An open letter from an FFA apologist

Jordan Roar Rookie

By Jordan, Jordan is a Roar Rookie

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31 Have your say

    Dear fellow A-League fan, it takes only a quick glance of the A-League-related articles on this site to realise the passion you have for this competition in Australia.

    I also realise that you are desperate for changes and improvements to the way the sport is run in this country. I too want the A-League to be the best it can be, but when I consider all of the issues at play (in my own ignorant layman way), I cannot help but feel that your criticism of the FFA is a little bit over the top and unbalanced.

    Firstly, consider the unique market the FFA finds itself in. There are three other competing football codes! While I am a thirty-something male with no children and disposable income, and can afford to go to 25+ games across football, rugby league and cricket each year, this is not often the case for families.

    Rugby league and AFL in this country are giants. They have been around for over 100 years each, whereas the A-League is very much in its infancy. Whether it be the ratings of rugby league or the gate takings of the AFL, it is fair to say that a proportion of the income earned from those two sports is income lost to the A-League.

    It is income that could be spent on any number of things to improve the game. Financially, the FFA are up against it in a country with a small amount of people.

    The A-League should certainly dream big. It seems that it has now ascended above Super Rugby to no.3 in the country, but try as I might it is very hard to see the A-League matching the attendances of the AFL anytime soon (one of the highest average attended competitions in the world), or the viewership of the NRL. The new NRL channel Fox League become the most watched channel on Foxtel for the first time this week.

    It is absolutely fair for you as a paying fan to expect high standards of our administrators, but respect must be paid to the extremely difficult situation they find themselves in.

    TIm Cahill celebrating

    Another of your common gripes seems to be scheduling of matches in the A-League. Again, consider the near impossible task the FFA have in developing their draw. The Brisbane Roar share a stadium with two other teams, as do Sydney FC.

    Western Sydney are currently homeless but when they get to return to their new digs it will be with a housemate, and in Melbourne you have four, that’s right four, teams using AAMI Park throughout the year.

    This is not to even mention Coldplay, Ed Sheeran et al. Sure the A-League could probably try a little bit harder to have some match ups a little bit more spaced out, but in the whole scheme of things, is this really one of the most pressing issues the game faces?

    Because what is the actual supposed downside of this haphazard draw? Two derbies drawing massive crowds in the space of three weeks. Geez that is awful! Talk about taking the glass half empty approach.

    Getting some new stadiums built is without doubt a crucial aspect of the A-League’s long term future, but being that this is not on the agenda for now (or anytime soon), you need to accept the reality of the situation on this matter.

    David Gallop

    Your criticism of the spacing out of match-ups goes hand in hand with the length of the season. Some of you think the season is too long, while others suggest the season should be longer. On the first opinion, is it not an AFC requirement that member’s seasons be 27 games minimum?

    Being that you have ten teams playing each other three times for 27 games total, this seems an absolutely natural and reasonable amount of minimum games. I love sport, so I would have no problem with there being more games, but more games is likely to accentuate the congestion of match-ups as discussed above so it would appear as though the FFA are damned if they do, damned if they don’t on this front.

    When you suggest the season is too long, you point to this season meandering on towards the back end this time around. I think this was more just a product of Sydney FC’s dominance this year. The race for the plate was essentially over ten weeks ago, but I doubt you were complaining about the length of the season last year when three teams were still in the hunt come the last round.

    This is not criticism that can be in any levelled at the FFA in my opinion.

    Which leads me to expansion, the golden ticket that could fix many of these problems. You have mounted a case for each potential expansion site at length on this site, so I won’t go over them again in any great detail.

    What I will say is this. The task ahead for the FFA in choosing which two teams to bring in is an extremely difficult one, and one I’m fine with them deliberating on. Every prospective team is both exciting and problematic in its own way.

    As you have said, if you bring in a third Sydney team, where do you find 10,000 new football fans that previously haven’t been turned on by Sydney FC or the Wanderers? Hobart is exciting, but there must be a heap of reasons why no other code has gone there yet.

    The locational identity of the disparate southern bid has been discussed by you at length here. Gold Coast has been tried and failed, and still struggles to support teams in the other codes. A second Brisbane team could create healthy competition for the Brisbane Roar, but I’m weary of introducing a derby partner with no geographical differentiation (which is why the Sydney derby will always be the favoured of the current two for mine).

    Alex Wilkinson of Sydney FC

    You get the picture I’m trying to paint (with very long brushstrokes, apologies for that!). I want expansion, and I want it yesterday. But the choice is a massive one that shapes the future of the competition.

    Introduce two more success stories like the Wanderers, and the A-League is invigorated for years to come. Introduce two like the Northern Fury, and you can forget about your 13th, 14th, 15th or 16th teams anytime soon. The decision is one that should be well thought out and considered. There is no particularly obvious choice.

