FFA Cup can bridge gap between new football and old soccer
Travis Dodd celebrates a goal with Steven McGarry during the round 23 A-League match between Perth Glory and the Central Coast Mariners at Perth Oval AAP Image: Tony McDonough
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The introduction of the Football Federation Australia Cup appears to have been placed firmly on the back burner with the governing body focusing on building the A-League. But should the creation of a cup competition be a matter of urgency?
And what role could it play in bridging the gap between A-League clubs and grass roots football?
It has been part of a the long term plan for the sport since the beginning of the A-League, but as the curtain comes down on version seven of the competition the FFA Cup appears to be no closer.
The reason is money, be it being spent elsewhere on a failed World Cup bid, propping up struggling A-League franchises or fears that the sport is not generating enough to establish a cup competition.
All of these offer valid reasons as to why it so far has not been possible, it would cost a considerable sum but few other options offer the same opportunity for growth as a cup competition.
Many will point to the need to stabilise and grow the A-League before a cup competition is introduced. This is a valid point, however the introduction of a cup could play a role in doing so.
With clubs having recognised the need to form closer links with grass roots football a cup competition offers the perfect opportunity for doing so.
Since the inception of the A-League some fans from the old National Soccer League have felt locked out from ‘new’ football.
A cup competition would offer the chance for fans of clubs such as South Melbourne and Sydney Olympic to see their clubs back on the top stage.
It would also offer an opportunity to welcome these supporters to the game by creating a more inclusive environment by uniting the top tier of football with local competitions.
A cup competition would also offer a huge financial opportunity for clubs outside the A-League. If a television deal was secured a cup run for a state league club could provide vital funds as well as important exposure for the country’s lower leagues.
Just as lower league teams in England dream of a cup tie with one of one of the Premier League’s heavyweights, state league clubs throughout Australia would no doubt relish taking on an A-League side with the chance of causing a famous upset.
Having struggled to implement an effective expansion model a cup competition could provide a means of growing state league clubs so that in the future they may be able to make the step-up to the A-League.
Even if this were to prove unlikely any strengthening of the state leagues across Australia would no doubt have a positive impact on the A-League, both in terms of bringing in more fans to the sport and developing players.
A cup competition would also give football the opportunity to offer something that no other code can. This could prove an important selling point with a new television deal for the A-League being sought.
There is much that can be done to improve the health of A-League clubs off the pitch but an inward and overly cautious approach may not be what is needed.
If the FFA were to wait for the league to be in a strong financial position before a cup competition is introduced it is unlikely to be anytime soon.
Can the game afford to wait? And perhaps a cup can play an important part in easing some of the A-League’s problems. Only time will tell, but at the very least it an offers an opportunity that is unlikely to be found elsewhere.
Follow Beau on twitter @beaubusch