There is no doubt that the Hyundai A league will be a a lesser competition with just nine teams participating, especially if we have the current structure where a team that comes below midway in the league ladder makes the finals. However are the wide men in the East at the FFA once again rushing into something before giving it due thought?
The news that a Western Sydney Franchise is to be unveiled today, which is by all accounts to be funded by the FFA is not something that football fans should welcome; Even if Western Sydney is an area with a strong football tradition.
It is time that the game’s governing body actually worked out what its role in the game is?
It is not healthy to have an administrator owning a club and competing against other sides that have independent owners. Just as it has not been right to have the Chairman of the FFA have a percentage ownership in a club, or the man who is head of the competition itself, retaining a percentage in a club.
If the A league is to be a success it needs to be run by independent people who have no vested interests. There is an argument that the clubs themselves should run the league and there is merit in such an argument, however the question comes down to the bargaining power of television rights to the Socceroos and the A League, as well as sponsorship arrangements, rather than what is necessarily best for the game itself. As always in modern sport it comes down to money.
What is incredible is that the FFA should be able to find $5million with which to run such a club, when it is alleged that they required a similar amount from the Government to actually make the books balance for the past year.
With possibly three clubs – Gold Coast United to be confirmed- having entered the league and dropped out in seven years it is foolish to rush a team in for next season. Whoever is put in place to run such a club, has no coach, no players, no strip, no name with which to market and brand. Only a fool would try and pull something off in such a short space of time.
Ironically Parramatta Power was set up in a very similar time frame in the dying days of the old NSL. The advantage that they had was Sydney United had failed to pay the coaches and players from the previous season, so all were able to leave due to a breach of contract. As a result Dave Mitchell and Lawrie McKinna had the nucleus of a side for the beginning of the next season. However crowds failed to meet expectations due to poor marketing.
To make this work the marketing of the club has to start now, not a month or two before the season starts. The FFA has a poor record when it comes to marketing and once again many have reservations that they have the know-how to pull this off. The marketing of the A League finals this year is a prime example of their failings. In Perth one would hardly know that Perth Glory were playing their second final at home this weekend. (The FFA not Perth Glory handles all marketing of the Finals!)
Time will tell whether this is a move that has been thought through, and whether it is a move which benefits the A League. We have grave concerns that it could well have a massive negative impact, from which the game will have to lurch on again.