One small step for Australia, one giant leap for football

William McInnes Roar Pro

By William McInnes, William McInnes is a Roar Pro

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    Alessandro Del Piero feels the pain of a Newcastle Jets challenge in Sydney FC's 2-2 draw in round 19. (Image: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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    This A-League season has been an incredible success. The introduction of new FFA CEO David Gallop, new team Western Sydney Wanderers and signing of Alessandro Del Piero, has made it one of the most successful and promising in the history of the league.

    With such a great season about to come to an end, people are already starting to view next season with intrigue, hoping that the success will continue.

    With FFA not likely to announce a successful bid for a new team until 2015, it is likely supporters will not see any more teams for at least the next two seasons. This is a sign of strength from the FFA, who have a habit of introducing new teams only to see them flop, losing players and hurting the league’s reputation.

    However, the two most recent introductions, Melbourne Heart and the Western Sydney Wanderers, have been extremely successful despite sharing the support of their cities with Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC respectively.

    Both have had attendances of up to 20,000 this year and the support from Western Sydney fans is unparalleled to any other expansion team. These particular expansions look to be promising enterprises for the development of football in the country.

    Fans

    The 2013-14 season will break new ground. It will feature free-to-air coverage of one live game a week, thanks to a deal with SBS.

    This will change the identity of the A-League completely, getting fans who would normally not be able to passionately support football, behind their teams, creating new fans, or getting more fans to invest in the A-League through ticket sales and merchandise.

    There are already signs that the A-League is growing in fans. This season has seen the most people through the gates since the A-League’s beginnings, pushing over the 1,500,000 mark.

    Whilst this number is rising season after season, the fans are the ones who need to keep coming if the A-League is to be a success.

    Signings

    “Alessandro, Del Piero, is Sydney’s number 10.” At any Sydney FC game you are bound to hear this chant. Safe to say, Del Piero is easily the biggest signing to ever.

    Three years ago he was regarded as one of the best forwards in the world. Plying his trade for Sydney has not only meant huge coverage for Sydney FC but they have also reaped the benefits of his craft.

    Shinji Ono, Western Sydney’s answer to Del Piero, has been another important signing and both have signed on for another season with their respective clubs. Emile Heskey as well has been a fantastic addition for the Newcastle Jets but it will be up to other A-League clubs to make such marquee signings, that not only benefit their teams but also the A-League commercially.

    Football

    A new evolution of football is certainly happening in Australia and the next few years could be crucial.

    2005 saw the inauguration of the A-League. 2006 we qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1974. 2010 we qualified again for the World Cup and since then the profile of Australian football, both domestically and internationally, has grown.

    Australia is playing better football and is able to attract a little more prestige than it would have before. More Australian players are playing for European clubs and the national side is becoming more and more competitive.

    The only thing that could kill the league now is complacency. The A-League is developing quickly and whilst it is highly unlikely it can compete with the European leagues in the next few years, it could certainly move its profile higher within Asia.

    Indeed, the best thing that has ever happened to Australian football is moving it to the Asian Football Confederation. They set themselves a higher target and consequently have thrived, narrowly missing out on the national side winning the AFC Asian Cup in 2011 (which incidentally Australia hosts in 2015).

    Future

    As Australian football develops, the league and national side have to make some goals. For the league, the AFC Champions League is an important test of its football.

    Adelaide United was one of the eight best teams in Asia in 2012, being knocked out in the quarter-finals. They need to set this goal for the future, as a benchmark of Australian league football.

    And once Del Piero decides to hang up the boots, Sydney FC and other A-League clubs alike must stand the test to try and secure another lucrative signature.

    The A-League is sure to be an even more exciting league in the future. Watch this space.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • March 27th 2013 @ 5:32am
      Johnno said | March 27th 2013 @ 5:32am | ! Report

      A good article , well covered many points.

      Here are some an Asian champion’s league title by 2020.

      -Fix up the Melbourne Heart team, either dump em, and put a new Melbourne team in, or really help the out etc.

      -NPL gonna be very good an interesting. And FFA cup by 2018 or 2020 by latest.

    • Roar Pro

      March 27th 2013 @ 10:34am
      William McInnes said | March 27th 2013 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      I think having a national premier league will put more pressure on teams to perform well and allow clubs that may not have enough funding to have a team in the A-League to be competitive within their own league and gain fans. I think Melbourne Heart are simply playing in the wrong city. They have to share a city with the best supported team in the A-League. Their brand of football though, is very exciting and has the potential to become a strong point of the league.

    • March 27th 2013 @ 11:35am
      Bring Back the Bears said | March 27th 2013 @ 11:35am | ! Report

      I think one of the biggest pluses for the A-League is not only that they managed to sign Del Piero, and Shinji in the first place but the fact that they managed to retain them and get them to take up the optional second year in their contract. I’m not sure what Hesky’s movements are but from my understanding he is happy in Newie.

      The fact these high calibre players came here and then want to stay after playing here will be a massive boost to the appeal of the A-League for other potential big name recruits.

      Oh yeah and go Wanderers!

    • March 27th 2013 @ 6:27pm
      Harry Sevas said | March 27th 2013 @ 6:27pm | ! Report

      Working in the financial sphere I see alot of indicators that suggest the 2013-14 season will be bigger than the 2012-13 season. Trends for my club Victory pointing up after a couple of lean years. Sydney at long last are showing signs of stability with the re appointment of Farina for next season. Can only see positives for Sydney next season after what has been a poor season this year. The Wanderers with a full year under their belt will double their membership once the community engagement hits full throttle. Would not surprise me if they sellout of memberships. Perth with the opening of their new stand will not be restricted in attendances next season. An increase 20-30 percent in attendances would not be out of the question in Perth. In regards to Melbourne Heart they will be here for years to come. Owner Peter Sidwell has already said that they are chasing a marquee. Its just a matter if he will be a 500 000 or million dollar a year marquee. Add to that next season that they will have two home games against Victory and attendances will be on the rise once more. All trends suggest that next season will be bigger again and I have not even start on the free to air, Asia Cup, NPL scenario. Bigger attendances, bigger tv audiences the future is looking bright for football.

    • March 28th 2013 @ 5:30pm
      Richard said | March 28th 2013 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

      Problem with Melbourne Heart is identity. Are they North, South, East or West? Wanderers have proved success because they placed themselves on the map not just laid a blanket over the whole city.

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