We love a marquee player, but has it gone too far?

Kris Swales Columnist

31 Have your say

    A special fund for special players, can FFA make it happen? And should they? (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

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    You can barely make your way around the internet these days without stumbling over a revelation of a marquee signing to one Australian organisation or another.

    Some crazy South Korean pop star has a breakout track where he dances like he’s riding a horse? Quick, let’s get him to bust out Gangnam Style on a dance music festival touring the nation’s racecourses.

    Posh Spice was spotted looking at the Lonely Planet guide for Australia over an Orange Mocha Frappuccino in Beverly Hills? Quick, let’s get Becks down to the A-League to kick a few set shots for the masses.

    Some cricketer from somewhere overseas wants to meet up with some bird he met last time he toured Australia? Quick, let’s sign him up to play one match for some franchise no one’s heard of, in a comp no one will remember a single ball of by the time it rolls around again next summer.

    Someone from any international incarnation of The Voice wants to tour? Bugger the marquee signings, just let Channel Nine know so they can wrap an NRL game around it. Any game, and fast.

    Australia is a long way away from the rest of the world, so having bright, shiny things from across the seas doing their thing on our doorstep is exciting. What else could explain Nickelback routinely selling out arena shows here?

    Famous international sports stars have made their way down under before – the Sheffield Shield hosted the likes of Ian Botham and Michael Holding in the 1980s, while Ellery Hanley’s stints in the NSWRL were just short of legendary – but nothing quite compares to the summer of love Australian sports fans are currently experiencing.

    Is the money being thrown at Alessandro Del Piero, the Saviour of Sydney FC, actually worth it? Undoubtedly.

    The club known as the Bling have been all over the media for months, but reality is starting to set back in – and with the club currently rooted to the bottom of the ladder, the banks of empty seats at the SFS are starting to look a little more like regular service as the fairweathers drop off.

    So what does a marquee player mean to me as a sports fan? Probably quite a bit, if I’d been in any position to enjoy supporting one over the past decade.

    My beloved Canberra Raiders haven’t had anyone even remotely close to marquee status since Laurie Daley (a local hero, admittedly) hung up the mouthguard in 2000, the Brisbane Roar’s is routinely upstaged by a teammate who’s one of the most despised players/haircuts in the comp, and the Brisbane Bullets aren’t even running around at the moment.

    Still, the way things are going you just have to wonder where this madness will end.

    Hulk Hogan making a comeback for the Melbourne Storm as they roll into the 2013 finals?

    The Melbourne Heart signing Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart for their fixtures either side of Valentine’s Day?

    The GWS Giants getting so desperate to put bums on seats that they sign up ‘Marky’ Mark Wahlberg for the forward pocket – purely for the marketing benefits of being able to rename The Star casino’s flashy new nightclub Marky Mark’s Marquee while he’s in town?

    It’s so ridiculous that it just might work.

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 8:30am
      Christo the Daddyo said | November 22nd 2012 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      I think the crowd pulling ability of almost every ‘marquee’ player in the history of the A League has been wildly overstated. Remember the predictions of multiple sell-outs for SYdney FC when Del Piero was announced? Didn’t happen. Has his signing contributed to an increase in crowds – without a doubt. But by the end of the season I think we’ll find Sydney’s crowd average around the mid to high teens – an excellent result and a significant increase on previous years, but a long way from capacity.

      Beckham might be about the only exception – I reckon if he signed with an A League club there would be sellouts everywhere. BUt I can’t think of anyone else who would have that level of impact.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 9:34am
        Bondy. said | November 22nd 2012 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Why do you worry so much about the impact or non impact of this sport in this country ,you almost seem half concerned, all the time.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 10:10am
        Roarsome said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:10am | ! Report

        I know the crowd at Suncorp was definitely larger than usual last week, presumably to see DP. That’s the problem with Marquee players. The team paying the salary sees a slight rise in attendance whilst the touring marquee roadshow sees significantly larger attendance at SFC away games.

        • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:40am
          Dillan said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:40am | ! Report

          I wonder would the other clubs be prepared to share their increased crowd revenue dollars, for any home game featuring Beckham, with the team that secures Beckham (should it happen)..? It would make sense to share the increased revenue around to secure his signature…

          • Roar Guru

            November 22nd 2012 @ 11:49am
            Fussball ist unser leben said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:49am | ! Report

            12 months ago, rival A-League fans mistakenly thought Harry wanted a share of any potential increased revenue from away games and they were livid – “NO WAY” they screamed and shouted.

            Note: this was NOT part of Harry’s deal with MVFC, but just jealous rival fans not doing proper research & getting upset because they dislike Harry.

            So, NO, I don’t think the home team should give anything to the away team that has a marquee.

