Is A League Really A Grade?

The signs appear to be positive for the A League if recent statistics are the measuring stick.

The FFA announced that a cumulative total of 1,416,157 fans went through the turnstiles this season to watch games is up on the previous season-high total of 1,393,933.

This aggregate was reached by playing 30 less matches due to the demise of North Queensland Fury.

This season also saw an increase in the number of goals being scored with an average of 2.7 goals per match. The television audiences have also increased by a massive 46% from last season, which seems a huge leap if so many people are also watching games live.

The feeling amongst many is that these figures are being skewed to give the results everyone wants to hear. That football is indeed on the rise in Australia.

It is interesting to note that every year since the A League’s inception, with the exception of 2008/09 we have seen an increase in crowd figures.

Yet the average attendances have in fact gone down the past two years from 12,180 a game in 08/09 to 10,449 in 09/10 to 8,822 in 10/11. The figures for 2010/11 have yet to be announced.

This season it was sad to hear many in the crowd laugh when a figure was announced at NIB Stadium, home of Perth Glory, as regulars in the ground were convinced that there was no way the crowd figure announced was in attendance.

There is no doubt that the return of Harry Kewell and Bret Emerton had a momentary surge on crowd figures, but soon that would have dipped, as their impact became less than the FFA would have hoped. It was always foolish to base your marketing around to big names returning at the end of their careers. There is too much football on television for modern day fans to be conned.

Despite the positive vibe coming out of the FFA we are sadly skeptical as to whether these statistics are in fact reflecting the true story of the Hyundai A league.

Perth Glory for years the best supported club in the country in the NSL, had no trouble selling 35,000 tickets for a semi final in the NSL. Yet this weekend playing their first home final since the start of the Hyundai A League they only managed to pull in 12,600 fans – The Western Force rugby union side had a bigger crowd v the Queensland Reds the night before! This crowd is a disaster for football in Western Australia and for Perth Glory. If they cannot fill the stadium with finals football, why would an owner continue to plough millions of dollars into the club?

Some will say the game wasn’t marketed well. We would agree, but the finger cannot be pointed at the club on this occasion, as the marketing of the Finals is the FFA’s responsibility.

The fact that so few attended and that they could not sell out the stadium tells us that Football is going backwards in Western Australia. That may sound pessimistic and negative, but it is also the very sad truth. Quite simply fans of the game for whatever reason are opting not to support the game at the highest level in Western Australia.

Next week’s game against Wellington Phoenix may in fact witness even less fans attending with the game scheduled for 5.30pm on a Saturday, when all the State Premier League games do not finish until around 5pm. Scheduling that does not help Perth Glory in the slightest.

So why are people no longer attending games? We believe that despite the hype the standard of the Hyundai A league is in fact going backwards. There have been some exceptional displays from Perth Glory this season, as well as Brisbane Roar, but in the main the standard is slipping. Couple that with the demise of the Fury and possibly Gold Coast United – and everyone forgets the NZ Knights – we are heading back to the sad old days of the NSL. Journeyman players doing the rounds of the clubs, sprinkled with some talent before it heads overseas, and clubs coming and going every two or three years. Let us hope we are wrong.

Do you believe that the standard of football has improved?

Is A League Really A Grade?
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