Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata has called for an annual All-Stars match pitting an A-League selection against a team chosen from Major League Soccer in the US.
And as fans debate the merits of Tim Cahill’s move from Everton to New York, Pignata says Australian clubs could do more to learn from the rest of the soccer world.
“I’d love to see a match such as a regular A-League v MLS All-Star game down the track, once we bed down the competition,” Pignata told SBI. “It would be fantastic. We could do it in our off season when they’re starting up or vice versa. There’s no doubt that would be attractive.”
Pignata, about to embark on his first season in charge of Sydney, believes Australian clubs could do more to engage with the rest of the football world. He has signed up to attend the sport’s peak business conference Soccerex in Rio in November and urged other A-League clubs to travel for it as well.
Tribal Sports Management is negotiating with Soccerex to bring the conference Down Under in 2013 and 2014, ahead of the Asian Cup in 2015.
“You can’t compare the A-League to the major leagues in Europe,” says Pignata. “As a young league we need to get out there and we need to meet the calibre of people who attend this conference, network and get to know them, share ideas, share opportunities. That’s why I’d love to see other A-League clubs attend as well.
“And if Tribal Sports want to bring Soccerex here in the next two years then we need to support that by attending this one as well.
“From my point of view it’s a good way of meeting high calibre people within football and at the same time spreading the message of the A-League and Sydney FC.”
Pignata says he would like to undergo a study tour of the US in the A-League off season to spend time looking at the MLS model.
In the aftermath of the Big Bash League last season, Cricket Australia sent a group of executives and marketing staff to the US for a study tour that included a visit to the MLS franchise LA Galaxy.
Pignata said the idea of a similar study tour was floated by FFA a few years ago but rejected, likely on cost grounds.
“It’s invaluable to see how other leagues or sports organisations do things and to share ideas,” Pignata says. “If you pick up something you haven’t thought of, bring it back and it works then it’s paid for itself.
“When I was at Wellington we attended an Asian Football Confederation forum which was fantastic. All the CEOs of the leagues and the clubs in the AFC were there. It was fantastic networking, we were able to meet so many people and share ideas. I’d love to see more of that but I think as a league we don’t do enough and we should do more.”
Meanwhile Pignata says he understands Cahill’s decision to continue his career in MLS rather than at home.
“I know Tim’s comments irked a few people but there’s no way any A-League club could have afforded that transfer fee and that annual salary,” Pignata says. “I have no doubt that Tim made the right decision from his own economic value but I don’t see why him going to the MLS is a slap in the face for the A-League.”
Last week Pignata make his most significant contribution yet to his new club – tying up a major sponsorship with less than 60 days to go until the season kick off in early October.
“I’m enjoying being back in the league, enjoying the football, enjoying signing sponsors! It’s been a positive start and I’m looking forward to playing football for points.”