It’s now or never for the A-League

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    Given all the excitement surrounding Melbourne Victory’s clash with Sydney FC on Saturday night, it’s easy to forget four other A-League games take place this weekend.

    Football Federation Australia probably wishes it wasn’t controversy-riddled Newcastle Jets kicking things off at Ausgrid Stadium, although the furore surrounding Branko Culina’s sacking will dissipate over time.

    Culina’s dismissal will invariably have come as a shock to all concerned, but the fact is as head coach he has the final say on player recruitment, so signing a completely crocked marquee who also happens to be his son was never going to please the notoriously testy Nathan Tinkler.

    At any rate, Culina’s dismissal takes some of the heat off Melbourne Heart coach John van’t Schip, who is probably relieved the season is finally upon us so he can try and win over his critics with some positive results.

    A couple of weeks ago, former Socceroos captain Ned Zelic wrote an excellent column for the new-look FFA website, stating we should expect better from our imports in both the playing and coaching departments.

    Aside from the insight, the column was notable for three things: firstly, the FFA and all ten clubs now have revamped websites; secondly, former players with obvious “old soccer” connections are starting to find a voice within the game and lastly; it seems we’re no longer expected to tiptoe around negative opinions for fear it might ‘damage the brand.’

    In other words, the A-League finally seems to be growing up and for those of us who have followed it from day one, it’s about time.

    The fact more than 10,000 fans turned out at Belmore on Monday afternoon to watch Sydney Olympic beat Sydney United in the NSW Premier League Grand Final is testament to how popular the game truly is in this country.

    There’s a latent base of football fans out there who haven’t always been turning up to fixtures, so the key for the A-League is try and unlock this potential and encourage more of every type of fan to file through the gates.

    And with players of the calibre of Brett Emerton, Thomas Broich and Paul Ifill on display, not to mention a certain Harry Kewell, there’s no reason to expect the quality of football to be anything but the same high standard set last season.

    It’s impossible to ignore the buzz of optimism surrounding the new A-League season and it’s a positive energy the football community would do well to embrace.

    We’ve been guilty of cannibalising our supporter base at times, but there’s hardly a better opportunity to talk up the attributes of the A-League and hopefully that’s reflected in attendance figures across the weekend.

    The competition needs as many fans inside grounds as possible to better sell itself to potential advertisers and help attract new players to our shores.

    Hopefully this weekend’s matches live up to all the hype, although the state of the pitch in at least three venues may prove somewhat of a hindrance.

    This is no time to gripe though, with the weekend every football fan has been waiting for finally upon us.

    It’s now or never for the A-League – a competition that has been knocking on the door of mainstream acceptance for the best part of six years now.

    This should be one of the biggest rounds of club football in Australia in years, and for once, A-League fans across the country and beyond have every reason to be genuinely excited.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • October 7th 2011 @ 6:51am
      Kasey said | October 7th 2011 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      I noticed the Zelic comments and i also think its a good sign that the ‘Soccerati’ are becoming more comfortable in their role as a critival commentariat rather than feeling that they should be cheerleaders only. as long as the criticisms are made with the goal of improving the game – Like Caroline Wilson’s articles regarding the AFL; a lot of what she says is uncomfortable to read for their true believers, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said if the end goal is to be better.

      I’m uncomfortable with the feeling that this year is Do or die. I fully expect there to be an 8th season of HAL football almost regardless of what happens this season. Sure this season will answer a lot of questions, but I think we are way past throwing everything out and starting again. We are in the evolution phase after the revolution of out with the SocAus+NSL and in with the FFA + HAL. As long as FFAHQ have their eyes on the game and are learning lessons, I think the fans will be happy. One thing that has always concerned me as a football fan is that we implement changes (for what ever reason), but never seem to give hem time to bed down and play out. I think this had led to a state of change-fatigue amongst the fans, we’re just sick and tired of always being in a state of flux. Lets just bed down a 10 team comp and get it firing on all cylinders, then we can think about implementing a 5-10 year plan to make us the no1 league in East Asia or whatever the FFA’s goal is.
      Oh and do I even need to say how excited I am that the season is almost here…got the lads coming around for a BBQ 2mo to watch the MV vs SFCC blockbuster…bring it on!

      • October 7th 2011 @ 9:55am
        mahony said | October 7th 2011 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        I don’t think the ‘Socceratti’ (read SBS and thier acolytes) have had a problem kicking domestic football – I would argue they habve been very, very good at it.

        What is interesting about Ned’s piece (and I agree he is a great writer) is that he is taking the long held position, one I agree with, of Mike Cockerill – a writer I cannot stand.

