Yesterday the FFA announced the fixtures for the coming A League season and they are to be congratulated on implementing some much needed changes. It is indeed encouraging to note that the men in the ivory towers appear to now be listening to not only the fans but also people in the know when it comes to football.
Gone are the Wednesday night fixtures which were never embraced by the fans, often because the schedule kick off times were too close to people knocking off from work and being able to make it to the ground on time.
The first month sees some important match-ups that should see the season start strongly if these games are marketed to the maximum across the nation. The scheduling is there and with the right marketing approach all clubs should benefit. THis gives the A league the chance to start the season with a full head of steam and then hopefully maintain that momentum all the way through to the re-vamped finals.
The revamping of the finals is probably the best news as the previous incarnations were too long and convoluted with many struggling to grasp the way that it actually worked.
Rather than the top two teams in the league at the end of the home and away season earning a double chance and playing their qualifying final over two legs for the right to not only contest the Grand Final but also host it, they will now have the first week of the finals off and enter at the semi-final stage against the winners match ups between the four teams below them on the final league ladder. This is a vast improvement although in our opinion the finals series should not include so many teams in such a small league. To have the sixth placed team in with a chance of being crowned Champions if they win three successive games is not good for the league as a whole and ultimately is rewarding mediocrity. However this format is a vast improvement on what has been run in the past.
The old format was skewed in favour of the top two teams and some would say deservedly so, the problem was it often served up the far from inspiring spectacle of the same two clubs playing each other in three out of the four finals weeks.
With the new Finals format there will be a more cup-tie feel to the games than existed previously in which the Grand Finalists only played one do-or-die game.
Just to cause debate we ask with the new format should the League winners now be called the Champions and the Grand Final winners the Premiers as it will be the most consistent side that wins the league? This is certainly a feeling shared by most coaches and players.
The changes though are positive news for the A League and those who implemented these changes should be commended, as they are sure to help lift the profile of the game if supported with the appropriate marketing.