What A-League matches should be on Friday night FTA?

Tony Tannous Columnist

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Central Coast win the 2012/13 A-League Grand Final (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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With the A-League fixtures for next season set to be released tomorrow, featuring a live Friday night free-to-air fixture on SBS2 for the first time, it’s pertinent to ask what type of fixture should kick-off each weekend?

Should the Friday night FTA game be used to showcase the competition through a blockbuster clash, such as the Sydney or Melbourne Derby?

Is it an opportunity for the FFA to expand the interest in the competition by kicking off each weekend with one of the matches of the round, a strategy used by other codes?

Given the success of the competition last season with growing crowds, ratings and club membership, does the Friday fixture present a strategic opportunity to expand the reach of the competition even further?

Or should the fixturing be commensurate with what SBS paid as part of the new TV deal, reported at the time to have been no more than $10m?

With Foxsports having coughed up the lion’s share of the new $160m four-year deal and having done a great job of covering the league over its initial eight seasons, should they be rewarded with the blockbusters?

Is it enough, simply, that fans are getting a taste of the A-League on FTA?

Based on what I’ve been hearing, it looks likely that the FFA have taken the latter option.

When the draw is announced tomorrow, it’s unlikely that the Friday night fixtures will feature too many of the blockbusters, such as the derbies, the Big Blue, and the grand final replay.

Certainly it appears that Sydney FC may launch the season, and with Alessandro Del Piero on board, that would be a big way to launch the return of FTA football.

But beyond that there may be less to get excited about for FTA fans.

Indeed, it appears that one or two of the weaker clubs, such as the Melbourne Heart, will feature in a few Friday night games.

This may be a way to help some clubs on the road to sustainability.

Yet, give some of the Heart’s crowds at AAMI Park over the past couple of seasons, what sort of image will showcasing them reflect on the competition?

And, indeed, could putting the Heart at home live on a Friday night further erode AAMI crowds, with wavering fans tempted to sit in front of the couch?

Will empty seats at AAMI Park or a less active support at say Bluetongue be the type of image that we want to remit on FTA?

To those getting their first taste of the A-League next season, is it best to showcase some of the bigger active support spectacles and atmospheres to them?

There was speculation in one report last week that the FFA might feature up to five Western Sydney Wanderers games on Friday, tapping into a strength area for the code.

This appears unlikely, with fans of the club strong in their opposition to having too many Friday night games when the club was launched.

More likely is that a few of the Wanderers away games might be beamed back into the lounges of fans watching on FTA in western Sydney.

If that’s the case, it would certainly help Friday night ratings, with Sydney and Melbourne still considered the best-rating markets.

It’s a fine balancing act for the FFA. On the one hand they would want to reward Fox for their loyalty and support so far, yet on the other they need to be strategic and try and build on the success of the past two seasons, particularly last season.

When the draw is announced tomorrow we will know a little more, but I’m keen to hear your thoughts on what the best way forward is with Friday night football?

Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA
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