A-League clubs should welcome multi-sports fans

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Melbourne Victory FC fans celebrate their team scoring a goal against Perth Glory FC during their A-League match at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (AAP Image/Martin Philbey)

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    Here is a revelation for you: I am a member of the Parramatta Eels. And instead of cultivating an us-versus-them mentality, it might be time the A-League reached out to Australia’s multi-sports watching community.

    I’ve been an Eels fan all my life. Born in Westmead Hospital, I grew up not far down the road and one of my earliest memories is of my Dad watching the try-less 1986 Grand Final on TV.

    Next Friday night I’ll be at Parramatta Stadium to watch the Eels go around against the Panthers. There’s nothing unusual in that, except for the fact I live in Brisbane.

    For my troubles, the NRL ensures I can buy tickets exactly one week before the game.

    I’ll miss other fixtures this season because the NRL only releases the draw five rounds in advance to accommodate TV schedules.

    That’s a TV schedule which has the Brisbane Broncos playing Friday night football every single round of the season to date, mind you.

    Every year since I can remember, the only internet presence Parramatta’s merch store has carried is the tagline, “new online store coming soon.” I look forward to reading it again next year.

    I could go on and on.

    It makes me laugh when I hear A-League fans complain about having an ex-AFL administrator in Ben Buckley in charge of Football Federation Australia, because it could be so much worse.

    He could be an ex-NRL administrator.

    There is no doubt in my mind the NRL is the worst-run of Australia’s four professional ‘football’ codes.’

    Just two rounds into the new season the NRL is already grappling with inconsistent judicial rulings, the mid-season poaching of players from rival clubs, injuries to two of its most recognisable stars, problems with expansion and creeping doubts over its next TV deal.

    Back to back defeats mean the Eels, South Sydney and Cronulla can expect attendances not much larger than A-League crowds, the Titans should be renamed the Titanics so fast are they sinking, the Panthers have priced their once-loyal fans out of the market and the Roosters are likely to remain as unpopular at the gate as ever.

    Despite many legitimate gripes, A-League fans have plenty to be thankful for.

    But an issue which has nagged me since day one is the divide and conquer mentality of some sections of A-League support towards other codes.

    It seems a Sydney thing more than a Melbourne one – down south it’s accepted many A-League fans invariably support an AFL club as well.

    But when A-League supporters label NRL watchers fans of “thugby league” and list the endless parade of rugby league’s indiscretions ad nauseam, it does nothing to bring us closer to the wider sports community.

    And that’s a problem in parochial towns like the one I reside in, where crowds (generally) go gangbusters when local teams are winning.

    Take a look at the crowds at Suncorp Stadium last weekend.

    The Broncos got over 43,000 for their home game against the Cowboys. The Reds attracted more than 34,000 for their bruising win over the Rebels. And less than 11,000 turned up to see the Roar draw with Adelaide United.

    What are the Roar doing to attract those Broncos and Reds supporters simply eager to turn up at sporting events and watch entertaining contests?

    Nothing, so far as I can tell – and I don’t think our attitude towards other codes helps.

    Where I went to school, most kids watched the English Premier League as often as they did the NRL, but I doubt many have been to an A-League game.

    And unfortunately the “We Are Football” slogan and its prevailing attitude preaches to the converted.

    We’re reminded “we are football” when we’re already at A-League game, yet none of this marketing is getting out to the people we need to do more to embrace – namely general sports fans.

    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 (85)

    • Roar Guru

      March 16th 2012 @ 9:01am
      The Cattery said | March 16th 2012 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Some common sense at long last.

      I think the big problem are the new dawn gen Y fans: mid-teens, mostly male, hormones pumping, typical displays of braggadocio, inspired by ultras from overeas, and who have no real, deep understanding of anything.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2012 @ 10:12am
        Fussball ist unser leben said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        So you think the animosity is all from “sockah”-fans? You don’t see any animosity towards football, in general, and the HAL, in particular, from the AFL community (fans & commentators)? I presume you no longer live in Melbourne?

        PS: And, in case you’re wondering … I’m closer to being a Baby Boomer than Gen Y!

        • March 16th 2012 @ 10:18am
          Kasey said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:18am | ! Report

          +1 the derision and complete lack of respect shown to Sokkah by some is galling, and yet we are expected to show deference in return to the big boys:( That gets old quickly.

        • Roar Guru

          March 16th 2012 @ 10:23am
          The Cattery said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Be willing to embrace all potential fans, be welcoming, keep yourself open to new experiences.

          • Roar Guru

            March 16th 2012 @ 10:42am
            Fussball ist unser leben said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:42am | ! Report


            I’ve embraced AFL with a passion and I reckon I’ve attended more VFL/AFL matches than anyone under the age of 30.

            When the HAL started … I was sceptical, since I’d never felt inclined to attend an NSL match, even though I played lower league football every week-end for over 15 years, attended every game played by the National Team in Melbourne and devoured every bit of English Division 1 news that I could access.