    The FFA has a lot of work to do. But I just cannot bring myself to level too much criticism at this point until they have been afforded a reasonable opportunity to act on these imperatives. They have said that the two new teams will most likely come in for the season after next.

    Therefore, strap yourself in for another problem-riddled season before anything is done. If expansion does not come to pass at that time, that would be the time for criticism. Until then, enjoy the action on the pitch!

    Yours truly,

    FFA apologist.

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • April 16th 2017 @ 9:54am
      Waz said | April 16th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      We have moved beyond individual points of debate now and on to whether the leadership of the FFA has got anything other than its own self-interests, power and control at heart?

      Without proper reform at the top of the FFA, democracy as FIFA will call it, the sport will remain divided and a divided code can not succeed. The FFAs number one priority has to be healing the wounds created over the past couple of decades. Fault and blame need not enter in to this debate, only actions that will unite.

      And for what’s it’s worth the “we are unique” statement no longer washes. It’s seem as an excuse to carry on as it is and that’s the only option that’s not tenable.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 9:48pm
        MarkfromCroydon said | April 16th 2017 @ 9:48pm | ! Report

        “And for what’s it’s worth the “we are unique” statement no longer washes.” Why? There’s been no argument put that we are not unique. We are unique. We have so many competing professional sports leagues and teams and we have a limited population and economic base. Our competitors have a long history and control most of the revenue from sponsorship, have the largest fan bases (larger than ours), and we have a hostile media that attacks football at every opportunity. We are unique. Having said that, so is every country. It’s just we face different obstacles than other countries. There are of course other challenges that we share with other countries. e.g. We are a poor league in Asia compared to the K league or J league or China, and we will struggle to get the corporate sponsorship, regional or global media or players that those leagues get. We are similar to say Bulgaria or Romania in Europe or Venezuela or Bolivia in Conmebol. We also have hostile governments at Federal, State and local level who consistently underfund football compared to other sports, and who refuse to put any money into football specific stadia, and subsequently allow for sub standard pitches at the elite level. That’s different to other countries where it’s a matter of pride to produce a good pitch for their national team. Of course we also have opportunities that other countries don’t, but I won’t go into those.

        • April 17th 2017 @ 8:25am
          Neil said | April 17th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

          What you are saying is true, it is a wonder football has survived in this hostile market and I believe is the strength of the playing numbers that has propped it up in the face of adversity.

        • April 17th 2017 @ 10:10pm
          Waz said | April 17th 2017 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

          We are not unique. There are countries around the world that make football work with greater challenges than we have. The “we are unique” has become a BS excuse to hold on to power. The USA is “unique” but naming a go of it; Russia is “unique” geographically but survives. It’s become an excuse not a statement.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 12:09pm
      midfielder said | April 16th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      Jordon

      I agree with the tennor of what you say.

      However the answer lies in leadership.

      Steven Lowy needs to get out front and lead.

      If he would only communicate more.

      Lowy has undone a lot of goodwill and thrown Gallop under the bus.

      Lowy needs to get on top of the conversation. Rather than let second rate journalist set the conversation . Social media could be turned but it needs leadership that is not being shown.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 12:36pm
        AR said | April 16th 2017 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

        “Lowy has undone a lot of goodwill and thrown Gallop under the bus.”

        Elaborate.

        How has Lowy (FFA Chairman for less than a year) “thrown Gallop under the bus”..?

        • April 17th 2017 @ 2:28pm
          Realfootball said | April 17th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

          Far too proactive for any one at FFA, in any case. They might think about throwing someone under a bus, discuss it, call for expressions of interest from bus drivers, consider other options, nominate a time frame for doing it, then ask for more time… but they would never actually do it.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 12:17pm
      Nemesis said | April 16th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      Agree with lots of what is said in this opinion piece.

      But, do not accept the premise that we should worry about NRL & AFL.

      We are football. We are a different sport and our core fans will be football fans.

      In the same way, AFL fans will not follow NRL instead of AFL; or vice versa.

      Do a SWOT analysis and we find Football is king of Australian sport at the Grassroots level.

      So, let’s feed this demographic. Let’s give them an ALeague they want to support. This means expansion clubs, and eventually promotion relegation, that will give grassroots a real & meaningful stake in Aleague football.

      If we do this, we will engage 75% of the football community in Australia.

      If we don’t do this, the ALeague will never grow. It will stagnate at current levels.

      Casual fans will never ever be drawn to the ALeague.
      Why?

      Because casual fans want glamour, hype & celebrity.

      And, ALeague will never provide glamour, hype & celebrity.
      Aleague will, however, provide the best football competition for men in Australia. It will provide the pathway for men who want to represent Australia.

