Staggered derbies provide perfect kick for A-League

Luke Doherty Roar Guru

By Luke Doherty, Luke Doherty is a Roar Guru

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    Melbourne Victory FC fans celebrate their team scoring a goal against Perth Glory FC during their A-League match at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (AAP Image/Martin Philbey)

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    The ideal blueprint for the A-League might’ve been for two teams in Melbourne and Sydney from the outset, but the FFA has stumbled upon gold by delaying the introduction of main city derbies.

    Fans have been treated to both of the rivalries in the last fortnight and the passion displayed by the fans in both states must have administrators of rival codes just a little bit jealous.

    Allianz Stadium was a sea of red and blue for the return bout between Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers, and flares aside, the atmosphere was exceptional.

    On Saturday night at AAMI Park, Melbourne came alive for the eighth instalment of their derby.

    The two markets are completely different.

    The Victory and the Heart aren’t divided along geographical lines like Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers.

    The “about us” section on the websites of the two clubs couldn’t be more different.

    The Victory blurb lists their achievements while the Heart blurb uses phrases like “a vision for a broad based community team” and “drawing a link between past, present and future, the Heart’s founders aimed to develop a club truly representative of the wider Victorian football public.”

    Match meet fuse.

    Sydney FC had seven seasons as the only club in the harbour city but expecting them to have won the hearts and minds of the metro area and the western suburbs is ridiculous.

    They would’ve needed a super-human level of man power and resources to engage that whole market.

    People in Sydney’s west don’t generally identify with people in the east and vice-versa. The location and identity of the two clubs was a no-brainer.

    There’s no doubt that the rivalries would’ve been successful if the Heart and Wanderers were introduced in season one, but has the unintentional stagger of their introductions made the rivalries better?

    Heart fans had to wait six seasons for their team while Wanderers fans looked longingly at the A-League for eight seasons.

    Both sets of fans already had football available to them in their city, yet chose to either not support the Victory and Sydney FC, or saw something in those clubs they didn’t like.

    On derby day, that makes for that special football atmosphere that other sports struggle to replicate.

    If all four clubs were around in season one fans would’ve had to choose a side without really knowing what the other one stood for.

    It’s hard to dislike something just because you’re told you have to.

    Now, armed with at least six seasons of evidence, supporters have been able to make a firm decision about which camp they belong in.

    There’s also the big brother/little brother scenario that is hard to manufacture.

    The Heart and Wanderers supporters will feel like their clubs are the smaller sibling for a while yet, but that only serves to increase the level of passion again.

    Victory and Sydney FC fans also get to play on the fact that another club has moved in on their city.

    Certain elements of this would’ve happened in season one, but the delayed introduction of the Heart and Wanderers has made derby day something to savour.

    It has made it genuine. The passion is real.

    Football fans in general know how lucky they are to be seeing these matches because they’ve experienced the A-League without them.

    Football Australia might’ve stumbled their way towards this outcome, but in a strange way, it has given the competition a sense of growth and development.

    Perception is everything and at the moment the perception is that the A-League is booming.

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    The Crowd Says (63)

    • December 24th 2012 @ 2:48am
      jbinnie said | December 24th 2012 @ 2:48am | ! Report

      Luke – It should never be forgotten that both Sydney FC & Melbourne Victory demanded , yes demanded, a 5 year moratorium on having another team in their respective cities so the question you put could never have happened?????? That factor apart the derby games have added something to the league but it is going to be interesting in coming years to see if they,the incumbents,will bridge the gap that exists at present. WSW would appear to have the better chance but if Sydney FC ever get their act together the gap could be quite hard to bridge.jb

      • December 24th 2012 @ 6:47am
        Cricket said | December 24th 2012 @ 6:47am | ! Report

        I will never come around to the way of thinking that there should have been two teams in each market from the start…One team one city was a decision that laid the groundwork for a very successful MBV…SFC had the same opportunity but mostly squandered it.

        2 teams in each of our two biggest cities would have left the HAL with the “do I choose A or B” farce that has affected the BBL….at the beginning there is no reason to choose either, so a lot of people just haven’t. ‘chosen’ that is

        What we have now is exactly where we want to be, but who is to say that if we did things differently from the start we would have arrived at this position…”the butterfly effect is in full force.”

        e.g.If Kevin Muscat had chosen to go to MBH instead of MBV and became a bit more cultured sweeper/stopper under John van’t schip, would the rest of the league turned MBV into the pantomime villain we love to hate? (our version of Collingwood or the NYYankees)
        Nobody can know that. There is no real point in playing what ifs…what we have now is great and this year will go down as a landmark year for domestic football, even the former haters like Buzz Rothfield and Bec Wilson have had nice things to say about football.We are football and I really feel that we are on the precipice of a golden age for domestic football in Australia….After 8 years of HAL football the game no longer lives and dies in the minds of the Australian sporting public on 11 blokes pulling on the Green & Gold after a week in training camp to carry the hopes of a nation. not to mention fly the flag for football.

