A-League’s plight cannot be ignored on grand final day
Today is rightfully a day of great celebration for the A-League, with the two best teams in the competition this season, Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners, fighting for the right to be crowned champions.
Those two teams, chiefly responsible for raising the technical standard of the league, have significantly raised the benchmark leaving the traditional powerhouses of Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United and Sydney FC in their wake.
They will play in front of an expected sell out crowd of 52,000 in a stadium and in front of a community devastated by floods.
Like all grand final days, it will be a grand celebration of the league and code.
But don’t fall into the trap of viewing today’s proceedings as a total vindication of the A-League.
It’s too easy to do so and is too short-sighted.
Many will point to the 52,000 in Brisbane, a city which has had a mixed relationship with its A-League club, as proof that the league is making inroads on the Australian psyche.
It’s proved grand final tickets weren’t too expensive, and the Roar can take on and match the high level of crowd and traction set by the NRL’s Brisbane Broncos, they say.
But those same people seemingly overlook the crowd of 7539 for the preliminary final the week before; they will ignore the fact the Roar will be handed back into the hands of the governing body come Monday morning; and they will ignore the doom and gloom around the league.
Such is the power of a grand final.
Brisbane Roar has come to typify the fortunes of the A-League this season.
The on the field product is the greatest we have ever seen in the domestic game (certainly in the A-League), raising the standard with quality imports, impressive locals who, as demonstrated by captain Matt McKay, can stand side-by-side with Australia’s best football exports within the Socceroos, and a domestic coach shining and producing brilliant football.
But the on field product, no matter how improved, cannot mend the off-field dilemmas, as Brisbane has shown.
If a club on a record unbeaten run, playing the most attractive football we’ve seen, cannot find the necessary funding and owners to support itself and avoid going into the hands of the governing body, then the issues facing the game are very real.
Clubs remains at the whim of millionare owners, who are either losing too much money and could potential leave their clubs rudderless if they pull out, or won’t be interested in investing the A-League until it is in a better economic state.
Don’t fall into the trap of seeing the grand final as an accurate picture of the game’s position.
Remember the cautionary tale of the Brisbane Strikers in the NSL, who attracted a sell out crowd of over 40,000 to their winning grand final in 1997 only to see their crowds plunge to 3000 the following season.
Even the great Brisbane Roar team could suffer the same fate if the off field situation doesn’t resolve itself quickly.
Enjoy the grand final as a great occasion and celebration of the A-League and the great football being played, but don’t be ignorant of the off the field plight.
Follow Adrian on twitter @AdrianMusolino
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.