ADP's true legacy: returning the fans lost in transition

Alessandro the great … Italian maestro Del Piero enjoys his first training session in Sydney.
Alessandro the great … Italian maestro Del Piero enjoys his first training session in Sydney.

The true value of Alessandro Del Piero is not to raise the promotional strength of the game, competition or club, as valuable as these are, but to engage the final piece of the evolutionary puzzle the A-League needs to achieve: our own community.

This is going to be the lasting legacy of a superstar player having chosen to make his way Down Under, the ability to attract that part of the football family who are not getting into the stadiums or do not feel a part of the game as it stands today.

This is a varied group, but many are made up of two main constituencies, those who played or play the game, and those who formerly supported the NSL clubs.

Having been left behind in many ways by a game that simply cut the cord, changed, and treated the past with contempt, there remains a sizeable number of football devotees who have chosen to remain loyal to their memories and the emotion they invested before, rather than to reinvest in another entity.

The A-League's policy of taking players from clubs lower down the food chain but equally important, if not more so, for their role in player development but without adequate recompense was a strategic error that alienated many who have spent decades in the game. But after seven years the connections are now being recast and lasting bonds formed.

One thing is certain, we need everyone who loves, plays and supports football to get into the stadiums this season and become a part of the future to strengthen the competition and put the past few years of uncertainty behind us.

Everyone. The almost 2 million Australians who play the game in one of its many forms, and the millions who watch the kaleidoscopic array of leagues and competitions at every level the game has to offer.

We need all of them attached to a club and made to feel a part of the game and given respect for what they achieved or contributed.

This is one area the governing body had previously struggled to adequately understand or activate until the penny dropped last season. Now the focus on restructuring State Premier Leagues and a newfound awareness by A-League clubs of the vital importance of total integration with the broader game has forged great leaps in this area.

So, too, the ''We Are Football'' campaigns that have galvanised different sections of this vast game by igniting very strong feelings of commonality, brotherhood and community that is an essential and beautiful part of the football experience.

Today, more and more football fans, players and observers are forming a relationship with their A-League club, and Del Piero's arrival has increased the speed of this evolution exponentially.

The response to the Italian maestro's signing has been nothing short of astonishing, but most heartening has been the number of current and former players and long-time fans who are inspired and excited by his capture and who have resolved to see him play.

Clearly, for all the fancy and costly marketing campaigns, branding exercises and research studies, there is no substitute for the genuine emotion of seeing a great player in the flesh.

Yes, we all know that getting people in the stadiums is only the start and that they must be engaged once they're there, made to feel an attachment that keeps them active and emotionally involved and builds a bond with the club and shirt but, for one part of the football family, getting them there has been the hardest part.

The new head of the league - Damien de Bohun - will be also be intensely focused on this to ensure the vast outlays on the new marquee signings Del Piero, Emile Heskey and, perhaps, Michael Ballack, are leveraged onto greater engagement three, five and 10 years from now.

But, make no mistake, these signings and particularly ADP have got the entire family on the edge of their seats and eager to be involved and that is, as they say, a game changer.

Twitter - @Craig-Foster

This story ADP's true legacy: returning the fans lost in transition first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.