        • December 24th 2012 @ 9:44am
          mahonjt said | December 24th 2012 @ 9:44am | ! Report

          BINGO

        • December 24th 2012 @ 11:37pm
          Evan Askew said | December 24th 2012 @ 11:37pm | ! Report

          Good point. Another good thing about the delayed untroduction of a western sydney team is that the disenfranchised fans of NSL clubs can’t claim that Wanderers robbed their team of a place in the A league which they can claim with Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory. Whether the hardcore supporters of those team will get on board with Wanderers remains to be seen but the delayed introduction has removed a potentinal barrier.

      • December 24th 2012 @ 9:44am
        mahonjt said | December 24th 2012 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        That is garbage – the competition format was decided even before a Victory bid was made. It was the lack of availalbe capital and a very conservative FFA that used the 5yr “monopoly” to attract capital – and that is exactly what it did. S please, if you are going to correct the author – be sure of your facts first.

        • December 24th 2012 @ 12:15pm
          Qantas supports Australian Football said | December 24th 2012 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          Yes mahonjt, you are right that’s how it was. MBV didn’t even have the start up cash for the first year and it was the FFA who gave them the start up cash (loan) in the first season. I wish some people would do their research properly… (lol)

        • December 28th 2012 @ 1:07am
          jbinnie said | December 28th 2012 @ 1:07am | ! Report

          Mahonjt – Don’t really know if this offering was aimed at me ,not to worry, but you could enlighten me as to where you got your information, for you are bordering on quoting what should have been at that time, pretty confidential info. I do agree the format, ie 8 teams & 8 teams only, was planned before successful clubs were named but your interpretation of how the FFA arrived at that format is diametrically opposed to what actually took place for it has to be remembered that to gain a “franchise” spot the incumbent had to raise $5,000,000 to gain entry.!!!!!!!
          When it was found the Groff Lord consortium could only raise $4.500,000, that ” conservative ” FFA you describe agreed to take a 10% share in the new club with the proviso that they,that same conservative FFA, would allow the consortium to purchase back that 10% of shareholding. This was done inside 2 years.
          Now ,if you analyse that factual information, are you still trying to tell me that the FFA were the people who awarded the moratorium to protect their $500,000 investment or would you think it may have been the G Lord group who asked for the 5 year moratorium in order to raise the extra capital they required to buy back their 10% of shareholding that constituted the “loan” they had been given from FFA, plus, to show their investors of $4,555,000 that they had gained extra time to build more capital with the use of normal commercial practices,sponsorship,advertising etc etc etc without any competition from within our code.?
          I’ll leave that answer to the more intelligent readers that use these columns.
          PS Strange that you didn’t care to comment on the same “moratorium conditions” that existed for Sydney FC. Are you afraid to suggest anything untoward occurred for it should be remembered our chairman had a “holding” in the early days of that franchise &, if you are to be believed ,did the other six franchisees just sit on their hands & play dumb with all this money being “lent ” in Melbourne & Sydney. I think not,do you??????? jb.

          • January 2nd 2013 @ 3:02pm
            mahonjt said | January 2nd 2013 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

            Its all a matter of public record, so no comercial-in-cofidence conspiracy theory here, unlike the very strange rant above? I just followe the development and introduction of the A-League cloself at the time like all lovers of football.

            Maybe you were just embarrased? Sorry to have done that to you…..

    • December 24th 2012 @ 6:15am
      MV Dave said | December 24th 2012 @ 6:15am | ! Report

      In Melbourne whichever team was created first would have the largest following. There is a very big Football following in Melbourne that were just waiting for something like the HAL to start. If it had been Heart as the start up team then they would currently be the super club and Victory would be the smaller team. Having said that Heart just need some on field success in the medium term and perhaps a big name marquee in the short term to kick start more support at their games. They will be fine and within a few years time the Victory vs Heart game will sell out Etihad. If Heart emulate Victory’s on field success of 2 x Premierships/Championships they will average 10,000 without the Derby.