            But, you are absolutely correct. I decided to “open myself to the new HAL experience” and loved it so much I’ve been a Season Ticket holder at MVFC for 6 consecutive years!

            • Roar Guru

              March 16th 2012 @ 10:46am
              The Cattery said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:46am | ! Report

              And I’m sure you want to be encouraging of others to take the same journey that you have taken, and in one sense, that is precisely what Mike is talking about.

              • Roar Guru

                March 16th 2012 @ 11:08am
                Fussball ist unser leben said | March 16th 2012 @ 11:08am | ! Report

                Why is this an issue?

                Is there any factual evidence that any HAL club is not encouraging multi-sports fans to join? (I don’t consider gossip on internet forums to be factual evidence.)

    • March 16th 2012 @ 9:04am
      striker said | March 16th 2012 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      I have to agree to your point, the facts are especially in Sydney that 90% of the old NSL followers would rather go to a NRL game than watch the A-League sad but true.

      • March 16th 2012 @ 10:21am
        Kasey said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        ex-NSL fans are a small but vocal minority in football circles IMO. It is more worth the FFAs meagre advertising efforts to engage the people involved in football by other avenues (their kids play, they watch EPL) than to chase those that have made their mind up on everything FFA/HAL being of the devil[/the Waterboy’s mom]
        it would be nice to have them on board, but how much effort do you expend? It’s the law of diminishing returns surely?

      • March 16th 2012 @ 8:44pm
        pete4 said | March 16th 2012 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

        Striker – I don’t agree with your quote of 90% of NSL followers would rather watch something else rather than the A-League.

        Don’t forget no so long ago as the “Great Johnny Warren” used to say we were mere “Sheilas, Wogs and Poofs” to other codes which is what this article should acknowledge rather than incorrectly say we do not welcome other codes fans

    • Columnist

      March 16th 2012 @ 9:29am
      Brett McKay said | March 16th 2012 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      Mike, you’d be interested to know what’s been happening in Newcastle this week then. With the Knights playing Brisbane tonight, and the Jets playing Brisbane tomorrow night, there’s been a concerted push of the ‘Team Newcastle v Brisbane’ theme, including promo pics of Knights and Jets players all wearing their blue and red striped kits.

      Obviously, with the same owner, strip, ground, major sponsor, etc, Newcastle can do this better than most, and it might even be a luck of the draw case that Brisbane teams both happen to be playing in Newcaslte, too (though Tinkler is a smart guy, the Knights could well have asked for this game on this weekend for this very purpose). I’m not sure if it extends to double-header tickets and so on, but it’s good to see this level of joint promotion.

      So it can happen, and when done well, it looks brilliant..

      • March 16th 2012 @ 9:32am
        Midfielder said | March 16th 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Bret that is really good too see… well done to all those involved …

      • March 16th 2012 @ 11:50am
        PeterK said | March 16th 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        Hearty congrats to Newcastle for this. I do hope it continues to work better and better for you all.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2012 @ 3:43pm
        Griffo said | March 16th 2012 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

        Brett, was reading through wondering if others had noticed this.

        For this weekend there have been no ‘double header’ ticket sales push, only a free bus shuttle to and from Hunter Sports stadium from Lambton Park for both games.

        It does surprise me there has not been a ‘Club Newcastle’ push with the overlap of the two teams’ seasons and combined strip, with members of each team getting heavy discounts to attend the other teams matches. This would be something that would benefit the Jets more as the Knights first round home game had close to 30k so getting ‘a few thousand’ from those numbers to what would be the Jets final regular home game this weekend would be good (maybe what is hoped with the free shuttle bus).

        In the future I hope there will be a push from HSG regarding a ‘Club Newcastle’ membership package with further discounts. While there are plenty of fans on both sides that wouldn’t want a bar of the other sport, there are plenty who see ‘Newcastle’ and would be in with a good package incentive. If the FFA ever get game again in overlapping the NRL season a bit more, this would only encourage the club membership package more, increase crowd numbers, and bring new fans to either code.

        Did have a thought on cross-pollinating of crowds: would those in the future attending a HAL match, with the chanting and singing that might eventually evolve, get carried over to an NRL game? That would be unique to the NRL competition and another way of visiting teams to feel the ‘Newcastle’ experience. 😉

        • March 17th 2012 @ 1:45am
          Nathan of Perth said | March 17th 2012 @ 1:45am | ! Report

          I think that’s the sort of thing Tony Sage had in mind when he suggested heading up a Perth RL team and tying it to Glory. Seems like it’s going well for Newcastle though I don’t think it would work here because of WARL and Sage friction.

    • March 16th 2012 @ 9:38am
      striker said | March 16th 2012 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Yeah i think Tinkler has done wonders with newcastle just look at the crowds average over 10k every week and there mid table.

    • March 16th 2012 @ 9:48am
      Lucan said | March 16th 2012 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      The headline to this is misleading.

