One step forwards, one step sideways for football in 2011

Davidde Corran Roar Guru

By Davidde Corran, Davidde Corran is a Roar Guru

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    Oman's Mohammed Abdullah Mubarak Al Balushi (left) and Rashid Juma Mabarak Al Farsi tackle Australian Socceroos player Brett Holman. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

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    As Daniel Severino wheeled away from the penalty spot on Boxing Day, having just condemned Brisbane Roar to their fifth straight defeat, I couldn’t help but feel it was an appropriate way to wrap up an eventful year for the game in Australia.

    12 months ago the game was still reeling from a shambolic end to Australia’s 2022 World Cup bid, and the reality we’d lost a race we never could have won.

    However, the sense of dread that permeated Australian football in the days following the announcement of Qatar’s successful bid proved to be misguided.

    The A-League is still here, and while football remains on shaky ground, the end game is yet to have arrived.

    In other words, by the end of the year, the change that did occur seemed to end up being replaced by the familiar.

    Much like Brisbane Roar’s last 12 months.

    Following Monday’s 1-0 loss to Gold Coast United, the darlings of the A-League have dropped to third place, having now gone five games without a win.

    Yet while the Roar are far from finished, the legacy of this side will be written in the effect they’ve had on the rest of the competition.

    By raising the bar, the rest of the league had to improve.

    For once the A-League champions haven’t fallen back into the rest of the pack. Instead, everyone else has caught up with them.

    The Roar’s effect on domestic football is something of a microcosm of what has happened to the game at large in 2011 – a year that’s been all about gradual steps.

    Three years after it was first conceived, Football Federation Australia finally got around to appointing its Panel of Football Historians. Unfortunately it did so days after it had completely missed the centenary of the local game’s federation.

    The A-League made some key changes to the way the fixtures are set up, but failed to address the significant troubles in the competition’s foundations.

    FFA rode out the storm of a governmental report into the game’s administration, but questions remain over the peak body’s plans moving forward.

    A new online and social media campaign was launched by FFA, but had numerous teething issues.

    During the Asian Cup the Socceroos helped to reunite a code splintered by a troubled World Cup campaign, a stuttering domestic competition and the 2022 World Cup bid, though the national side fell just short in the final.

    The A-League grand final was another enthralling example of football’s potential in Australia, but it came after one of the worst seasons in the league’s short history.

    These are just a few examples of a year in which the game seemed only able to move forward when there were caveats attached.

    An asterisk at the end of every positive sentence. A good year, not a great one. A moment of stabalisation and recovery following great loss.

    Not quite stuck in place, football took one step sideways for every step forwards.

    At least that bloody animated kangaroo was nowhere to be seen and, for now, that will do me.

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    The Crowd Says (46)

    • December 29th 2011 @ 7:59am
      pete4 said | December 29th 2011 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      So your a glass half empty type of person eh?

    • December 29th 2011 @ 8:51am
      Ian Whitchurch said | December 29th 2011 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      The other big positive were some very good crowds at club games.

    • December 29th 2011 @ 9:02am
      Kasey said | December 29th 2011 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      pete, exactly, again, I ask the good people of planet football what do they expect exactly, I think the football fans in this country have a serious issue of expectation management. Some seem to expect everything like Veruca Salt ie: “right now Daddy!” and no amount of rational explanation regarding steady sustainable growth will appease them. They want to go to bed one night and wake up magically in a country with a true ‘football culture’. I think a look back at season 6 is in order
      The good Ship HAL under command of Comander Lowy and First mate LtCdr Buckley, had hit uncharted reef, when the skipper took himself off the bridge to coordinate a replenishment/ rendezvous with the huge ship FIFAWC.
      With the HAL taking on water, the priorities were simple for the captain and his executive officer. plug the hole, erect the shoring to keep the structure of the ship from collapsing. Once that is done, the pumps can be started and the engines re-started and good ship HAL can continue under way. Of course until the ship gets a chance to get into a dry-dock, its progress will be restricted. The shoring can’t take full speed ahead. To extend the metaphor, the refit package in drydock should be the media rights deal the first mate is working on.
      In season 6 the stench around the league was one of doom& gloom. first task at FFAHQ had to be to try to restore the feel-good factor. Enter WE Are Football campaign. I’m yet to find a football person who didn’t feel energized by that campaign. 2 clubs went above and beyond the call by recruiting superstar ex-socceroos, gaining inches of favourable press for the league. Next the FFA decided (rightly or wrongly) to move the timing of the season and to cull the midweek games. We will have to wait to see how the HAL finals v othercodes start-up to write the whole story, but I certainly don’t think that move has harmed the game at all. Crowds are up, TV ratings are up, memberships up, the feelgood surrounding the domestic game is up. certainly the stench of doom is no longer surrounding the league.
      I know its a hard habit for many football writers to break, but how about we break out of the cycle of negativity. It is possible to be objective and point out the flaws of the game’s administration without being a Debbie Downer all the time.

