Football boss warns rival codes of sports' growth


SYDNEY (AP) -Football's new boss in Australia says the sport is no longer a "sleeping giant" and has warned rival codes of its potential to dominate the Australian sporting landscape.

David Gallop began his new role as chief executive of Football Federation Australia on Monday by telling a news conference the sport could overtake rugby league and Australian Rules as Australia's preferred football code.

In a bullish assessment of football's growth potential in Australia, Gallop told reporters "the giant continues to be not only awake but on the move. The game's statistics around participation, crowds and television ratings are hugely impressive."

Gallop, who was formerly the chief executive of the National Rugby League, succeeds Ben Buckley who was FFA chief executive for six years.

He said the current strength of the 10-team A-League, boosted by the presence of international stars Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey, was a catalyst for football's growth in Australia.

Australian Rules and rugby league have larger broadcast audiences and attendances, but Gallop warned that football could rapidly catch and even overtake those sports in popularity.

"I think they would be looking at the results over the last six weeks (of the A-League) and seeing that we're now on the road to qualification for the World Cup in Brazil and be concerned," he said.

"If football gets its act together, which we're seeing right now, then the other codes need to be really worried about it."

Australian football has boasted in the past of its potential for growth without making significant inroads into the popularity of its rival codes. Gallop said he was confident this time that he was not seeing another false dawn.

"I think we can be pretty confident from what we've seen in the last few weeks that there are foundation stones in place that will be pretty hard to shift," Gallop said.

"That doesn't mean we have to rest on our laurels and there's always room for improvement but I would be surprised if anyone said that the foundation stones are wobbly. I think they're very much solid."

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