A-League prosperity needs clubs to offer more than just football

Beau Busch Roar Rookie

By Beau Busch, Beau Busch is a Roar Rookie

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    As the A-League season moves towards the end of the regular competition rounds, those in power will no doubt be planning for next season. Top of list needs to be building the clubs.

    They must endeavour to become more than just football clubs if the game’s potential is to be realised.

    This was the season that was meant to re-ignite the A-League after a couple of disappointing years, with Socceroos stars Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton returning home to spearhead the competition. 25 games later there have been signs of progress, crowds have risen, talented young players have continued to be unearthed, and the standard of play has improved.

    These should be welcomed, however it has not been all good news. The Gold Coast United debacle has exposed the cracks in the competition. Chief among these is the relationship between club owners and Football Federation Australia.

    While Clive Palmer’s grievances with the governing body have been well publicised, the bigger issue is the relationships fans have with the clubs they support.

    In the space of seven years the A-League has done well to establish a loyal, passionate and informed fan-base that is the backbone of the competition. But if it wants to bring in more fans and satisfy the existing ones, more should and could be done.

    For this to happen A-League clubs have to be ambitious. They need to evolve into more than a club, they must attempt to become woven into the cultural fabric of the regions they represent.

    Sounds a little abstract, but doing so is achievable.

    The first essential element is an identifiable playing style and philosophy. Fans want to feel part of something special, just as they have at Brisbane Roar.

    In an age where fans are more knowledgeable than ever before, they will not settle for mediocre football. They want to be entertained. They want to feel connected to a way of playing, to take delight in it, and to feel pride in what their club represents.

    How can fans feel connected to a club that appears to have no clear beliefs about how the game should be played? A philosophy allows supporters to buy into a way of playing, and helps to create a unified identity.

    The classic example of this is Barcelona, but there are countless others, such as Swansea City, who have shown how powerful a well established philosophy can be in uniting a club and its fans.

    While there may not be huge cultural differences throughout Australian cities, they do exist, and A-League clubs must become better at embodying the unique identities of the communities they represent.

    A key part of this is the promotion of local talent; supporters take great pride out one of their own making into the first team. Matt Simon, when at Central Coast, was an example of this, with supporters taking delight in how a local lad had risen to the top.

    With the establishment of A-League academies moving closer, the promotion of local talent will become easier.

    Supporters will be able to see young players come through the ranks, track their progress and take pride in how their club is benefiting young local players. Academies also offer a real opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their local community while also welcoming many more people into the club.

    The A-League has indeed come far, but if it is to take the next step and cast off doubts around its long term prospects, clubs must work even harder to become focal points of their local communities.

    The competition has the ability to become the nation’s biggest, but for this to happen, clubs must embody more than just a football team.

    Follow Beau on Twitter: @beaubusch

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • March 14th 2012 @ 5:33am
      Timber Tim said | March 14th 2012 @ 5:33am | ! Report

      Excellent article and I have been harping on about this indie several years now.

      Clubs need to work hard to establish a tradition to pass on to generations. Win lose or draw these supporters are lifelong fans and it will start with our youth comin to games am attaching themselves to a club. They are our future and will pass the torch of support to future generations.

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2012 @ 8:53am
      Philip Coates said | March 14th 2012 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      Academies are clearly something that would enhance a clubs presence within the sporting landscape (and was spoken about at the recent MVFC forum) but they don’t come cheap. Without wishing to sound sexist the A-league clubs might have been better served for the long run if they hadn’t established the W-League but instead had clubs look at funding directly, or via partnerships with an existing junior club, teams in the U16 and U14.

