A-League headed for NSL-style crash
There, I’ve said it. And Clive Palmer inspired me. And I’ll call it soccer too, not football – the way the code and the people involved have behaved lately, they don’t deserve the word.
We are soccer, Australian soccer at its worst, exactly the way the Herald Sun, the Daily Telegraph and the Courier-Mail have been describing soccer in Australia for years.
We should be ashamed. The best is over and we are on a downward spiral. We are left fighting among ourselves while the other codes laugh and gloat.
We’ll never get back to the euphoria of the 2006 World Cup qualification and our heroic efforts in Germany.
The national team failed to make it past the first round at the 2010 World Cup. Our bid to host the 2022 tournament ended in humiliation, with one vote for a $100 million outlay.
Our country’s top players are still heading overseas, leaving behind an A-League struggling with huge financial problems and no profitable solution in sight.
Owners, coaches, players and staff are not only fighting among themselves, they are fighting against the FFA to try and get any last cent they can out of Ben Buckley and Frank Lowy, even it ends in multi-million-dollar court battles.
Due to the vast distances involved, the costs of putting together a viable soccer team, and the lack of money to be made in Australian professional soccer, the A-League is set for the same fate as the NSL. It’s just a matter of time.
The Neanderthal ravings of Clive Palmer could be easily dismissed, but there is certainly a lot of concern about how much money the sport is losing and how much longer the A-League will survive.
Even though the NSL was not profitable, it lasted for 27 years, but I can’t see today’s rich patrons of A-League clubs hanging around for that long. Just ask Don Matheson.
After three years of A-League growth from when it was founded in 2005, the league’s average attendance stood at a healthy 14,600 a match, and some people started tipping that it would overtake the NRL in attendance and revenues. Even the AFL was an eventual target.
But by the end of the 2010-11 season, the average attendance figure had fallen by more than 6000, to fewer than 8500 fans a game. The nadir was reached when a miserly 1003 attended North Queensland Fury’s match with Brisbane Roar, a so-called Queensland derby.
Fury had lost so much money that it was dropped because the club’s position was “too big of a financial risk” for it to continue, Football Federation Australia said in a statement.
Sydney Rovers won’t be joining the A-League any time soon either, as the new franchise has been unable to come up with the money.
The A-League was expected to feature 12 teams next season, but instead is set to have 10, or even nine if Palmer has another rich-kid temper tantrum.
Is there any hope that things will be resolved between the A-League owners on the one hand, and Buckley and Lowy on the other?
Buckley’s background is in AFL, a rival code looking to land the killer blow and totally dominate the Australian sporting landscape.
Would you hear any of the AFL club bosses bleating and moaning like Palmer and Co. are doing this week?
The FFA has taken its eyes off the A-League ball during the bid for the 2022 Cup, and hasn’t been able to get back in the game.
There was a misconception in Australia that the NSL was poorly run and there were no competent football administrators. I’d argue the same about Buckley and the FFA.
Why do the top five FFA administrators earn more than a million dollars a year in salary plus travel allowances and other benefits? Is Lowy that short of a dollar?
And what about the treatment that soccer gets from its own fans and journalists? With that sort of support, who would want to play for you and try to entertain you? They’d rather go overseas, where they are treated like real stars. Look what happened to John Aloisi.
I have some interest in soccer and the Socceroos, but I’ve never been to an A-League game and probably never will.
You aren’t going to make money owning an A-League club, and without a true love and passion for the game to keep you going, it won’t be long before Palmer and his mates pull out of the A-League to leave the FFA without a national professional soccer competition.