        SBS are the ones mooving to the mainstream – not football. And it is long overdue………

        • October 7th 2011 @ 10:20am
          Midfielder said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          + 9999999999999999999999 to the power of 99999999999999

          SBS are finally starting to understand you have to build rather than destroy to make football work…

          • October 7th 2011 @ 10:52am
            Qantas supports Australian Football said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:52am | ! Report

            Really you guys take the cake… You do realise that SBS are the WORLD GAME reporters in the Australian media. You have been watching haven’t you? You do realise their mission is taking in ALL OF FOOTBALL that is presented to them from the world stage..? It’s not their fault if the old FFA and FOX’s attitude was to shut them out. Now it’s the FFA and FOX wanting to make amends with some relaxation to allow them glimpses of Australian Football Vision being made available for them (to show in their programming for discussion).. Should have been the case from the start in year one…!!!!!!

            • October 7th 2011 @ 3:44pm
              Midfielder said | October 7th 2011 @ 3:44pm | ! Report


              We do understand… BUT we also understand that position football is in especially after the NSL was closed down…. SBS was bitter about the Fox deal…. and had [still has some not as many] folk around the the World Game that felt heart broken at losing their clubs… Hal 2 to Hal 4 SBS went on the attack… and I can tell you as was told too me by a client who holds a very senior management position at SBS .. LM was called in and told to change and support … he did but it was an improvement still not great… Hal 6 he got a final warning and things changed a lot…

              Fox as we have spoken about played a major role as well in refusing in the early years to give SBS much use of football footage ….

              Q this was also told to me by the same guy and his mate who was a lower level manager at SBS… when the bidding rights for Hal were bid for …. SBS offered well under what they pay for the Tour De France … it was nowhere near enough to fund the league and many believe it was set at this level so some of the A-League teams would fold meaning some NSL clubs would need to be invited in… that belief was also held by some in the FFA of the day…

              SBS have always supported football but not also supported the A-League … it is past history but every single A-League fans forum ran anti SBS threads and many of them for about 3 or 4 years…. One of the reasons the SBS management panicked was the rating for TWC started to fall through the floor and heaps of complaints from A-League fans and it flamed the Eurosnob issue in the A-League was crap etc ….

              I understand your feeling towards SBS … they have always supported football, they have not carried that support towards the A-League and Bozza to his huge credit said on air and in writing Football has an enemy within and we all know who they are…

              Most things have changed …. Jessie Fink has gone…. the new format, mostly support .. so it has changed .. but there is still a long way to go … they still write many more negative articles to positive articles … however things are changing and changing for the better…

              • October 7th 2011 @ 4:10pm
                Qantas supports Australian Football said | October 7th 2011 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

                You are a good fiction writer Middy… I have met Les Murray, and his story is a lot different to what you have written. “The enemy within” What nonsense!!!! And that is what FOX would like you and us to believe… As I have stated SBS represent the World Game and you take that as an affront to Australian Football.. Ridiculous assumption!! What would you have them do—give up televising UCL and FIFA world cups? Please go and get educated in what has been the foundation of Football in Australia,..

    • Roar Guru

      October 7th 2011 @ 9:16am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | October 7th 2011 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      Nice work, Mike. Yes, I loved Ned’s article and, it’s not the first time Ned has impressed me with his literary work – I recall another terrific column on TWG where Ned gave us some home truths about development of junior talent.

      Another Aussie football legend – Craig Johnston – too, wrote a terrific article on the FFA website describing how difficult it is for Aussies to work as pro-footballers in Europe and talent & technique is not enough.

      A must-read for any young footballer, who thinks about going abroad to work.

    • October 7th 2011 @ 9:17am
      JasonA said | October 7th 2011 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      I agree Kasey, too many people I talk to want a revolution in the A-League.

      In 5-10 years the 10 clubs should be in a much better position off the field, which will allow the FFA to back their expansion teams 100% (unlike the poor Fury).

      In time the A-League will be a powerhouse but we must wait.

      I have to ask however, is Western Sydney that important to the growth of the A-League ?

      • October 7th 2011 @ 9:21am
        Kasey said | October 7th 2011 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        I think the number one and two issue with the A-League at Head Office ought to be including as many people who are already partial to football into the football family and this shouldand will drive the evolution of the game to its next level. If inclusion and expansion of the football family are the priorities, then it stands to reason that stabilising the league so that a Western Sydney team can enter ASAP will be either no1 or no2 on the ” to do” list, with the FFA Cup being the other on that list.

        • October 7th 2011 @ 10:00am
          JasonA said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          In terms of stabilisation and rationalisation do you see Gold Coast and Wellington having a future beyond 5 years ?

          FFA Cup to re-engage those fans from the NSL and Western Sydney to hopefully capture the 3 million people who have more class than to support Sydney FC.

