At the weekend someone commented that the Football West state premier league was in the best condition it had been in for years. Once I picked myself up off the floor I asked them how they came to this conclusion. They explained that because there were only 5 points separating 4th place and 11th in the league, everyone still had plenty to play for, and that this was the ideal situation to keep fans interested.
Not a bad point, if there were fans at the games. The particular game that I attended had one of the lowest crowds of the season, at just $8 for adults, a price that has only risen by $2 in the past 10 years; it cannot be the cost that is driving the punters away.
Dare I say that there are two major issues, marketing and the quality of the product on display.
The two sadly go hand in hand. It is very hard to market a product that is declining and is once again being held back by a minority unwilling to move forward, and clinging to the past, even as it slowly strangles them.
As we all know the Crawford report brought all sections of the game under one roof, the semi professional game, the amateur and social game, women’s football, development, junior football, and referees. So there is no longer anyone dedicated to making sure that our highest level of the game is administered correctly; by that I mean we promote and communicate the goings on in the league, and at the same time have rules in line with FIFA rather than some of the obscure ones that have cropped up this season.
Surely as we try to move the game forward the structure and running of the state’s highest level of football below the A league needs to be looked at before clubs go under – as one is rumoured to be about to – and we kill the league completely. When it gets to that stage it will be even harder to revitalise.
I believe it is time that the clubs put aside individual issues, and moved as one. Appoint someone to manage the league, but let Football West still hold registrations, and handle referees and suspensions. Simply take control of your own destiny.
Bring in your own sponsorship for the league, supplement your own advertising as a group to promote the games, co-ordinate this and your PR, – making sure that the match reports correct in the information reported and also grammatically – present a professional organisation. Finally have criteria that all clubs sign up to in order to be a part of the league including a bond, which is used only if clubs stop paying their contracted players. Punishments if any club steps out of line to be agreed by all at the start of the season, so that every club knows the consequences of their actions. This is essential to ensure that we have unity and reflect that to the corporate world and our games supporters.
With the Perth Glory finally looking locally we must reflect a professionally run league, and prepare those players who are given the opportunity to step up the best grounding. Incidentally Perth Glory this year has more local players on their books than any season since Gary Marocchi was coach, which is a positive step.
Sure the league is exciting this year, but in truth it is a three horse race, much like the EPL, with two of those clubs in the top three destined to remain at the top of the pile in perpetuity as they are professional off the pitch as well as on it. The end result being, they attract sponsors and the best players – although in some cases over pay them – and this in turn ensures continued success.
If we take our rose coloured glasses off we will see that the standard of football is declining and with it the support. As a stalwart of one of the successful clubs commented “only one of the players out there today would be good enough to be in the team that won the league” – which they won in the past ten years. He was right.
The Crawford report has done the game a lot of good but it has harmed the highest level of the game here in Western Australia, and this needs to be addressed quickly. Through no fault of their own, Football West is charged with too much responsibility for the game in general to be able to address this, so if they don’t, then only the clubs themselves can change the course they are headed.