The A-League season is starting a week too early

Paul Williams Columnist

By , Paul Williams is a Roar Expert

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    Some people, including myself, would say too much football is never enough. But in the Australian sporting landscape, when most major media outlets are still digesting the AFL and NRL grand finals, is too much football too much?

    Football Federation Australia’s stubborn refusal to incorporate international breaks into the A-League calendar means this weekend’s opening round of the A-League clashes directly with the most important Socceroos’ fixtures since the Uruguay playoff in 2005.

    At a press conference last week announcing the 23-man squad to face Syria, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou saw this as a good thing, claiming it was a chance to “flood the market” with football.

    But as I see it, rather than ‘flooding the market’ and increasing the amount of football coverage, pitting the A-League against the Socceroos is just diluting what is already there.

    Here we are just two days out from the Socceroos biggest match in more than a decade, and rather than the focus being on what is Ange’s best eleven, who should partner Trent Sainsbury and how to stop the dangerous trio of Firas al-Khatib, Omar al-Somah and Omar Khrbin, who scored a hattrick in the AFC Champions League semi final last week, we’re splitting the coverage between the Socceroos and the A-League, which is taking the lions share of the coverage thanks to Tony Popovic’s shock decision to leave the Western Sydney Wanderers on the eve of the season.

    And never mind the media interest, the biggest issue from the clash, which would have happened irrespective of the Socceroos being involved in a playoff or not, is once again the impact it has on clubs with international players on their list.

    FFA always looks to start the season with a big bang and this season it’s decided that big bang is a Big Blue, as much as I hate that term, the league’s marquee fixture between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC. A match which just happens to be a Grand Final replay between two clubs most expect to be challenging for the title again.

    Sydney FC fans Football A-League Grand Final 2017

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    It’s also the first A-League match to be shown live on commercial free-to-air TV as part of the new broadcast deal with the Ten Network, which will see one match each Saturday night shown live on Ten’s digital channel, ONE. This is a big moment for the league to show it belongs on the big stage.

    But what should be one of the best matches of the season loses some of its shine when you consider Melbourne Victory will be without Socceroos duo Mark Milligan and James Troisi as well as New Zealand international Kosta Barbarouses, who will be with the All Whites as they take on Japan in a friendly in Toyota.

    That’s three first eleven players who will be crucial to Kevin Muscat’s team this season. That is a massive advantage to Graham Arnold and his team before a ball is even kicked.

    Is this how we want to start the season? Each time there is a round of matches over an international break the draw is compromised.

    The answer is simple, although not one that will please everyone – push the season back a further week.

    It makes sense every which way you look at it.

    A cursory glance at #sokkahtwitter will tell you how angry some fans are over the lack of advertising for the start of the A-League season. I fall firmly in the camp that it’s an utter waste of money to do large scale advertising during AFL and NRL finals. It just gets drowned out.

    Starting just days after the AFL and NRL seasons end allows very little time to build up to the start of the season.

    You couldn’t move in Melbourne without the risk of being suffocated by the ‘Tiger Train’, and it was the same here in Adelaide. Even as we sit days after the match the headlines in the two cities are still dominated by Dusty’s brilliance and Adelaide’s choke.

    Pushing the start of the league back a further week allows for the sheer mania to die down and something resembling normality to resume, giving the A-League a chance to build up some momentum over the two week period before the season would start.

    It also means the Round 1 fixtures aren’t compromised by the absence of key players on international duty.

    This issue and this debate pops up every year, and as the years go on we’re no closer to a resolution. The situation isn’t ideal whichever way you look at it.

    There is no perfect solution, but with football already battling for column inches, to pit the A-League against the Socceroos makes very little business sense, especially when the situation is so easily avoided.

    But as imperfect as the situation is, football fans rejoice – the football season is back, and it’s back with a bang!

    Paul Williams
    Paul Williams

    Paul Williams is an Adelaide-based football writer. Specialising in Asian football, he writes about the beautiful game for a host of publications including SBS The World Game, FourFourTwo Singapore and Al Jazeera, and is a regular guest on the Daily Football Show. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulWilliams_85.