      • December 24th 2012 @ 9:54am
        mahonjt said | December 24th 2012 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        I think we also have to credit Geoff Lord and the original MVFC Board for the success of the tclub, not just in football terms, but in commercial terms. It is no flube that the brancd reseach and recent reporting puts MVFC at approximately twice the capitalisation of the next biggest club Sydney FC. Sure the 5yr monopoly helpe – but as others have poionted out MVFC made something of this whicle Sydney FC basicly squandered it. I predict that the WSW, while keeping therii ;working class’ disposition will easily surpass Sydney FC as a club in commercial terms wthin a decade. In footballing terms its much harder to say in out league.

    • Roar Guru

      December 24th 2012 @ 8:20am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | December 24th 2012 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      A very positive & balanced article, Adrian … the Mayans may have been correct after all? 😉

      Jokes aside, yes, I’m content with the way the A-League is progressing this year.

      But, I was also content 12 months ago, when others were painting doom & gloom scenarios. The truth of business; the truth of life; is that there will be ups & downs throughout the journey.

      There’s no point getting over-excited by every high & over-depressed by every low.

      Far better to be level-headed & compare the current overall landscape with the past overall landscape. Is your business; is your life better now than it was in the past?

      And, those of us, who followed football in AUS before Johnny scored that penalty, have consistently been saying the domestic football landscape is better – much much better – post-ALeague formation, than at any time in the 30 years before A-League formation.

      Is there room for improvement? Damn right there is – we’ve only just started. Let’s just take it one year at a time.

      • December 24th 2012 @ 9:55am
        mahonjt said | December 24th 2012 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Amen to that Brother!

      • December 24th 2012 @ 10:23pm
        Kasey said | December 24th 2012 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

        There’s always room for improvement and we football fans are notoriously hard markers so FFA have their work cut our for them evicting the culture of victimsation and/or pessimism and installing a culture of exellence demanded and achieved via constant improvement of our methods. Onwards and upwards seem to be the zeitgeist of the moment for the game…long may it continue to be so:)

    • December 24th 2012 @ 8:47am
      striker said | December 24th 2012 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Luke your 100% right bringing in these teams like the heart and WSW at this stage worked out brilliantly as a lot of fans especially in Sydney didnt like Sydney FC when they first came in and bringing WSW brang alot of old supporters and non football people to the games, i always said if they can get the sydney market right which seems to be getting bigger than the A-League will grow to another level,there are still tens of thousands of football fans in waiting which we need to do better to convert and watch the A-League.

    • December 24th 2012 @ 9:06am
      jamesb said | December 24th 2012 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      I wish there were second teams in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth

      You would than have a blockbuster derby just about every second week.

      But sadly that looks highly unlikely. Maybe in 5 to 10 years, NZ could have its second team, and therefore create the NZ derby.

      As the league evolves, I’m sure new rivalries develop. Actually with Victory and FC been called the “Big Blue”, what about Heart and WSW. It is still a Melbourne v Sydney match up!

      Anyway, as the league matures, it won’t be relying just on the derbies for the big crowds

      • December 24th 2012 @ 9:57am
        mahonjt said | December 24th 2012 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        WIthin 10 years there will be no NZ side in the competition is my guess. Reeplaced by another QLD team and pleasing the AFC as we look to increase AFC compliance WITHOUT mving to a syste of direct P/R…… Just my opinion, as much as I appriciate the NZ contribution – politics will ultimately win.

        • December 24th 2012 @ 7:07pm
          jamesb said | December 24th 2012 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

          the last thing the A-league wants is another club to fold.

          My guess is that one day Oceania and the AFC will merge.

          • December 24th 2012 @ 10:10pm
            Kasey said | December 24th 2012 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

            there ould be huge a difference between folding a team and telling Wellnix that due to AFC we have to replace them with an Austalin team (Canb/Wol’gong).

            I my Crystal Ball I see both Wellnix and Auckland represented in the HAL of the future .

            Sadly I do not see a Tassie team(the North/ South divide sinking that potential team).

            Canberra and the ‘gong are cerain to be in before we celebrate our 25th season. Anybody else will depend upon the continued growth of the game and the willingness of the more financially successful clubs(or the FFA) to subsidise a loss-making smaller market team for whatever strategic goal is determined to be the best path forwards in the future.

    • December 24th 2012 @ 9:07am
      JasonA said | December 24th 2012 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      I think the real question is, where do we go from here ? Is there room for further expansion ? Will any future clubs be too small to be serious contenders to MV, SFC, BR, AU ? Is a second Brisbane team realistic ?(brisbane is twice the size of Adelaide and the surrounding areas Ipswich, Gold Coast, Sunny Coast take the greater area population over 3 million)

      So much potential for the game, it’s a good time to be a football fan.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

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