At the end of last week Sydney Journalist Ray Gatt revealed that the FFA was looking at the Hyundai A league making a loss of in the region of $20million. This is very concerning news for football fans across the country.
What is even more alarming is the fact that after just one season North Queensland Fury may have already left the league. Many may not be surprised at this news and were surprised when a license was issued to Townsville, but this does not reflect well on the Hyundai A league.
In the old NSL we witnessed teams come and go on a regular basis, and were assured that this would be a thing of the past when the Hyundai A league was launched. Yet we have seen in the past 12 months the league in a great deal of turmoil.
Fury owner Don Matheson claims to be losing $50,000 per week, while Adelaide has been without an owner since May 2008. Then we have witnessed the FFA assist Brisbane Roar to the tune of close to $1.5m. While they also provided $300,000 during this season to both Gold Coast United and the Central Coast Mariners.
The fact that Adelaide a club in a city with such a strong footballing tradition cannot attract an owner points to the restrictions in the license agreements, being exactly that, restrictive on the owners.
There are some fundamental areas that the blame however must lay with the clubs. Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has stated that his club budgeted on crowds of 10,000 as a breakeven point. They averaged 9209. Don Matheson at the Fury has said he budgeted on crowds of 8000, and averaged 6699. This with a population of 160,000 is in fact a pretty good return, but below what was budgeted. Brisbane Roar’s average was 8,654, Gold Coast United 5,381, the Mariners 7,405, and Newcastle Jets 6351; while Sydney, Adelaide Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix all averaged over 10,000.
The figures reflect a path back to the old NSL, which is very worrying for the game of football as a whole. So why is it that the club owners, successful business men have been so wrong in their projections?
Having travelled around the country this year visiting every venue, the complaint is the same. A lack of marketing by the FFA. Before you say the individual clubs should do more, be aware that they are limited as to what they can do as the FFA wish to have a generic brand message for the Hyundai A league out there in the public domain. This season and the adverts they have run, have not generated interest or driven fans through the turnstiles. It is time to allow the clubs to market in their own back yards, as they should know what works there and let them swell their crowds.
The FFA also needs to look at creating a few generic television advertisements for the commercial networks. With a season that lasts six or seven months the same advertisement soon becomes stale, so you need to keep the viewers interested by keeping your brand and product fresh.
Have we seen the “Come Play 2018-2022” world cup bid advertisement more than is necessary in Australia rather than one promoting our top competition, the Hyundai A league?
The marketing of the Hyundai A league needs to be urgently addressed. If the owners and the FFA believe that next year will be a different story because the season will follow quickly on the heels of the World Cup in South Africa, do not bet on it. The league will need promotion and clever promotion, after fans have gorged themselves on football and the world’s greatest talent. If anything history shows an interest in playing after a world cup, but apathy when it comes to viewing it.
The 2010/11 season will be a crucial one for football in Australia and if the crowds do not rise the national competition will be heading down a familiar path. It is also vital that the crowd figures are a true reflection, which should be the case with an even number of games meaning all teams should play 15 at home and 15 away.
It does not have to be all doom and gloom, as long as we acknowledge the problems, take on board the criticism, without taking it personally, and work together to right the ship.