That this council congratulates Adelaide United Football Club for claiming the A-League premiership and championship in season 2015-16.
Adelaide United Football Club, the Mighty Reds, very recently completed the greatest achievement of the club's 13-year history. Adelaide United not only finished top of the table and therefore crowned premiers, but also completed a sweep of the finals series to finish champions of the league. Of course, the double has been done six times previously in A-League history, but Adelaide United had lost two grand final appearances and no premiership since the inaugural A-League season of 2005-06.
The Reds began the season with a new coach, after Josep Gombau stepped down for family reasons in July last year. Guillermo Amor, the club's technical director, was appointed in his stead. Despite high hopes due to the club finishing third in the previous year's A-League and qualifying for the Asian Champions League, Adelaide United were dead last after round 4 and remained there for the next four matches. It was not until Amor's ninth match in charge that the club secured their first win, against Perth Glory.
As we now know, the Reds went on to a record streak of 13 straight clean sheets and were unbeaten in their last 10 matches, culminating in a finish on top of the ladder, one point clear of Western Sydney. Such a dramatic turnaround so late into the season only adds to the drama of the win. Unlike most soccer competitions, the A-League also runs a finals series, in keeping with Australian sporting tradition. Having finished top, Adelaide United were granted a bye before hosting Melbourne City in a semi-final, which the Reds won convincingly 4-1. This set up a one versus two grand final against Western Sydney at Adelaide Oval.
This was a spectacular event, with over 50,000 people in attendance, and it does go to show that, with the right facilities, soccer can attract big crowds in the traditional Aussie rules heartland of Adelaide. It is noteworthy that this was at an oval ground and many fans were well away from the action yet still purchased tickets to be part of this event. It could be time for the government to look at improved facilities for Adelaide United—if nothing else, a better stadium deal to make it worth their while.
The match itself was truly exciting, with four goals in total, and the roar of the crowd for the three Adelaide United goals being something to behold. The Reds were overwhelmingly the best side on the day of the finals series, and clearly for the entire second half of the season. They hit their straps at the right time, and full credit must go to coach Amor for doing that. Often, goalkeepers do not get the credit they deserve. It is a thankless job, but we have the best goal keeper in the league in Eugene Galekovic, our captain. A club record 13 clean sheets is truly impressive, and it is great that he is now getting all the accolades that he richly deserves.
Adelaide United now qualifies directly for the group stage of next year's Asian Champions League beginning in February. This is a big stage, and it is a credit to our club here in Adelaide that this is the Reds' sixth appearance, famously finishing runner-up in 2008, leading to an appearance in the Club World Cup. Some of these matches will be broadcast to audiences in the many hundreds of millions. It is exposure that clubs like ours and a state like ours would never have if were not for this competition, and these are population sizes that Australians can barely comprehend.
It is for this reason that I think that this government cannot pass up the opportunity to utilise this exposure and advertise this state and its unique features to these audiences. With a growing Chinese middle class, for instance, there are many tourism opportunities with deals in place to bring these people to South Australia's iconic branding. Adelaide United kits give the most premium opportunity to do that during the 2017 Asian Champions League campaign.
I acknowledge that there was a deal done for this year's campaign for the qualifier against Shandong Luneng which cost the government $15,000 for what I think is invaluable exposure. I believe this was to be extended to the tune of $100,000 in the event of Adelaide United's qualification. Given that the club has now qualified directly for the group stage, I call on the government to renew this deal. I honestly believe that $100,000 is a small amount to spend, given the hundreds of millions of potential tourism and investment dollars waiting to be tapped into in Asian markets.
A deal such as this has been one of my bugbears for the past four years. It makes sense to me and many at the club, and I am not sure why the government has been hesitant to continue the deal it signed this year. My irritation was exacerbated by the fact that the Northern Territory government swooped in a few years ago to sign a shirt sponsorship deal with the Reds, to the embarrassment of the Weatherill Labor government. I congratulate Adam Giles and the CLP in the Northern Territory for recognising the potential and doing a good deal with Adelaide United. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Adelaide United seeking this particular sponsorship. As the state government would not come to the party, it was their prerogative to get the best deal they possibly could.
It meant playing matches in the Northern Territory, and it also meant that the Brolga, which has been a highly successful emblem of Northern Territory tourism, was prominent on the shirts of a South Australian sporting club—the one soccer team that we have in this state—whose matches are being broadcast around the world. To me, that is unacceptable, and I implore the government to do something about it, to support our successful sporting clubs who punch above their weight and to make sure that we as a state get the recognition that we can through potential television audiences of hundreds of millions in Asia.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge the directors of the club who have ensured its on-field strength and long-term survival and have poured many dollars of their own into this venture. In particular, I commend patron Fay Gerard and the stellar stewardship of the chairman Mr Gregg Griffin, as well as the other owners, Mr Robert Gerard AO, Mr Bruno Marveggio, and Dr Richard Noble. These people deserve full credit for getting the club to where it is today. There are many more unsung heroes, like CEO Grant Mayer, Sponsorship and Corporate Business Manager John Colalancia, and the many others in the back office. To those volunteers who assist with the football operations both on match day and on the training track, I say a wholehearted thank you on behalf of the people of South Australia. I commend the motion to the house.