Why A-League should introduce an FFA Cup
In recent weeks, both players and coaches of the A-League have called for more competitive games during each season. The obvious choice for many football fans is a knock-out cup, called the FFA Cup, ran on similar lines to the F.A. Cup.
A full blown knock-out competition on the scale of the F.A. Cup is both logistically and economically unfeasible at the moment but a smaller scaled down version can be achievable now.
The FFA Cup can give back to the fans what they truly desire, a knock-out competition. Not only for the rusted on fans but the casual fan as well. Some casual football fans will make an effort to stay up to watch the F.A. Cup every year but not necessarily a regular season game. Why?
Because a Cup Final has a mystique and aura surrounding it that no other club game has. It also allows a connection to “old soccer” where fans of former NSL clubs have a chance to see their club playing in the limelight again against the best football teams that Australia can offer.
The FFA Cup offers the chance to heal some old wounds when the old NSL was discarded and the A-League was set up. This competition also allows for up to four extra games a year for the players to play at high intensity.
In the first few seasons of a FFA Cup, I would suggest the nine Australian A-League teams (I think, and I could be wrong, that the AFC won’t allow the Phoenix to play in an Australian knock-out competition) should play. As well, the six state champions from the various state leagues, plus the winner of a Northern Territory and A.C.T champions play-off to make an easy knock-out competition number of 16.
No doubt after a few years when the competition becomes more popular and more financially viable, that number can rise from the seven state and territory representatives to either a 14 team cross border knockout for those seven spots or a straight 32 team knock-out with the 9 Australian A-League teams and 23 teams from the various state leagues.
In the first round of a FFA Cup, the A-League teams should be separated from playing each other. Although this sounds unfair, I can not see any media organisation wishing to buy television rights to a FFA Cup if it can’t guarantee the majority of the best teams making it through to the second round. And let’s face it, without a media organisation willing to pump money in to televise it, the competition won’t get off the ground.
The fixture should be drawn by pots like the F.A Cup with the first team pulled out of the pot to get home ground advantage over the next team pulled out. In the case of the first round, where A-League teams can not be drawn against each other, if say Melbourne Heart is drawn out of the pot first and then Brisbane Roar second, Brisbane Roar will be moved down to the next fixture, but still as the away team.
In the second and third round, A-League teams can play against each other and the first team pulled out of the pot will have the home ground advantage.
The venue for the final is a tricky one. I hate the idea of the biggest stadium of the two finalists gets the final. I think maybe the team in the final that has scored the most goals throughout the knockout gets to host the match, whether it is a small stadium like Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium or a bigger stadium like Etihad Stadium in Melbourne or Brisbane’s Suncorp.
If the two teams in the final can’t be separated by goals scored, it should then go on goals against etc.
This is a hard one as most people seem to favour an Australia Day final, and although it sounds like a great idea finding time to squeeze in games prior to this date, it could be hard. Ideally the first round of the FFA Cup should be played a week or two after the state leagues have wound up to allow the current state champions a chance to compete when match fit.
To allow for this, the first weekend in October stands out for me. It is a public holiday on the Monday in South Australia, N.S.W. and A.C.T which means with a possible seven teams from these regions in the Cup, it allows the opportunity for one or two games to be played on the Monday afternoon/night of that public holiday.
This way fans can attend the games, as well as have a game or two in prime time for TV. The second round would have to be in mid-November. There is no special reason for that, except that it fits in nicely with no other major sporting events on.
The semi-finals could be played on the weekend closest to New Year’s Eve. I know the Central Coast usually play on New Year’s Eve, but the FFA Cup semi-finals could create its own traditions in time.
This will still allow the Mariners to play on New Year’s Eve if they don’t make the final four. The Final could be a celebration on Australia Day. As it is a public holiday across the country, it allows fans to either travel to the final or at the very least watch it on TV
The two main expenditures for this competition will come from flights and accommodation. For the flights, I have allowed each travelling team 27 spots (16 players, 11 staff) and each person a $300 flight each way.
I realise a flight from Perth to anywhere costs more than $300 but flights between Sydney and Melbourne or Brisbane would be less than $300, so it evens out. More so if one of the ties is a derby i.e. Victory versus Heart or Central Coast versus Sydney etc, where no flights will be required.
