The Hyundai A league is we are told due for another facelift next season, which seems hard to believe when it is so young, but this is what happens when a code allows administrators from other codes to come in and run a game they know little about and have no passion for. However is something as drastic as a facelift a necessity?
The FFA Board are about to review the feedback that they have received from the stakeholders, and how they feel they can boost the appeal of the A League; once again a flawed approach. Too many of the A League License owners are not football fans and have bought into the league for reasons other than a love of the game. (We do however appreciate their support, but they too would have more joy with the right people running their clubs). They may be successful businessmen but what do they really know about football, the pride and the passion that has made it such a success worldwide.
Sadly in the last two years Football has slipped back to being a second tier sport in Australia and anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. The growth of interest following qualification for the 2006 World Cup was never capitalized upon, and as stated previously the game did not learn from the mistakes made in 1974. The bonus was this time Australia backed that qualification up by making it to consecutive World Cups, but again the game did not capitalize on the interest or the achievement. With all the state bodies frantically producing their Annual reports it is worrying to hear that participation numbers in a World Cup year in some states are in fact down.
The World Cup bid gave the game the perfect chance to go out and talk to the masses, to take the game to the people that were joining the “Come Play” website and giving their wholehearted support, but again an opportunity was missed with 90% of all events linked to the bid being held in Sydney.
The meeting being held this week will discuss a later start to the A League season. There is merit in that as the start currently coincides with the AFL and NRL finals series. However if you had people who believed in the game, the product, and the brand that is the A league they would believe that with the right marketing you could still compete.
The biggest problem with the Hyundai A League is the lack of marketing. All of the FFA’s focus has been on the Socceroos and then the World Cup bid. The A league is the foundation on which those two are built and will need to be built in the future, so it is essential that the foundations are strong.
The game in Australia needs local heroes. Each club needs heroes that they can promote to the local community and the children in that community. Without heroes there are no players tomorrow.
This season has been an absolute disaster with the fixturing all over the place. At one stage some teams had played three more games than others, and the league table actually told you nothing as no one had played the same amount of games. How can fans get excited about that? The midweek games as well have created problems. Here in the West we often fail to see them with a three hour time difference. If we are to have midweek games link them to the round played that weekend, or have all teams play midweek split over Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday. Teams that play on the Friday play on the Tuesday, Saturday on the Wednesday and Sunday on the Thursday where possible.
Look at the travel component with the away fixtures, so that teams who are on the road for a week. Have them stay interstate, play Friday, Wednesday and Sunday to give them ample time to recover; which will ensure a better spectacle which in turn makes the game easier to market. It would save on airfares and you may even get keen fans travel with the team for a week.
Sort out the refereeing, as stated before on this site, “>Blowing the Whistle. The standard has not moved with the game and now is at an all time low. What makes it all the more hard to take is the fact that the Commentators with the tie in between Fox and the FFA are loathe to criticize. Yet these referees need that criticism in order to improve. As was stated by Mark Bosnich on Fox Sports FC we need to establish our style of football, and referee according to it. Despite the same rules the world over it is a known fact that Spanish referees interpret the rules differently from an Italian who interprets differently to an Englishman and so on. We need to cut out petty stoppages and bookings and let the game flow more. Try and keep the games eleven a side, which is what the spectators want to see.
The league does not need a major overhaul. It needs tinkering with, and most importantly a marketing budget put in place for the league as a whole, and the clubs to be aided with their individual marketing. The clubs similarly need to remember their target audience and not try and been too clever or for that matter cheesy in their promotions. No fan likes to be treated like an idiot.
The Hyundai A league needs input from the players, past and present, from people who know the game and have a passion for it. If you bring these parties to the table it will not need a facelift, just a facial. The sad thing is it has to regain the ground that has been lost if it is to climb up to being rightfully a first tier sport.