After six rounds of A-League action we have seen something for everyone in season eight.
Fans have been provided with enthralling entertainment and the A-League with the perfect launch pad for increased exposure through the marquee signings of Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono.
There is also a soon to be announced groundbreaking $35-40 million television deal, a vital signs football is now firmly entrenched in the Australian sporting landscape.
So what has contributed to the booming success of the A-League for season eight thus far?
Alessandro Del Piero
What more can be said about this man?
Not since Dwight Yorke has the A-League had so much hype. No disrespect to Yorke but Alessandro Del Piero is having a more influential impact on the popularity of the A-League.
Statistically speaking, there is no need to look any further then the influence he has had on A-League attendances.
Round 1: Wellington Phoenix had an attendance of 12,057 in poor conditions and so far it has remained their highest attendance for the season.
Round 2: Alessandro Del Piero versus Emile Heskey (Sydney FC versus Newcastle Jets). This match attracted an A-League record attendance for a regular season match for Sydney FC with 35,419 in attendance. The match also attracted 156,000 in television ratings.
Round 3: The first ever Sydney derby between Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC. Alessandro would be the decisive difference between the two teams, scoring his second goal for the season in front of a sold out Parramatta Stadium of 19,126.
Round 4: Sydney FC versus Perth Glory – this was the first time in the history of Sydney FC that they achieved more than 20,000 in successive home matches. A total of 22,187 turned out to witness Sydney snatch this win towards the later stages of the match and Alessandro Del Piero got his third goal of the season.
Round 5: Unfortunately due to injury Alessandro would not participate in the match against Central Coast Mariners. Prior to his ruling out, ticket sales were selling fast at Bluetongue Stadium.
A total of 15,686 turned out to witness Central Coast Mariners win 7-2. Although not the complete performance from Sydney FC, his presence in the A-League was telling in the lead up.
Round 6: The Big Blue, as it was billed, saw the return of Alessandro in front of another good crowd of 21,531. Sydney, although leading 2 nil with roughly 20 minutes left to play, would go on to lose this match 3-2 in what was an amazing comeback by the Victory.
A better performance but one that will require improvement heading into the match against last year’s champs Brisbane Roar.
A focus on quality and goals galore
With 84 goals in 30 games at an average of 2.8 goals per match, who wouldn’t want to be watching the A-League. The quality of football has risen to next level with coaches and teams learning to adapt to one another’s playing styles.
We are seeing a variety in team structures. Some are structured around a solid defence possessing the ability to make blistering runs down the wings with beautiful counter-attacking football and some have a possession based approach that involves running your team off the park or using your brute physicality and awareness to run players off the ball.
Each team possesses unique ability and football philosophy to take them to either the Premiers plate or grand final success.
The Big Three, overall attendances and viewing
Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono were signed prior to the start of the A-League season and provided increased media exposure during the closing stages of the NRL and AFL seasons.
Normally, when the A-League would sit idly by waiting for their time to shine, football stepped out of the shadows earlier than expected and week by week brought exciting news to all football followers.
Due to the on and off field professionalism of these three players, ticket sales, memberships and television viewing audiences have fine-tuned their ability to listen, learn and live vicariously through the continual positive media exposure placed upon them to influence their participation, whether it be attending matches at the stadiums or watching via Fox Sports.
The numbers look good for the A-League with average attendance rates for the season currently standing at 14,253 and an average viewing audience of 479,000 per round, touching a 96,000 average viewing audience per match.
In the 2011-2012 season, the A-League finals consisted of the teams Brisbane Roar, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Heart, Perth Glory, Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix.
Throughout the finals series a total of 652,000 fans tuned in at an average of 93,100 per match. 119,147 fans attended the seven matches at an average of 17,021, though taking out the expected sell out of any grand final would have brought the finals attendance to 68,813 at an average of 11,468.
Only time will tell as to the influence the big three will have on the continual development, quality and progression of the A-League.
However, with the television deal to be announced soon, after six rounds, the A-League at its finest ever. Things look bright for the future of football in Australia.