A-League needs its broken Heart to mend
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Eli Babalj of Melbourne Heart contests the ball against Nicholas Ansell of Melbourne Victory. AAP Image/Joe Castro
As an intrigued A-League fan, I’ve lately started to feel sorry for the Melbourne Heart. Their dwindling crowds have got me thinking whether they will be the next A-League side to be consigned to the history books.
But, this is a ridiculous statement for Melbourne – a city full of four million people, and a sports mad city to boot.
Surely two A-League teams will be easily represented by the population, but where is the divide between the Melbourne Heart and the Melbourne Victory? They both sound like the same area to me.
In Sydney they have the differentiation between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers, but why not in Melbourne? How do fans know who to support?
Looking at the crowd statistics, over the last two years the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart crowd averages have gone in opposite directions.
In the 2011-12 season the Heart had an average of 9,082 per game to the Victory’s 19,208. This was the year the Heart made the finals for the first and only time, and is their biggest crowd average for a season.
In 2012-13, the figures really went opposite ways, with the Heart lowering to 8,560 and the Victory reaching just shy of 22,000 per game.
This season it’s difficult to make comparisons as the round one Melbourne derby gives the Victory an unrealistic average. But, if you take that match out of calculations, with both sides having two matches at home, they’re averaging 8,402 and around 22,500 respectively.
This gap in crowds is becoming more and more alarming, with the Heart currently having the lowest average attendance of any side in the A-League.
David Gallop now has a bit of an issue on his hands if he wants to keep the Heart surviving in the A-League.
Sure, the Heart haven’t reached the even lower attendance averages of the now defunct North Queensland Fury or Gold Coast United, but if the trend continues it will only be a matter of time before crowds dwindle even further.
The Heart’s only way of reversing this trend is through results. They need victories, it’s not rocket science.
But their squad is relatively inexperienced and the Heart do not have the same big brand profile as the Victory, which has been built by winning A-League titles across nine years in the league.
The Victory also boast many high profile players like: Mark Milligan, Archie Thompson, James Troisi, Connor Pain and Leigh Broxham among them.
The Heart, on the other hand, are unable to attract the same high profile players – apart from Harry Kewell and David Williams, they don’t have the same arsenal.
So the Heart need more fans, who are lured by more positive results, which is the result of more quality players and coaching staff.
Otherwise their days in the A-League could be numbered, making them another case of “what might’ve been” for A-League management.