Solving the issue of the long A-League off-season
Perth Glory celebrate AAP Image/Paul Miller
Six months is a long time. Unfortunately this is how long A-League fans need to wait until they see their respective teams battle it out for points.
Sure, for a few fans the development of Western Sydney’s new A-League club will be entertaining to watch but the bottom-line is nothing constructive is being done to keep fans entertained.
Ask any business person and they will tell you that this isn’t good for the league.
The break means many fans turn to rival codes and many more forget about the league completely! A-League fans are at risk of becoming disengaged with the game over this period.
Being a young league, the FFA needs to make sure fans connect with clubs the same way fans have connected with AFL and NRL clubs but the half-year off-season gap threatens the A-League’s potential to do this.
The FFA must organise off-season fan engagement as soon as possible but what can they do to solve this problem? There are a number of strategies that could be implemented over the off-season.
Firstly the FFA must organise the state leagues.
It is important that people have access to quality football all year round, however this move will also assist player development.
The FFA’s recent ‘Australian Premier Leagues’ initiative could be a great thing for football in this country and done right, could improve the professionalism of Australian State League and clarify their role.
The inclusion of A-League Youth teams in state premier leagues may also be a step the FFA may want to consider.
Newcastle Jets currently host a team in the Northern NSW Premier League, providing their younger players valuable on-field experience at a decent level of football.
The inclusion of A-League Youth teams may also increase interest in state leagues and professionalism, helping to bridge the gap between semi-professional grassroots football and A-League clubs.
State Leagues can also provide a platform to test prospective expansion areas.
For example, Canberra could be represented as well as Gold Coast and Townsville, so that they are represented at a high level and so that football interest in the area can be monitored.
The FFA could also look at other strategies to bridge the off-season, such as some sort of ‘All-Stars’ match.
Any sort of all-stars system would bring together the very best of A-League Players and would be a great way to launch or end a season similar to the NRL or the USA’s NBA.
Something needs to be done to reduce the off-season and keep A-League fans engaged.
Improved handling of the off-season may be key to growing the League in the long term.
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