FFA declined to comment, although federation sources suggested it had been searching for a replacement for some time and had narrowed it down to a few potential sponsors.
A spokesperson for Aldi said: “ALDI has invested more than $15 million over three years to grow youth football in Australia. ALDI thanks all Member Federations for their support and we hope our investment has enabled clubs to grow their youth programs and introduce more kids to the game of football.”
It comes after the Herald revealed last week that petrol company Caltex had not renewed its naming rights sponsorship of the Socceroos, which also expired on December 31.
It means Australia’s men’s national team – and the introductory grassroots program intended to encourage young boys and girls to take an interest in the sport – do not currently have major corporate backers.
FFA also lost the support of National Australia Bank last year after 15 years of support. Former NAB executive Joseph Healy and Caltex’s chief financial officer Simon Hepworth both previously served on the FFA board that was led by ex-chairman Steven Lowy.
Those aligned with Lowy and departed CEO David Gallop warned during football’s long-running congress war there would be an exodus of sponsors if A-League clubs were successful in pushing for regime change at FFA.
Johnson, who is due to start as Gallop’s replacement in the middle of January, needs to act fast to replace the missing millions at a time when the A-League is transitioning towards independence while lagging in mainstream popularity.
It looms as a major test of the new-look FFA’s ability to engage corporate Australia but those within the sport were bullish about the future.
The formal separation of the A-League from FFA won’t occur for some time, with club sources indicating it would be delayed until the end of the current broadcast agreement to ensure Fox Sports or any other sponsors can’t use it as a legal excuse to peel away.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.