            When any big team (ManU, Barca, Bayern, etc.) travels away, the home team gets bigger crowds … United doesn’t ask for a share of the revenue.

        • Roar Guru

          November 22nd 2012 @ 12:45pm
          Peter Wilson said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          Slight rise in attendance?

          SFCs average home attendance has gone from 11K last season to 26.5K this seaon so far – and they are last on the table.
          That’s more than double.
          Let’s say additional 10K over the season x 13 home games @ $30 each = $3.9M

          Plus additional 6K season memberships

          Shirt sales have increased by 30k so far and climbing @ $160 each = $4.8M

          And all this (and more) for a $2M per year outlay.

          And lets not count the extra fans at away games, increased merchandise sales, extra food and drinks, big boost in the A-League’s media attention in Australia and around the world, more overseas players wanting to come to the A-League and so on

          How can you then say ADP hasn’t benefitted SFC, the FFA and the A-League?

          If Beckham does come to the A-League he will probably generate the same benefits in just 10 weeks.

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 8:58am
      Titus said | November 22nd 2012 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Bringing in thousands more people like Chris, who have little idea about(or even particularly like) football, isn’t completely the point. These people went to the games, now they are happy to just watch it on TV. They will be back if SFC makes a late surge to the finals though.

      For the actual fans, we are hoping that Del can lift the players and the team around him. Instill values and knowledge at the club and help with the encouragement and development of youngsters at the club.

      But great article Kris, Greg Baum would be proud.

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 9:24am
      David Heidelberg said | November 22nd 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      The club known as the Bling have been all over the media for months, but reality is starting to set back in – and with the club currently rooted to the bottom of the ladder, the banks of empty seats at the SFS are starting to look a little more like regular service as the fairweathers drop off.

      SFC had 23k at their last home match, despite terrible weather and have the biggest crowds this year. You are being negative just for the sake of it.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 2:56pm
        Titus said | November 22nd 2012 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

        As a Raiders fan you would think he was quite at home with empty seats.

        • Columnist

          November 22nd 2012 @ 5:54pm
          Kris Swales said | November 22nd 2012 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

          Best creative crowd counters in the NRL!

      • Columnist

        November 24th 2012 @ 9:26am
        Kris Swales said | November 24th 2012 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        13k at Sydney vs Adelaide last night. Just sayin’…

        • November 24th 2012 @ 9:32am
          Titus said | November 24th 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

          So what, we’re back to NRL levels, the team needs a coach and a philosophy…….just sayin’

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 9:27am
      Towser said | November 22nd 2012 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Not far enough. Every A-League club should have one if affordable ,who depends on location. IMO Del Piero wont have as much impact at CCM simply because theres not a big enough Italian population in relation to Sydney.
      Why? because of the nature of football support historically in Australia compared to other sports.
      That being Overseas leagues over local.
      We cant bring established overseas leagues to Australia ,but we can bring a bit of them in the way of a quality marquee.
      If you believe that every sport should be trying to maximise its market then Football has to have a marquee.
      Nobody with any knowledge of the whimsical nature of football support in Australia expects sell outs,but as noted by CtD the likes of Del Piero can up the average. Considering that SFC were averaging 8000 not long ago,mid to high teens is a good return.
      My club the Roar got 23,000 the other day because of ADP pushing our average up towards its high of season 3. May or may not be that by the end of the season ,but it helps.
      The Key is for the marquee to come into a club stable on & off the park something Sydney FC definitely were not this season.
      So we are starting to see unsuprisingly the same pattern as happened at Victory last year with Harry.
      To be blunt to bring a “Super Professional footballer” into a club with a rookie coach who is supposedly changing the playing style from one of falling asleep by half time under Lavicka to a vibrant well oiled attacking machine is a dopey combination.
      Hence the one man show & coach throwing in the towel after 6 matches.
      Marquees are vital to the A-League as they represent part of the nature of football support in Australia.
      The only reason they dont achieve maximum effect for a club is poor future planning.
      IF Sydney FC had been playing attacking entertaining football under an established coach for the last 2 seasons & Del Piero had come into that environment apart from the first “Lets ava look ” crowd drop off would be minimal(say most over 20,000).
      As it is crowds as they did at Victory will drop off somewhat.

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 9:36am
      Brick Tamlin of the Pants Party said | November 22nd 2012 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Crowd increases are are great and all,but three of the goals Del Piero has scored this season have been absolutely breathtaking,that in itself has been worth it for me.

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 9:39am
      Caramello Koala said | November 22nd 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      I am saying not enough more. I agree with 5 imports per team is the perfect balance, but I want 2 marquees per team,. 2 del Piero type players not just 1.

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