Australia Looks To Reap Benefits of European Football Tourists

Arsenal play a double-header of friendly matches in Sydney this week and the arrival of the English Premier League giants is seen as a golden opportunity for football in Australia.

The Gunners’ new £52.5 million ($68 million) record signing Alexandre Lacazette could make his debut in Thursday’s meeting with the reigning A-League champions Sydney FC.

And Western Sydney Wanderers will then get the chance to measure themselves against Arsene Wenger’s men on Saturday at the ANZ Stadium.

The matches provide greater visibility to these clubs and can help the sport continue to grow in Australia, according to Damien De Bohun, the former A-League head.

“The tours by European clubs reinforce the popularity of football globally. It also gives fans a tangible way to connect with the players — after seeing them on their television screens, they can literally touch and feel them when they’re out here,” De Bohun, who is now in charge of major events in the state of Victoria, told AFP.

“Technically, it also gives people the opportunity to see close up the professionalism of the overseas clubs and those clubs can also share some of their insights and playing and training techniques with local clubs and their players.”

Tottenham Hotspur played in Australia last year as part of the International Champions Cup, while Liverpool played a post-season game against Sydney FC in May.

“It’s great for the clubs to play football against bigger and better opposition,” added De Bohun.

“It gives those clubs an exposure to the world football scene, a case in point are the Western Sydney Wanderers who won the Asian Champions League in 2014.

“The tours help local clubs aspire and play at a higher level in Australia.”

De Bohun also said that such matches have helped showcase the talents of individuals who have since gone on to earn moves to Europe.

One, ex-Wanderers midfielder Aaron Mooy, was picked up by Manchester City and has since joined Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town.

Goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, once of Central Coast Mariners, has just signed for Brighton and Hove Albion from Valencia while his former club colleague Tom Rogic is now starring for Celtic.

“The European clubs can grow their global footprint. The big sponsors of the clubs who have offices in this part of the world also want to see the benefit of playing in Australia and its proximity to the big markets in Asia,” added De Bohun, who helped organise the recent international friendly played in Melbourne between Argentina and Brazil.

One of the objectives of hosting such matches is to convince other leading clubs that the facilities on offer are worth travelling the long distance to visit.

“Having Brazil and Argentina come to play in Melbourne opens the eyes and ears of other clubs and countries to play here,” he said.

“Some countries who will play at the World Cup in Russia next year have expressed an interest in coming to play in our city. There is a clear plan going forward.”

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