Australia's football governing body, Football Federation Australia (FFA), is in the early stages of rolling out a national CRM system to redress problems left by the previous administration and to give a needed cash-kick to grassroots clubs.
Over the next five years, the federation plans to deploy a software suite, developed by UK-based First-Sports, to all tiers of football administration in Australia.
The solution will enable the federation to build a national database of its 700,000 registered players, which will then be used as a competition management platform to streamline communication across the sport's state federations, zones, districts, associations and clubs that will manage the administration of participants, fans and volunteers.
"One of the interesting aspects of sport is that it is not a one-to-one relationship in terms of an organization and a customer, which a traditional CRM covers," FFA Online manager, Paul Templeman said.
"[The software] has the traditional CRM elements -contact management and marketing, but it also has sport-specific modules such as player registration, coaching accreditation and referee registration, which makes it perfect for us."
The system will be built from the ground up, because under Australia's previous football governing body (the now-defunct Soccer Australia), there was no national database of registered players; there was also an outdated online system.
The rollout will be in line with the introduction of new FFA national regulations which will take effect from January 1, 2007. These regulations require all players in Australia to register with the FFA and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Previously, players only had to register with their respective state bodies.
Templeman said the critical factor in using the First-Sports system was its ability to create a 360-degree view of each participant, highlighting multiple roles and interactions within the football community in Australia. This would allow for coordinated marketing campaigns, better communication and player accountability, he said.
"For the past 18 months, since the federation liquidated Soccer Australia, we've been trying to unite the tribes," Templeman said. "The old NSL [National Soccer League] clubs were ethnically aligned and their fan bases were just as fragmented, but we're on our way to changing that."
This fragmentation posed a number of problems for the game's administration in Australia, particularly in regard to the funding of grassroots clubs.
The absence of player data meant Australian football clubs could not qualify for financial compensation through a FIFA-sponsored claims system, which provisions a downward flow of funds to grassroots clubs as players move through the ranks of professional football.
"FIFA requires national football associations to prove a player's playing history, which was completely impossible under the bedraggled system of the old Soccer Australia," Templeman said.
He added that meeting FIFA regulations, securing funding for grassroots clubs and managing the flow of data from each respective state football association, were among the main reasons for using the CRM suite.
"Ultimately, the process is going to be dependant on how each of the state football bodies decide to roll it out," Templeman said. "We'll be there for support, but how they decide to roll out the registration process is up to them."
Although the task of rolling out the system to every football club in Australia would be a daunting one, its completion would provide harmony to the disparate sets of rules and regulations that govern each respective state body and association, Templeman said.
"At the moment it is difficult to quickly gather detailed statistics of players and teams and therefore ground allocations," he said, adding that the solution will allow the combination of demographic information.
"It places us in a much better position to lobby councils and local governments for more support and ground allocation," he said.
The federation will bear the bulk of the infrastructure cost and is looking to invest "seven-figure sums" for the overall implementation. At most, the state and district football associations would only need to pay for licensing costs of the system, Templeman said.
"It's a massive rollout and we don't expect to get it right the first time or have everyone using it next week," he said. "We will be taking our time to do it properly, and although there will be pent-up demand, we'll manage it."
First-Sports' experience in the sporting world is varied with clients like the English Football Association, Wimbledon and Rugby Football Union in England.