      For those Aussies who want glamour, hype & celebrity to watch sport I say: go watch BBL, or any of the short-attention span sports that give you a fix.

      But, if you want to watch competitive sport, give ALeague a chance.

      It’s time for FFA to figure out what makes football fans excited & then monetise this excitement.

      • April 17th 2017 @ 3:46am
        midfielder said | April 17th 2017 @ 3:46am | ! Report

        N

        Agree…. my hope is with the appointment of GOR who similar to Gorman has an association background it will result in a greater understanding on how to connect to the player base.

      • April 17th 2017 @ 8:21am
        Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | April 17th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        “ALeague will never provide glamour, hype & celebrity.”

        I think we will, and we will do it better than the cash and carry codes. Football, will do it with substance, not with noise and fire crackers, but with quality team performances, on the football world stage (FIFA, WC) and in international club football (ACL). It will come soon enough—where the Australian media and public can no longer ignore.

        • April 17th 2017 @ 9:41am
          Nemesis said | April 17th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          Not sure if this is true, Caltex.

          The Casual Sports Fan is neither knowledgeable about sport, nor interested in substance. They’re interested in events – big name concert acts, sport events, etc.

          Yesterday we had two highly competitive, entertaining, end-to-end A-League matches. But, these matches will never draw the Casual Fan unless they’re aimlessly flicking channels during the game.

          And, I don’t buy into the theory that Casual Sports Fans are watching AFL & NRL in huge numbers. If they are watching in huge numbers, then it means the committed AFL & NRL fans are much smaller than quoted.

          • April 17th 2017 @ 10:24am
            Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | April 17th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            We need to go back to this comment of yours “ALeague will never provide glamour, hype & celebrity.”

            Different generations, had different football experiences (because of circumstances) in the late 50s and 60s. My elder brothers, played and followed football as youngsters, as I did, and followed Rugby League as spectators. Although, their passion still, and will remain with Football, they will also tune into games of today’s NRL. I can tell you this, in their time, as Football followers, of their generation, they were very knowledgeable football personnel. Two of us, out of three brothers played for semi professional football clubs and the eldest a football referee (grass roots, NSW Soccer association) in the then, NSW Soccer Federation. Older generations, are lounge room spectators these days. This does not mean they can’t hold a reasonable discussion about Australian Football History or appreciate the modern game of Football.

            • April 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm
              Nemesis said | April 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

              Sounds like your brothers aren’t Casual Fans? They’re keen football fans. They’re just not keen on the ALeague.

              I define casual fans as people who don’t have interest in the underlying sport, but will tune in to watch if it piques their interest.

              My opinion: apart from ALeague Melb & Sydney Derby & the Grand Final, casual fans won’t ever have interest in ALeague. People who do have interest won’t be casual fans, they’ll be keen football fans.

              • April 17th 2017 @ 2:55pm
                Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | April 17th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

                Let’s just say they are Australian Football fans. We learnt to play our football in Australia. And we want a real domestic league to succeed. We as a family (my family) supported Australian Football when it was called Australian Soccer. We have seen most, to all, the best old time greats play in NSW—the likes of Joe Marston, John Watkiss and the Warren brothers (same grass roots Sydney Earlwood soccer club). Admittedly, their knowledge of A-league players may not be anywhere near as good of those who write on this website, but make no mistake, we love Australian Football, support it, and want to see it grow. Would you call that as being a casual sport fan? Maybe it is; I would like to think it’s more than that.

      • April 17th 2017 @ 2:57pm
        Nemesis said | April 17th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

        Mike Cockerill has written a piece that is parallel to my post – it’s time for FFA to understand that football is King at Grassroots & find ways to link Grassroots to the ALeague.

        The FFA Cup helps.
        A National 2nd Dvision would increase the grassroots connection.
        Promotion & Relegation across the entirety of Australia will be the final link.

        Full story:
        http://www.theage.com.au/sport/soccer/football-federation-australia-can-thrive-where-the-australian-rugby-union-has-failed-20170415-gvlogn.html

    • April 16th 2017 @ 1:36pm
      glen evans said | April 16th 2017 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

      Wouldn’t someone with a short attention span choose football (90min) over BBL 3hrs.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 3:26pm
      FootOverHand said | April 16th 2017 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

      There is a problem about banging on about attendances and tv viewer numbers in our sport, sure we rank No3, but it’s an insular way at looking at things.
      The global football market is huge and the FFA need to be spruiking the HAL to overseas markets, it suits Europe because games can be on at times when no football is getting played over there, I know A League games get air time in England because of this. Asia is a big market and after our Asian cup win, Australian football is quite popular, especially in Sth East Asia, FFA should be looking to promote into these countries and slowly build the profile of Aussie football.
      I think being an Island nation stuck in the middle of nowhere, we become a bit to insular in our thinking sometimes and in footballing terms, we miss out on opportunities.
      It’s time to think outside the square, or the Island.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 10:05pm
        MarkfromCroydon said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:05pm | ! Report

        “The global football market is huge and the FFA need to be spruiking the HAL to overseas markets, it suits Europe because games can be on at times when no football is getting played over there, I know A League games get air time in England because of this. Asia is a big market and after our Asian cup win, Australian football is quite popular, especially in Sth East Asia, FFA should be looking to promote into these countries and slowly build the profile of Aussie football.”

