First of all it is surprising that the FFA have decided to persist with the Foxtel All Stars team in its original format, as last year proved that people are more likely to come out and support an established team against a top overseas team than a thrown together team. More importantly the atmosphere is going to be ten times better as no one is quite sure how to cheer on a composite team. It would appear that the All Stars concept is here to stay, but one cannot help feeling that its composition and where the games are played need to be reviewed if it is to survive.
The FFA in their wisdom see this as an ideal way of “engaging” the football public as they ask them to vote on who the coach should be and who should play in the team. This in itself is a farce unless the votes are massaged, as the coach could be left with a totally unbalanced team.
Last year so many players pulled out or signed contracts overseas that the whole selection process proved a waste of time. This year Alessandro del Piero, who is not likely be in the A-League next year is being paid what is believed to be in the region of $300,000 to play. If this is about showcasing the best in the A-League why would he be given a game? Everyone knows his pedigree, everyone also knows that he can no longer run, and against a team like Juventus, unless they show their respect by going easy on him, the All Stars will be playing a man down against such quality opposition.
The other problem with the internet polls system is they can be influenced by outside sources. As English rugby fans did with a poll in Australia a few years ago. What is to prevent a club with a strong following such as Western Sydney Wanderers putting the word out and ensuring that all of their nominated players are selected?
If the FFA wish to continue with this concept maybe they should consider tweaking it. Whoever wins the Coach of the year in the A-League should be rewarded with the role of coach of such a team. Fans can still vote and a lucky winner who selects the right coach winning tickets to the game. That Coach then picks the team that he believes will be competitive against the overseas side, with a caveat that he can only pick “x” number of imports; after all it should be about showcasing Australian talent. Again fans can submit their teams and whoever picks the same team as the coach wins tickets to the game.
As for the venue for the game, it makes sense that the game should be held in Sydney and Melbourne as logistically it is easier from a television and organisational perspective. However how about giving the A-League teams the added incentive to win the competition and saying that whichever city wins the competition will host the Foxtel All Stars game? This may then help A-League clubs pull in local government support, it is also likely to be a carrot to fans to come through the turnstiles and cheer on their teams, thus making the atmosphere at A-League games better.
It is great that the FFA are looking to bring Manchester United and Juventus to Australia, but the current creation of an All Star team has not connected with many fans, especially those outside of Sydney or Melbourne. If this is truly about helping the game as a whole then the format of selecting a coach, and the team as well as where these games are played needs to be reviewed. If it is not the idea which has merit could flounder and die in the next year or so.