Gallop says football will be number one

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FFA chief David Gallop declared that football will become the biggest and most popular sport in the country at the official launch of the 2013-2014 A-League season.

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The domestic league kicks off on Friday, with Sydney FC to host Newcastle Jets at Allianz Stadium - 173 days after Central Coast Mariners claimed the 2012-2013 championship at the same venue.

Gallop said the code had witnessed unprecedented growth over the past two seasons, with a 40 per cent increase in crowds and 100 per cent boost in television ratings.

"I can genuinely say our best years are still ahead of us," Gallop said. "Football will become the largest and most popular sport in this country.

"We are football, you are all part of it and I hope you're really excited about season nine."

Gallop also heaped praised on marquee stars Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC), Emile Heskey (Newcastle) and Shinji Ono (Western Sydney), who were the face of the A-League in their debut seasons last year.

"They signed up again for a second season and that was a vote of confidence in the A-League that is immeasurable in terms of underlying where football is at in this country - the increase in the technical standards, the intensity of our competition," he said.

Championship-winning Mariners coach Graham Arnold said he, too, was excited about the start of the season and predicted one of the toughest in the competition's short history.

"I think this is going to be the closest and the best A-League season yet," Arnold said.

A-League Round 1 fixtures

Friday 11 October
Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets - Allianz Stadium 7.30pm (AEDT)

Saturday 12 October
Central Coast Mariners v Western Sydney Wanderers - Bluetongue Stadium 5.30pm (AEDT)
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne Heart - Etihad Stadium 7.30pm (AEDT)

Sunday 13 October
Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar - Westpac Stadium 3.00pm (AEDT)
Adelaide United v Perth Glory - Coopers Stadium 5.00pm (AEDT)