        Yes, I agree that we could look at this, but I don’t know how successful we would be. It seems to me, that you have to have something different or unique that attracts fans. Who here watches the Colombian league, or the Romanian League? Looking at the IFFHS rankings, they are both good leagues, but why would anyone in Australia watch them? Even the Argentine Primera and the Brazilian Serie A are not watched by many people here. I watch both regularly, and hardly ever meet anyone else who watches either league, even the big teams.

        I guess the positive for the A league is that it’s in English, but there’s not too much else that sets it apart from other leagues around the world. I think if you want to market it in the UK or wherever, you have to sell the country as a whole, and that means getting the tourism industry on board.

        • April 17th 2017 @ 1:33pm
          FootOverHand said | April 17th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

          I like Sth American football, I watched every game of the Copa America, whilst only a game here and there of the Euro Cup, it’s a bit hard to watch actual Sth American leagues, how do you watch it?
          High scoring games are pretty unique to our league, a lot of people like to bet on A League because of it and then find they enjoy watching it.
          There was a blog by a Spanish fan of the HAL who explained why he fell in love with the A League for this very reason, I tried to look for the blog, but I can’t find it anymore as it was written maybe 3-4 years ago.
          I have come across quite a fair amount of eastern Europeans who watch the HAL and quite a few Sth East Asians – Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and even a few from Japan and Korea. The thing is it’s from not the most moral of ways to watch football, or from betting sites like bet365.
          Even if the FFA sold at a cheap price at first (similar to the EPL), it promotes it and grows in popularity and then you can get some good deals, imagine we got the equivalent of SKY NZ x 4, individually it may seem small, but together it mounts up and could grow in the future.

          • April 17th 2017 @ 3:38pm
            MarkfromCroydon said | April 17th 2017 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

            The Argentine league has been free and on youtube for the past 4 (I think) years. Unfortunately, the contract has just been terminated, there’s been a major crisis in Argentina with the t.v rights and the league was actually suspended for months. You can still watch it on the tv publica website and telefe free and live, but I’m not sure whats happening after August with the superliga coming in. For the Brazilian Serie A, and Paulista and the Colombian Primera and Copa libertadores, you have to search the internet when a match is on, but you usually manage to get a stream, usually on youtube. Otherwise there are full match replays online on the day of the game, and it’s pretty easy to not see a result and watch the replay if you can’t watch it live. The only problem is a lot of matches are on anywhere between 5.30 and 11.30 in the mornings (which was fine at my old job, but a struggle now) so I’m watching less live and basically watching replays now.

            • April 17th 2017 @ 3:48pm
              FootOverHand said | April 17th 2017 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

              Wow, I never knew it was on youtube!!
              Cheers mate, I’ll have a look at your other reconmendations, Yeah same for me, there are advantages to shift work 🙂

        • April 17th 2017 @ 1:55pm
          Nemesis said | April 17th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

          “Who here watches the Colombian league, or the Romanian League.”

          Australia’s time zone makes it difficult to watch anything other than East Asian football. Some Sth American football is played at a decent hour on Sunday mornings, but most is not.

          For most of the ALeague season, 8:00 pm matches would kick off (European time) at 9 am (UK) to 1 pm (Russia).

          Now with Europe on Daylight savings, the times are even more favourable. ALeague matches that kick off on Saturday at 8pm or Sunday at 7 pm equate to 11 am Saturday or 10 am Sunday in the UK. Easy viewing.

          The big market for ALeague viewing will be the East Asian (particularly Chinese) sports betting market.

          • April 17th 2017 @ 3:57pm
            FootOverHand said | April 17th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

            I have been watching quite a bit of Japanese football over the last three years, it’s good in the off season and a good warm up before watching A League.

    • April 17th 2017 @ 3:18am
      pacman said | April 17th 2017 @ 3:18am | ! Report

      Visiting my son in England at the moment. Watched some A-League matches live the last 3 mornings on BT Sport. All A-League matches are shown live on this channel.

      Stadium management teams are apparently unaware of the disservice they do for Australia by serving up playing surfaces one would associate with Third World nations. I suggest “unaware”, because it would be unpatriotic to knowingly do this.

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