    • March 14th 2012 @ 9:05am
      Kasey said | March 14th 2012 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      This is one area I feel really passionate about. Adelaide United shouldn’t just be the top football club in Adelaide. It should be the club all talented South Australian footballers aspire to play for(even if as a stepping stone to bigger clubs O/S). That way in a season such as this disappointing (on field) one, we could perhaps have looked at some positives like unearthing our own Tomas Rogic or Mustapha Amini. I watch SA Super League football in winter and there are a tonne of talented junior players. It seems to me that under Rini Coolen’s arrogant (I’m a European – I know football! approach) they would never have got a look in. This is why I’m happy for Kossie to be given another year. He hasn’t just spoken of his desire to promote SA youth players; he has demonstrated it with Teeboy Kamara and Jacob Melling(Prior to answering the Club SOS, Kossie was coaching in the SA Super League – Croydon Kings – so he has seen with his own eyes the talent out there. Obviously the fans also want success, so the best SA can produce needs to be infused with the best the club can find from elsewhere(Australian or not), but there’s no reason why the fans wouldn’t cheer a team of SA products held together by the magic of a Marco Flores type player. I’m sure Vidosic would have given his right nut to learn or Flores for a season or two.

    • March 14th 2012 @ 9:25am
      striker said | March 14th 2012 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      I like the idea of some MLS clubs that have had some ethnic days to celebrate the different cultures something which i think would heal alot of issues with the old NSL clubs which have done so much to Australian football. Sydney FC have yet to do this but i hope western sydney will do this if they come in next year as alot of the clubs are from western sydney and passionately love the game but yet to embrace the A-League.

      • March 14th 2012 @ 9:36am
        Futbanous said | March 14th 2012 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        A better way for me with SFC in particular is to recruit players from the Ethnic backgrounds that provided the larger clubs in the NSL.
        The A-League is not a generic entity ,each area is different. You have to cater for that difference.

    • March 14th 2012 @ 9:28am
      Futbanous said | March 14th 2012 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      Whilst agreeing with what you say Beau in theory ,its not always that simple in reality to achieve the goals you have set out.
      How many clubs in the world are woven into the fabric of their local area, with a clearly identifiable style of play that the locals are proud of & can identify with?
      Sure we can use the classic example of Barcelona,but doesn’t everybody?
      They are the exception not the rule.
      Most clubs muddle through from year to year as they have done in some cases for 150 years.
      What these clubs have is a real sense of being part of the community,being woven into the fabric of everyday life.
      This for me is more important than style of football.
      But its not instant its generational.
      Raising the standard of the local league overall(as the Japanese have done) is the key factor IMO.
      However some of the points are well taken. The local player done good is a blessing for any club. As you say think of CCM think Matt Simon.
      Therefore academies as indicated by philipcoates are a must. This is where your Matt Simon’s(hopefully a better model) come from.
      Of course another reality is that we are not ever going to be the biggest & best league in the world. So any new improved Matt Simon model is inevitably going overseas ,hopefully to clubs like Barcelona(ok I watch the Castle a lot).
      That can be a source of local pride, adding to the layers that build a clubs history.

      • March 14th 2012 @ 8:28pm
        Beau Busch said | March 14th 2012 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

        Some great points Futbanous. Agree that many clubs in the world muddle through year to year but as the A-League does not have the benefit of 100 years of history that sense of community must be established in other ways and feel a way of playing is an important element. As you say Barca is the classic example but there are many others whose identity to a lesser extent is aligned to way of playing West Ham, Liverpool from the 80’s and 90’s. Then there are teams who their way of doing things is a huge part of their identity Athletic Bilbao for the promotion of local talent or even Crewe for the development of young players. My point being is it is something to buy into for supporters, I realise it is not easy to achieve but nor is it impossible.

    • March 14th 2012 @ 5:03pm
      Paul said | March 14th 2012 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

      Unfortunately with the demise of Gold Coast United one of the finer youth programs in Australia is about to cease. Would it be possible to keep a GC team in the NYL or merge the youth program of GCU with that of Brisbane Roar, thereby creating a powerhouse in youth development in South-East Queensland, one of Australia’s fastest growing regions? Not to mention one of the most competitive areas for youth sport, with all four codes trying to lure talented kids.

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