The A-League needs injection of life

Janakan Seemampillai Roar Pro

By Janakan Seemampillai, Janakan Seemampillai is a Roar Pro

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    The A-League needs to be more exciting: that is the message from a lot of diehard football fans Down Inder and also, more importantly, from fringe football fans.

    The fanatics will always turn up to support their teams, but the flakey fans will leave in a heartbeat if things aren’t exciting enough or worth their while.

    So what can be done to revitalise a competition that is becoming stale and somewhat boring? Expanding the league to 12 and 14 teams is an obvious answer, as is creating a second tier. This, though, is a long-term solution and costs money the game doesn’t appear to have at the moment. What can be done in the short term?

    The answer in my view is twofold. First, bring more flair and excitement to the league. Second, get more fans into the game with 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 players from various Asian countries have.

    Japanese star Keisuke Honda, who currently plies his trade with Pachuka in Mexico, 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.

    (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, FILE)

    Shinji Ono was a wonderful marquee for the Western Sydney Wanderers in the first two years of the club’s existence. That Eastern flair he brought to the league boosted the Wanderers, their fans and the league in general.

    Chanathip Songkrasin from Thailand, nicknamed ‘Messi Jay’ in homage to the Argentine legend, was all 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 T1 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 United Arab Emirates is an exciting and vibrant young player who makes the Emiratis 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 well worth the investment for an A-League club.

    (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    Omar Al Somah and Firas Al-Khatib from Syria were major problems for Australia in the first leg of the world cup qualifier in Melaka due to their searing speed and classy moves. Hopefully they can bring this class to the A-League one day.

    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 who 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 has always been to outmuscle opponents.

    Bringing in foreigners from Europe or the UK who add to this is unnecessary. 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 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 what will be most helpful is to make the games cheaper to attend.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    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. It looks amazing on TV, thus generating more TV revenue, which is the major source of revenue for football clubs these days.

    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 – and they would be right – some forward and long-term thinking is needed.

    First and foremost any kid 12 years old and under who is registered to play football in the MiniRoos program 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, dad, uncle, aunty, grandma or grandpa will need to take them. They will need to buy tickets or memberships to attend.

    The average cost of a family of four to attend an A-League game is over $100. This amounts to over a $1,000 for a season, and that is far too much in this day and age when the cost of mortgages, school fees and groceries are increasing. 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 League did this for kids who play Milo in2Cricket and it worked a charm. Making the kick-off times more family friendly would help too – 7:50pm is far too late for Friday and Saturday nights. Even making kick-off around 7pm would be better for young kids and would still fit the games into TV prime time slots.

    Make no mistake, the A-League is in desperate need of rejuvenation. How the Socceroos World Cup campaign pans out will also play a huge role in how our domestic league fares next year, but failing a good result, get those Asian players in ASAP – our game needs it in a hurry.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • December 29th 2017 @ 6:57am
      Ian said | December 29th 2017 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      There are problems with this article. Yes, we do need more bums on seats but, sadly, the players mentioned aren’t big drawcards. As has been shown in the past, ageing star players from England and Europe put far more bums on seats and, if you’re looking for more exciting football, perhaps you should get all coaches copying the Ernie Merrick style – far and away the most exciting in the league. In addition, the team is recruiting South American players, a continent with an over abundance of talent that I believe we should dip into more.
      While I’ve no doubt that the players mentioned would increase patronage, I don’t believe that it would be to any significant degree.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 9:41am
        JANAKAN said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        You are right Ian but sadly we aren’t going to get any big name players as they will ply their trade in Europe or Asia where the money is so much higher.

        We should focus on skilful players. The a league has become about physical contests. We need more skill and speed. These Asian players will bring that and that will make the game more appealing and bring in more fans.

        We need more Shinji Ono’s and so on. Look at the players that young kids love…Berisha and Fornaroli, all skill. No one wants a hulking defender who just barrels someone over.

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:04am
      ac said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      I think it’s the perception rightly or wrongly it’s unsafe to go to a game. Please remember I said ‘ the perception’. Seems like for many gre crowd and it’s behaviour is a problem.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 7:42am
        Buddy said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

        I’m curious to try and understand that perception as it is something that rears its head occasionally and yet travelling away to all other cities has never provided me with any issues. The Sydney derby is the only fixture where there is a tense atmosphere and open hostility inside and outsideof the venue. I have been to every A League ground with my wife and always enjoyed warm hospitality, friendly banter and never felt unsafe irrespective of the result.

        • December 29th 2017 @ 9:43am
          JANAKAN said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          Yeah It’s stupid that perception. I have taken heaps of female friends to gAmes and they were pleasantly surprised At how harmless it was.

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:05am
      Buddy said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      We have two similar minded writers penning “the need for an injection” strange thing is that most visitors to this site recognize the need and offer plenty of insight and ides that re sorely lacking from the governing body and A League clubs. Maybe they are quite happy and satisfied with the staus quo?

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:07am
      Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      Ready for round 2

    • Roar Guru

      December 29th 2017 @ 8:08am
      Redb said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      #codeincrisis article 23

      • Roar Rookie

        December 29th 2017 @ 9:28am
        Grobbelaar said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        That’s an exaggeration, there would only have been 4 or 5 the past week,

        • December 29th 2017 @ 10:28am
          Nemesis said | December 29th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          I think there have been 12 articles over the past week about who will make the 8 in AFL. Should the ALeague be concerned the AFL is getting more articles on who will make the 8 than there are articles about ALeague in crisis?

          And, do you know the TV Ratings for “Bold & Beautiful” yesterday? I’ve heard more people ordered Domino’s Pizza yesterday than watched Bold & Beautiful. Should CBS be concerned about this?

          • Roar Rookie

            December 29th 2017 @ 7:10pm
            Grobbelaar said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

            Who cares what the alf are doing?

            This is football.

    • December 29th 2017 @ 9:44am
      Midfielder said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      For the love of the holy mother Mary …. another person with a few seconds knowledge and by reading articles almost no business experience …. writing article after article on how to fix 80 years old issues …

      • December 29th 2017 @ 10:03am
        JANAKAN said | December 29th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        On the contrary i work without small, medium and international business’ every day lol totally get the A league is a hard product to sell and at the end of the day it’s all about money.

        • December 29th 2017 @ 10:10am
          Midfielder said | December 29th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          I think you mean … with … not …..without …

          • December 29th 2017 @ 10:55am
            JANAKAN said | December 29th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

            I’ll blame autocorrect

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