      • December 29th 2011 @ 2:15pm
        j binnie said | December 29th 2011 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        Kasey – It’s your old mate to add to your point of view. Don’t faint. I love ships and seafaring tales.

        In 61 games this season the HAL total crowd figure is standing at 704,218.
        To achieve that figure last season the HAL needed ——- 86 games.!!!!!!
        Using this year’s average figure (so far) of 11,545 / game the 86 game total could be extrapolated to 981,300.
        That represents nearly a 40% increase in crowd numbers from last season.
        So, here is data, some exact,some calculated, to say that, the model is making good headway,despite at times,facing heavy “seas” jb

        • December 30th 2011 @ 4:36pm
          Tommygun said | December 30th 2011 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

          Reasonable crowds yes, but who are they competing with??? NBL? Any other code would get double those figures if they didn’t have AFL, NRL or Super Rugby to compete with.

          • December 30th 2011 @ 4:51pm
            Titus said | December 30th 2011 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

            EPL, Euro Leagues mainly. Starting to lose players to Japan and Korea also.

            Seriously TommyGun you have no comprehension of the magnitude of Football. Best stick to your small pond that makes you feel big.

          • December 31st 2011 @ 11:34am
            j binnie said | December 31st 2011 @ 11:34am | ! Report

            Tommygun -It’s not the crowds that worries the other codes it is the GROWTH of crowds.Someone elsewhere asked why does the HAL “hide” in summer. That statement simply proves that that person has no conception of why that move was made.
            Put yourself in the hierarchy of football If you have the largest participation sport in Australia that is men& women & kids of both genders and you decided to “sell” a professional league (NSL & HAL) to them would you play that league at the same time as they,those same participants, play???? a man of your intelligence can answer that question, no problem.
            A thing you may find hard to comprehend is that all over the world in around 200 countries football is played at roughly the same time so that when international competitions are being played,(5 World Cups at the last count, not to mention continental competitions to get to these finals) it is in everyone’s interest to be playing at roughly the same time and as the majority of those 200 countries play in the Northern Hemisphere WE had to change. Comprende.????
            Now I may have convinced you of better reasons for change so you can see the “fear of growth” should only exist in the imaginations of the AFL or NRL for,with them playing at the same time,they have more to “fear” from each other, no????? jb

      • December 29th 2011 @ 5:31pm
        TomC said | December 29th 2011 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

        Fantastic post, Kasey.

    • December 29th 2011 @ 9:35am
      AGO74 said | December 29th 2011 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Good – A-League standard of play and crowds improving. We should all enjoy the likes of amini, Antonis, ibini and co while they are still here. Suddenly with these guys and those who have left for Europe in recent seasons there is a bit more hope about the national team for future.
      Good-ish: socceroos stuttering but never really in doubt 1st stage qualification. And who wouldn’t want to share a beer with holger?!
      Good: the asian cup campaign saw us play some good football. Disappointing to lose to Japan but a great final.
      Bad: under 20 & 17’s performances.

      Overall the game is looking a lot more positive than it did 12 months ago and has made great strides. Looking forward to more wc qualifiers, 3 teams in ACL and continued improvement in our comp.

      Off to see another game tonight – fc v heart. No mcflynn for sydney should instantly raise quality of game 😉

    • December 29th 2011 @ 9:40am
      Stam said | December 29th 2011 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      If you can look past the headline I’d hardly call it a negative piece…

    • Roar Guru

      December 29th 2011 @ 10:00am
      mds1970 said | December 29th 2011 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      Davidde, around the time of the World Cup bid I recall an article you wrote warning of a “football recession”. At the time, it looked a distinct possibility. The FFA “lost a race they never could have won”; a race they never should have entered. At the time, attendances had massively fallen away, clubs were bleeding financially. North Queensland Fury folded, Sydney Rovers was stillborn and had it not been for Nathan Tinkler’s intervention Newcastle Jets would also have gone under.

      But 2011 will be remembered as the year the round-ball code bounced off the canvas and fought back. Starting with a better than expected performance by the Socceroos at the Asian Cup, then that amazing Grand Final. The Socceroos breezed through the first stage of World Cup qualifying without raising a sweat. And the later start to the A-League season worked well; with 40,000 to see Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC in the season opener and crowds well up this season, the game making progress in winning back the fans that had walked away from the game during the previous couple of years.
      Of course there’s more to be done to restore the game. Club financials are a concern, and the FFA’s future is very much tied to the next round of TV rights. But on any objective measure, 2011 would have to go down as a successful year for the round-ball football code.

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