A-league needs injection of life

Janakan Seemampillai Roar Rookie

By , Janakan Seemampillai is a Roar Rookie

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    The A-league needs to be more exciting! That is the message from a lot of diehard football fans down under, but also more importantly from fringe football fans! The fanatics will always turn up to support their teams, but about the ones that leave when things aren’t exciting?

    So what can be done to revitalise a competition that is becoming stale and, for the lack of a better word, boring? Expanding the league to 14 teams is an obvious answer, as well as having a second tier. This though is a long-term solution and costs money thaat the game doesn’t appear to have at the moment. What can be done in the short term?

    Firstly, bring more flair and excitement to the league and secondly to get more fans into the game for better value prices.

    To satisfy the former, we need to recruit more players from Asia! One of the few upsides of seeing the Socceroos struggle against Asian opponents this World Cup qualifying campaign has been to see how much speed and skill that players from various Asian countries have.

    The Japanese star Keisuke Honda who currently plies his trade with Pachuka in the Mexican league is an absolute joy to watch.

    He has been a thorn in the Socceroos side in years gone by and it would be a huge boost to the A-league to have a player like him weave his magic around pitches in Australia. Shinji Ono was a wonderful marquee in the Western Sydney Wanderers first two years of existence. That Eastern flair he brought to the league boosted the Wanderers, their fans and the league in general.

    Chanatip Songkrasin from Thailand, nicknamed “Messie Jay” due to being Asia’s version of the Argentine legend, was absolute class for the “War Elephants” in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign despite them finishing last in their group. He ran Australia ragged in the 2-2 draw in Bangkok last November in a result that ultimately cost the Socceroos direct qualification to Russia.

    Seeing him touch and tease the ball as he danced around Aussie defenders with finesse and intelligent positioning was football at its finest.

    There are likely more players of his mould in the Thai League 1 who are just waiting for an opportunity to play in a higher profile competition. The A-league clubs should send scouts to flush them out!

    As far as the Middle Eastern players go, Omar Abdulrahman from the UAE is an exciting and vibrant young player who makes the Emirati’s one of the most thrilling teams to watch in Asia. He plays for Al-Ain and is on good coin no doubt. He would be someone well worth the investment for an A-league club.

    Omar Al Somah and Faris Al-Khatib from Syria were a major problem for Australia in the first leg of the World Cup qualifier in Melaka last Thursday due to their searing speed and classy moves.

    The marquee players that have come from Asia in the A-league’s short history have a reputation for adding excitement to the competition which leads to excitement in the stands. There are players from Europe that have also added this but the bulk of them bring more of a physical presence to the league and while that is important, we already have that in abundance.

    The Australian way of playing has always been to outmuscle opponents. Bringing in foreigners from Europe or the UK who just add to this is not needed. Fans are sick of seeing players smothered in tackles and brought down with tough physical challenges, they want to see more dare and dribbling around and through opponents combined with speed and quick footwork.

    Asian players will bring this to the league. They will also help develop more skill and flair in Australian players by inspiring them to do the same. We also want to see young kids in parks and fields around Australia practising their dribbling and finesse rather than putting their bodies into opponents to beat them. This will hopefully lead to a more vibrant Socceroos team in the years to come as well!

    The second thing that is needed to boost the A-league is to get more bums on seats to create a better atmosphere.

    This is much easier said than done. Adding that skill and flair as mentioned above will help, but also make the games cheaper to attend!

    The German Bundesliga has led the way in filling the stands by making tickets dirt cheap. The average crowd for the Bundesliga last season was 41,500. Offering cheaper seats to potential A-league fans would indeed help bring them through the gate. While a lot of clubs will argue they rely heavily on membership revenue (they would be right!) some forward and long-term thinking is needed.

    First and foremost any kid 12 and under who is registered to play football in the mini roos programs should receive a free membership to an A-league club of their choice! Kids are not going to go on their own to a game meaning mum and dad or uncle and aunty or grandma and grandpa will need to take them.

    They will need to buy tickets or memberships to attend, won’t they?

    The average cost of a family of four to attend an A-league game is over $100, this amounts to over $1,000 for a season.

    Reducing this cost by giving free memberships to kids and cheaper tickets for adults would go a long way to enticing more fans to go. The Big Bash did this for kids who play Milo cricket and it worked a charm. Making the kick-off times more family friendly would help too, 7.50 is far too late for Friday and Saturday nights. Even making kickoffs around 7 pm would be better for young kids and would still fit the games into TV prime time slots.

    The A-league is in desperate need of rejuvenation.

    The time has come to do this! We cannot afford a poor A-league season as it could do irreparable damage. Let’s hope the Socceroos get through this world cup campaign first as that will also play a huge role in how our domestic league fares this year.

    Failing that, get those Asian players in as soon as possible, our game needs it.