The A-League’s controversial new finals format is proving to be a success according to Football Federation Australia (FFA) boss David Gallop.
The decision to cram a three-week finals series, consisting of only sudden-death games, into the end of the A-League season after 27 rounds was greeted by derision in some football circles, but former rugby league chief Gallop says the format is providing an exciting finale to the competition’s eighth season at a time when it is competing with the NRL and AFL for the attention of fans, sponsors and media.
“Talking to people in and around the game about the change this year having sudden-death games where everything is on the line has been important because we are in a very competitive environment,” Gallop told an AAP Sports Editors’ Conference on Wednesday.
“It was a smart move away from a start in September when the AFL and NRL are at the pointy end.
“And at the end of the season, we unashamedly realise we are in a very competitive period and we need to adjust to that.”
The new top-six format, which provides for an opening weekend of elimination finals followed by a second weekend of semi-finals before the grand final on April 21, was a bold move for the A-League and the FFA, both of whom acknowledge the ‘consumer friendly’ nature of its make-up.
Critics of the format point out Premiers Plate winners Western Sydney Wanderers are not given a second bite at the cherry should they lose, although they and the second-placed Central Coast Mariners had a week off before this weekend’s semi-finals and have home-ground advantage for those games.
The format has given the game’s governing body a dream set of semi-final match-ups, with the Wanderers hosting defending champions Brisbane Roar on Friday and the Mariners playing Melbourne Victory on Sunday in Gosford.
“It’s an exciting conclusion to the season, there are no dead rubbers and it is a quick finish to the season and that is why we created it,” Gallop said.
Gallop also defended the need for a grand final in the Australian market.
“In Australia, it is about the grand final and, while we will certainly recognise the premiers, sport is all about seizing the moment and that is what the grand final is about,” he said.