On a day that was swamped with some of the biggest sport news of the year, Football Federation Australia sent out a humble media release.
There was no commotion, no press conference, and no speculation in the few days prior that such news was coming.
But there it was. David Gallop, deposed chief of the NRL, making the ultimate code switch. He was to become a CEO once again. Not for the ARU, and not for the AFL, but for the FFA, for soccer – or football, as the traditionalists will insist.
The announcement of Gallop’s appointment was met with mixed emotions.
The social media networks, on which the football community are active participants, erupted in disbelief, excitement, anger.
From repeated mentions of Gallop being an ‘excellent sport administrator’ to conspiracy theorists predicting the downfall of Australian football because of Gallop’s lack of football credentials, the opinion was split in all directions.
There are however plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Gallop is a confident, straight-talking speaker. He’s an educated man with a strong media presence and very keen business smarts. Also, he is evidently loyal and passionate about his work, having been associated with rugby league administration in Australia for over a decade.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, outgoing CEO Ben Buckley has stumbled through his tenure at the FFA. There’s been plenty of good of course, the pinnacle of which will hopefully be a lucrative and improved broadcast deal. However a cloud of doubt has lingered over him during his time as head honcho thanks to a love/hate relationship with the media, football clubs and the broader football community.
An AFL man at heart, there were many sceptics when Buckley was appointed and unfortunately, though he tried valiantly, Buckley ultimately failed to convert the masses in or outside of the footballing world.
That will be the biggest challenge for David Gallop. Like Buckley was an AFL man, Gallop is an NRL man. People have known him to be as such for some time.
Gallop brings with him a wealth of knowledge, commercial and private contacts that are sure to pay dividends not only for the FFA but for the future growth and stability of football in the country. To succeed he must take advantage of his knowledge in the business and take the game forward, with real growth and plan for the future.
But more importantly he needs to lead with actions, not just pretty words or slogans, and truly understand what the people expect of him. Learn the game – the personalities, the players, the owners and the fans and prove that he’s the man for the job.
Football in Australia has struggled, yes. It is growing though. It may not be a rapid rise but for the limited and often negative exposure it has received in what is an increasingly crowded sporting landscape, the development has been extraordinary.
The question everyone will want answered is simple. Will Gallop be the one to help Australian football take the next step?Follow Melanie on Twitter, @MelanieDinjaski