The A-League’s record-breaking first week
A-League TV teaser ad - 'WE ARE FOOTBALL' (Image: FFA)
A media release from the FFA earlier today brought nothing but good news for those of us that love football – informing us of the record-breaking first week of the season that has just passed.
The previous records for aggregate attendance, as well as both TV and digital viewing numbers were all shattered; and to me, it’s clear that the star power the A-League generated in the off-season through a few brilliant signings has paid immediate dividends.
I’m the last person that would ever get involved in a code war; I’m a Rabbitohs member, a devoted Hawks fan and hell, I’ve even been getting into the ITM Cup for the last couple of years (go Taranaki!).
But as someone that has adored football his entire life and watched it be kicked around by supporters of other codes who’ve yet to grasp that you can like more than one sport, this is some sweet vindication.
When Sydney signed Alessandro Del Piero, there was nothing but joy from football lovers…and yet oddly enough, there was an equal amount of cynicism from others I spoke to that don’t particular care for the round ball game.
A Rugby League forum I post on (which has a football sub-forum which is home to many knowledgeable fans that appreciate more than one sport) saw the anti-football zealots out in force, claiming that “nobody’s ever heard of this guy” and that he was washed-up, over the hill etc.
Sydney may not have won on the weekend, but that’s not the point. Aside from the fact that we never win in Wellington, Del Piero was the best player in a losing team by an absolute mile. But even if he wasn’t, the importance of his signing goes well beyond his considerable ability on the pitch.
To quote the aforementioned press release; “This season the Hyundai A-League will be seen in territories across the globe with live matches taken throughout Asia including Hong Kong, Singapore, Myanmar, in Italy via Mediaset and the USA with both One World Sport and Fox Soccer Channel while weekly highlights will be broadcast in the UK through Sky Sports.”
To provide some perspective – there were Juventus fans having their morning coffee, reading about Silvio Berlusconi’s latest indiscretion and settling in to watch Sydney play Wellington.
To even imagine that Italians would have been watching our poxy little A-League six months ago would have seen far-fetched. It was probably as confusing a thought as these new viewers felt on Saturday, trying to work out how Terry McFlynn is paid to play football.
There were over 107,000 views on the A-League and corresponding club websites across the weekend, up 25% from last year’s record. This number will continue to grow with the network of global television viewers.
But even in our own backyard, things are picking up. 108,000 was the average audience for a game this weekend, absolutely destroying the round one figures from last year by a cool 38%. Whether it’s Del Piero, Heskey or the presence of a new team that actually has fans, people are starting to take notice.
Oh and finally, the games themselves. 93,500 people turned up to the five fixtures, beating the old record by around 6,000 people.
With a new TV deal looming for the A-League, this is kind of positive press that we needed to continue the growth of our domestic league, and football in Australia as a whole.
The more money that can be generated in the next deal may provide the clubs with more marquee slots, a higher salary cap and perhaps down the line, room for a second professional tier.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. For now, it’s just great that the yield is finally matching the quality of the product.
I’ve been saying since season one that every year, the crowds have gotten worse, but the standard of play has gotten better. I guess this is the year the scales finally tip.
And as Ben Buckley said, we’re looking for more crowd records to be broken when Sydney host Newcastle on Sunday. Short of Del Piero and Heskey being ruled out through coincidental mishaps (as we’ve seen in the famous ‘Softball’ episode of The Simpsons, it is possible), I think the 33,458 against the Victory in 2008 could be under a real threat.
But probably not the 80,295 against Beckham’s LA Galaxy.