For argument sake, if all eight visiting teams need to fly, it will work out as eight teams x 27 tickets x $300 x two (there and back) which equals $129,600 (rounding up to $130,000) for flights in the first round.
Half the teams in round two mean half the cost, a total of $65,000 (rounding up to $70,000). The same reasoning goes for the semi-finals, in which flight costs are $32,500 (round up to $35,000) and flights for the final will cost $16,250 (round up to $20,000).
So in total if we add up all the rounded figures, the total cost of flights comes to $255,000. That is $255,000 if every away team needs to fly and cheaper if some teams don’t. I almost forgot about the officials, you can add 4 officials per game (anymore can come from the local federation). 4 officials x 15 games of the FFA Cup x $300 flights x two(there and back) = $36,000.
Added to teams flights cost, the total flight cost of the tournament is approximately $291,000.
With the accommodation, I have assumed that a travelling team of 27 would need 15 rooms. One for the coach, captain and somebody else will have their own room while the others will share 12 twin rooms.
If a team requires 15 rooms at a cost of $300 per room for 2 nights (the night before and after the match), that comes to $9,000 per travelling team. That means accommodation will cost approx. $72,000 for the first round, $36,000 for the second round, $18,000 for the semi-finals and $9,000 to host the finalist.
That total comes to $135,000 for team accommodation. The officials will need four rooms for each of the 15 games, again at $300 a room, and the total comes to $18,000. That is a total of $153,000 for accommodation for players and officials. Again, that is if every away team and official needs to travel.
For other miscellaneous costs, add another $156,000 to round the total cost of the whole tournament to $600,000.
We have a competition that I have costed at $600,000 and somehow we need to regain that cost. There are two main sources of funding, TV rights and naming rights.
Firstly, TV rights. Obviously Foxtel would be the main player in any TV rights as I could not see commercial TV being interested in telecasting round one or two of the FFA Cup.
Although the Semis and the final would be attractive to commercial TV, I can not see the FFA wanting to sell those games separately. Foxtel will be able to show all eight games of the first round, one on the Friday night, three games on the Saturday, two on Sunday and two on the Monday of the long weekend in S.A, N.S.W and ACT.
The four games of round two could be played over the November weekend to suit Foxtel’s TV scheduling, same with the semi-finals. The final can be shown in prime time on Australia Day to help Foxtel gain viewership for the game.
How much would Foxtel pay to have the rights to this competition, all 15 games? I would say the FFA should aim for $500,000 per year. It sounds like a lot and I know Foxtel probably won’t gain any new subscriptions based solely on the FFA Cup, but they could sell the final and perhaps the semi-finals to a commercial network for a simultaneous telecast to help recoup some of that $500,000.
The naming rights should be sold to help finance the competition. It could be called the “(insert name here) FFA Cup” with advertising and signage at all games. By having the naming rights from the beginning, it doesn’t allow traditionalist to not call the Cup by its sponsor’s name.
How many people referred to the ‘Sheffield Shield’ when it was officially named ‘The Pura Cup’ after Pura Milk and how many people still call Suncorp Stadium ‘Lang Park’?
By having the sponsor on board from day one, it allows the sponsor’s name to be directly associated with the competition. How much should the FFA look at for selling off the name?
I think it should look at $500,000 per year. If the Cronulla Sharks can get a $3million sponsorship deal for three years, considering they have not made the finals in the past few years and don’t have a national presence, I feel the FFA should be able to secure a sponsor with naming rights to the trophy for $500,000.
Another way funds can be raised is from the gate money. Clubs should share all gates, like in the F.A Cup, with the host of each tie sharing the gate 50/50 with the visiting team after costs (stadium hire etc).
The gates from the final should go straight to the FFA. If the final is played in say, Newcastle with its 30,000 seat stadium and each ticket to the final is on average $40 each, that is $1.2million for the gate before stadium fees and other costs.
In my plan the FFA will keep half of all profits from the FFA Cup to spend on grassroots programs and fund other football operations. The other half of the profits should go to prize money for this comp as well as the A-League proper, to encourage clubs to want to participate.
What do you think, Roarers?
Is it time for The FFA Cup?