          • October 7th 2011 @ 10:07am
            Kasey said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:07am | ! Report

            Not only do I see Welly having a future in the HAL, I forsee the move of NZ into Asia and that Welly will merely be one of up to three teams inthe League. A lot of the questions that I alluded to being answered in my original reply apply to Gold Coast. Until they start pulling in at least the average crowd for the old NSL[hopefully better], they will be easy to attack from both within football and external to the game, not to mention difficult for the true believers to defend. I think the current 10 teams are a great base from which to stabilise the image of domestic professional football in Australia. that is the key to the next TV rights deal and from then I guess we’ll just have to see. As I’ve already said, provided a proper bid is in place a West Sydney team is the next obvious candidate to join the HAL. The FFA Cup would go someway towrds mending the bridges between ‘old Soccer’ and ‘ New Football'[I for oner am sick of the division and would like nothing more than to have all of football singing off the same hymn sheet] provided it is implemented correctly.

          • October 7th 2011 @ 10:19am
            Qantas supports Australian Football said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:19am | ! Report

            JasonA—-the Suns and Titans will die before GCU FC..

            • October 7th 2011 @ 10:22am
              Midfielder said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:22am | ! Report


              AS we have spoken about before I am full of praise for what CP has done this year … how do you think the crowds will go … over 7, 000 or under 5, 000.

              • October 7th 2011 @ 10:29am
                JasonA said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:29am | ! Report

                Gold Coast have worked really hard in this off-season to try and engage the local community seems there has been a paradigm shift up there, no more big names and bigger salaries just good youth players and local seems to be the catch cry.

                Interesting about the Suns and Titans, two wooden spoons, GCU might give the Glitter strip the spoon treble.

                I just wonder if GCU will survive in a post-Palmer environment.

              • October 7th 2011 @ 10:32am
                Qantas supports Australian Football said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:32am | ! Report

                The avg figure will be more than last year. This is all we are hoping for at this stage of our development. Can’t do anymore than that until a change of State Government and a new Stadium deal is worked out.

              • October 7th 2011 @ 10:57am
                Kasey said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:57am | ! Report

                Yes lets be realistic, with some shocking weather(TC Yasi) and the terrible midweek games, GCU averaged 3,400 last season. Aiming high is admirable, but I’m sure I speak for the realists on here when I say an improvement to 4,000 would be great and 5,000 would be a mircle! As long as the crowd improves, thenm I think the football literates will look upon GCU with a favourable eye. Of course when you’re drawing 16,000 at a stadium where your governing body bought you a sweetheart deal, I expect nothing but scorn from AFL zealots about GCUs crowds regardless of whether they hit 5, 6 or even 9,000. The long term is what we should be thinking about here[which means the stadium deal will need to be examined ASAP]. Lets stabilise the financial model of the league and get the next TV deal sorted so we can underwrite he comp for he next cycle to ensure it survives for the next generation of fans that will grow up following ‘their’ teams.

              • October 7th 2011 @ 2:14pm
                Bondy said | October 7th 2011 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

                Jason A.
                Lets concentrate on the football at hand rather than worrying about someone not being here in 5 yrs time you narc .

    • October 7th 2011 @ 9:41am
      striker said | October 7th 2011 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      Hats off to FFA for marketing the ads they have been fantastic in all newspapers in Sydney and TV, I
      Hope they break the records for TV ratings and attendencies to show we are a strong code for round 1.

    • Roar Guru

      October 7th 2011 @ 9:56am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | October 7th 2011 @ 9:56am | ! Report

      Interesting contrast between the hype leading up to the start of the HAL and the lack of hype leading up to the start of the NBL this week-end:

      Like football, basketball has huge participation figures and, like football, basketball needs to convert more players/stakeholders into NBL fans.

      But, in my opinion, players are the key for long-term survival of any sport. Without a constant supply of players, a sport has no future regardless of huge crowds. So basketball and football in Australia have no significant issues – it is just the professional leagues that need to grow.

    • October 7th 2011 @ 9:58am
      mahony said | October 7th 2011 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      I also don’t agree that its “now or never” for the league. The world does not work in simple terms such as these…..

      • Roar Guru

        October 7th 2011 @ 10:29am
        The Cattery said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        I was about to put up the identical post. Never say never. In the early years of every new league, every year is important, and it rarely rests on one single season.

        The longer the league survives, the longer it is likely to survive and thrive. As a general rule, the first 100 years are the hardest.

      • October 7th 2011 @ 10:58am
        Titus said | October 7th 2011 @ 10:58am | ! Report

        Yeah, I didn’t think this statement is correct.

        We just need to be heading in the right direction, and with memberships already up 20% and all teams looking pretty solid, good media coverage, I think we already are.

        It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.

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