• First Manchester United and Liverpool graced our shores. Then it was Juventus. Now European champion Real Madrid has been linked with a stint down under. (Getty)
Football's capacity to entice international stars to Australia and create a truly world class experience for local fans, is slowly shifting the balance of power in our sporting landscape.
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13 Aug 2014 - 3:35 PM  UPDATED 13 Aug 2014 - 4:21 PM

A day after the A-League All Stars pushed Juventus to the very last minute of their match at ANZ Stadium, Football Federation Australia chief David Gallop hinted at the arrival of another football superpower next year. 

If reports on Tuesday are to be believed, there may be more than one.  

The International Champions Cup, which Manchester United won last week, beating Liverpool in the final, is an annual pre-season stoush involving some of the world's biggest clubs. The Herald Sun suggests negotiations are at advanced stage to bring the tournament to Australia. 

Real Madrid is one of the three mooted clubs, with a whole bunch including Bayern Munich, both Manchester giants, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, believed to be in the running to join the Spain giant. It's exciting stuff.

There has been no suggestion that an A-League club would be involved - no Major League Soccer team played in the United States-based tournament this year - and my belief is that these spectacles need to include at least one domestic team to allow both commercial and competitive benefits for our game rather than having promoters prosper from a growing market.

Whatever the specifics, this is an important moment because it demonstrates the power dynamic in Australian sport has changed.

In a report in the Age titled MCG infuriates AFL over decision to host world soccer powerhouses, the Fairfax newspaper's chief 'football' writer, Caroline Wilson, reports a stoush between the MCG and Victorian State Government on one side, and the AFL on the other.

Apparently aggrieved that the MCC has requested fixtures not be scheduled on key dates in late July 2015, to accommodate the likes of Real Madrid, a "tense behind-the-scenes battle has emerged between the MCG and the AFL over the stadium's decision to stage three multi-million-dollar International Champions Cup soccer matches on key dates of the 2015 AFL season," Wilson writes.

"Fairfax Media understands the Australian game's governing body remains disenchanted at the MCG's decision coming at a time the AFL is attempting to forge closer links with its biggest stadium."

Closer links? The more appropriate term would be control. We could ask how much closer the links could possibly be and, in fact whether the appropriate sentiment is exclusion, or an attempt to strengthen a hold of the MCG to ensure immensely successful football matches such as last year's Melbourne Victory v Liverpool fixture are less able to happen.

Could these stars be on their way to Australia in 2015 to claim another trophy?

But it is clear the AFL is fighting a losing battle against the market forces of the world game.

The correspondence specified in the media report is important because it demonstrates a shift in power dynamics and makes clear it is market forces propelling football sharply up the sporting foodchain.

"The MCC chief executive puts forward a series of examples of large soccer crowds including the Liverpool-Melbourne Victory attendance of more than 95,000 in July 2013," Wilson writes.

In her final paragraph, Wilson mentions the basis of the Government's decision to pursue football: "McClements' letter to Gough dated August 7 that the state government chose to pursue the event following positive market research relating to the popularity of international soccer clubs and an analysis of the significant benefits which would be reaped by Victoria in staging the event."

In short, football's new position of eminence is breaking longstanding sporting cartels, disenabling the AFL's protective mechanisms and it is that most powerful of weapons leading the charge: market forces that are overriding what were previously closely held commercial and political relationships.

Football has huge commercial possibilities that will create new riches for Australia's sporting stakeholders.

Football fans will shed few tears since we will long remember the obstructive stance taken by the AFL in relation to Australia's 2022 FIFA World Cup bid, and subsequent financial compensation agreed in a matter where the AFL took a narrow and self interested view, exposing its priorities as not only against football, but willing to compromise the broader good for its needs.

In this simple story, we see why football's growth is unstoppable because the metrics and scale of the game cannot be withstood.

Football's popularity will continue to snowball and the potential to stage matches of extraordinary quality and international exposure for a city and state is now more attractive than the existing relationships that have strengthened the position of games that lack international credibility.

Whether it is the ICC, further exhibition matches against great clubs or other football initiatives, governments, investors and major sporting stakeholders are now awake to the rich potential of football.