massive surge in membership, unprecedented exposure and increased viewers will put Sydney FC in a position to finally break even next season following their on-field success this year. However, their chief executive Tony Pignata has warned fans not to expect the unprecedented financial stability that’s followed on-field success to put them in a position to sign another high-profile marquee next season.
In six years, the club’s trimmed its losses from $8 million per season when they signed Del Piero to about $1 million. Depending on the annual grant from the FFA and renewed sponsorship deals, the number in the red could be almost negligible.
While a major boost for a club that’s financially struggled, it will unlikely be enough to put them in a position to sign a player with a similar calibre to past stars. Since they signed the former Juventus captain in 2012 for $4 million per season, the growth of other emerging markets has made it near impossible for Australian clubs to sign ageing high-profile footballers and Pignata issued a warning to fans desperate to see big names at Moore Park in the near future.
“First and foremost, it’s a football decision. [Coach] Graham [Arnold] will sit down and think about what he needs with his squad,” he said. “Though, I’ve always said that the way the market is at the moment, the way money is spent in China and the MLS, it’s very difficult to get players of that level to play in the A-League. When you’re paying a bloke seven million bucks, it’s hard to get a return on that.”
Sydney’s seven-year silverware drought will end on Saturday afternoon when their captain, Alex Brosque, lifts the A-League Premiers’ Plate after their match against Newcastle Jets at Allianz Stadium. It follows an incredible season that saw records tumble as the Sky Blues set the benchmark for the best defence, the most wins, will likely set a new record-winning title margin for a single season and one more win will ensure they finish with the most points in the history of national football in Australia.
It’s not only caught the attention of punters and pundits, but also commercial partners. The deals with their jersey sponsors Webjet and Star Track expire at the end of the season and the value in those will rise following Sydney’s success and the introduction of the A-League on free-to-air TV, most likely Channel Ten.
“We’re getting new sponsors calling us. In the last three days we met with three or four potential new sponsors who are coming to us on the back of the season we’ve had,” Pignata said. “We don’t have a lot of property available, it’s great, everyone wants to be part of it. We’re playing Liverpool in a few weeks time. In a few months we have [a friendly game against] Arsenal coming up.”
Sydney’s TV audiences have increased by 15 per cent to an average of 82,000 viewers per game this season and the club is targeting a membership jump from about 12,000 to 15,000 next season.
“On the back of the season we’ve had we’re expecting a good rise in memberships,” Pignata said.