Tom Smithies. 23 November 2015

TWO and half years after the Socceroos lost their major sponsor, oil giant Caltex is poised to sign up as the national team’s major partner.

After a lengthy courtship, the Daily Telegraph understands that talks are in the final stages for Caltex to succeed Qantas, the previous sponsor whose lengthy association with the Socceroos ended in June 2013.

Sources familiar with the negotiations say it could be signed within the next fortnight, giving Football Federation Australia a welcome cash injection as it continues to fund the operations of the Newcastle Jets A-League side.

When Qantas walked away from their decade-long sponsorship of the Socceroos, FFA officials were seeking up to $5 million a year from potential replacements, but the new deal is understood to be less than that.

Nonetheless, completion of the deal will be a relief for Gallop who had made finding a new sponsor a priority for the FFA’s commercial department. Part of the issue has been limitations on use of branding, which restricts sponsor opportunities.

World Cup qualifiers are governed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) which imposes strict restrictions on sponsors. Even training tops cannot feature branding from anything other than AFC sponsors in the qualifying program.

At the Asian Cup in January there were similar rules in place, while the scattered nature of the Socceroos squad around the world means there are limited commercial opportunities. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement signed in the past month, the Socceroos themselves will receive a third of the new sponsorship deal, divided among the squad.

FFA had hoped to have Newcastle off the books by the start of the current A-League season, but Dundee United chairman Steven Thompson’s consortium saw its exclusivity agreement lapse after it failed to meet a deadline for completing the takeover.

The proposed Socceroos sponsorship comes as it was revealed that the FFA’s highly regard finance chief, John Kelly, is to leave the governing body and join Austereo as its chief operating officer.

Kelly is respected by the clubs after his negotiations with them before the last broadcast deal, and had been seen as CEO David Gallop’s most senior official. But his departure continues a changing of the guard, with Westfield CEO Steven Lowy last week assuming the chairmanship of FFA from his father Frank Lowy.

* In A-League news, the Mariners have signed 24-year-old centreback Tomislav Uskok, previously captain of state league club Melbourne Knights. Uskok had been about to join Sydney United, but impressed Mariners boss Tony Walmsley at a trial to earn a contract.

“Tomi trialled during pre-season after I’d watched him captain Melbourne Knights,” Walmsley said. “He impressed us then but we couldn’t bring him into the squad due to numbers. When he came in pre-season he impressed us with his character and attributes, he’s six foot five and quite elegant in possession with a good range of passing.”

Extracted in full from the Daily Telegraph.