      The clubs aren’t closed off to fans of other sports. They may not engage these supporters to everyone’s liking, but that’s different to making them “welcome”. As the article suggests it is really the keyboard code warriors who make Aussie Rules and Rugby fans unwelcome.
      Thankfully they’re not the official voice of the HAL and its franchises. 😉

      • March 16th 2012 @ 10:02am
        Ian Whitchurch said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:02am | ! Report


        “We are Football” isnt exactly welcoming, if you barrack for the Sainters or the Dragons when you go to the football.

      • March 16th 2012 @ 10:08am
        Kasey said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        Lucan, I think you’re spot on with the keyboard warriors. Heck there’s even a thread on 442s forums where some bloke is asking ”are you a true football fan?” His measure of truth is if you only support football and don’t give a cent of your entertainment dollar to the big bad AFL/NRL. It has been roundly condemned FWIW:) Me, I like to think I’m old enough to be above such childishness. I grew up watching Aussie Rules in SA, I as always exposed to football(as a junior player and a spectator with my father) but due to a culmination of events, it wasn’t until the late 90s that I finally had a gutful of the AFL as a competition and stopped attending as many AFL games as I used to. At the same time, Adelaide United were created and I jumped at the chance to be a part o something I’d only dreamed of(A Perth Glory type club in my home city) Over the course of time, I now attend many more A-League/Socceroos games than footy games and consider myself a full blooded fan of the round ball code. On the odd occasion that I get a craving for footy, I retrace the steps of my youth and attend the SANFL. It just feels more authentic. It scratches the itch and I enjoy myself.
        following sport is not a zero sum game. Ryano had a great article here earlier in the week comparing American Sports fans who change their’ team based on the season. In US Summer a Bostonian might split his time between the Red Sox and the NE Revolution(being Boston, the ‘sawkx’ will always be a part of their life) but make no mistake MLS is a rising trend, especially amongst the important 20-35 male demographic. Once the pennant race is done and dusted, our Bostonian will split his attention between College football, the Pats, the Celtics and the Bruins until March Madness (NCAABB) signifies the approach of summer and soon baseball/soccer again. Due to the cost of tickets, they might be a season ticket holder for only one or none of them, but they will follow their city teams. Maybe in 30 years time after this period of time I think history could record as ‘the expansion wars era ’ of Aussie sport things will have settled down to the point where people are less insecure in their sport of choice and thus less aggressive towards anybody that has multi sport interests? I hope so.

        • March 16th 2012 @ 11:10am
          Nathan of Perth said | March 16th 2012 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          “Heck there’s even a thread on 442s forums where some bloke is asking ”are you a true football fan?””

          I saw that. Good olde style facepalm ensued.

          PS, noticed the San Jose Earthquakes a) beat New England Revolution in the opening round of the MLS and b) have got go-ahead approval on a brand new stadium seating 18,000 for $60m that looks absolutely fantastic.

          • March 16th 2012 @ 11:16am
            Kasey said | March 16th 2012 @ 11:16am | ! Report

            I was pretty sure that Poster was a WUM, but just in case I threw my contribution in as ”you idiot!” and slammed him. Not all football fans a re deranged insecure idiots : )
            MLS notes:
            I have been very impressed by the rate at which MLS teams have been accumulating SSS’s. Houston is almost comlpeted, leaving just DC United and NE as the original 8 that could seriously use a SSS.
            Any doubt that a professional SSS environmenmt can boost a team was blown away by LiveStrong Sporting Park in Kansas City Mo. Moving from a minor League Baseball park to that great venue has almost single handedly turned thatfranchise around:)

            • March 16th 2012 @ 11:37am
              Nathan of Perth said | March 16th 2012 @ 11:37am | ! Report

              Yeah, facilities definitely play their part.

              Off-beat Australian cross-code example. Which team has won both the ABL Championships to date? The one with the only baseball-specific stadium, interestingly enough (great field by the way, commented when I went there that any lower-league team looking to build facilities should come send a fact-finding mission to the Perth Heat).

    • March 16th 2012 @ 10:03am
      Rusty said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Wow this article did not go in the direction I assumed from the heading.
      This a well thought out article written with common sense, i just pose one question.
      Is it that the A-league fans are not accepting of league fans?
      This is new to me. I live in Sydney and through my experiences with league fans, non league fans, and A-League fans, i never once had this thought that A-League fans are not accepting of league fans, or fans of other codes – hey we are happy to have people to talk football with at the “water cooler” (its a refreshing change). I do find that league fans are more likely not be accepting of A-league fans.
      Not saying Mike is wrong, just my experience.

      • March 16th 2012 @ 10:12am
        Kasey said | March 16th 2012 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        Specifically that 30 years I mentioned might just elevate the A-League from fly-by-night-irritant-league of a ‘non-sport’ in some (AFL/NRL)fans eyes to relevant part of the Australian sports landscape – this would go some way towards demolishing the insecurity that some football fans have regarding the apparent lack of respect shown our game by fans of other sports.

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