The 2012-13 A-League season has been a tremendous success on numerous fronts. The introduction of expansion outfit Western Sydney Wanderers has added much enthusiasm and excitement to the competition.
The addition of three marquee stars has given the league a worldwide portfolio, while the football on the pitch continues to intensify from a tactical and technical perspective each year.
Following the completion of the regular home and away campaign, the A-League is proud to reveal that is has set a new attendance record of 1,666,942 throughout the course of the season.
The aggregate crowd-figure has surpassed the previous record in 2011-12 by over a whopping 250,000.
The spike in attendances this season further illustrates the growing popularity of football around the nation, and specifically the A-League competition.
More Australians are involved in football than ever before, with participation rates cultivating each year from the grassroots level, spiralling through to the support of the nation’s domestic competition.
The 18 percent rise in overall attendances this season has been a feel-good story for the code, and only indicates an upward trend in years to come.
FFA CEO David Gallop is delighted by the game’s development this season, and believes the A-League will only continue to grow and become a more sustainable competition in the near future.
“This season more Australians have watched the A-League live in our venues than ever before,” Gallop said.
“What they’ve experienced is the best standard of football our competition has ever seen and the best live atmosphere in Australian sport.
“The growth is the end product of hard work and investment by 10 clubs. I thank the fans all over Australia for making this an unforgettable season.”
Since the A-League expanded from its original eight-team format in the 2009-10 this season’s average attendance of 12,348 has hit a new record.
To coincide with the spike in crowd attendances, there was an 18 percent rise in TV audiences, with just under 80,000 tuning in each game – a record since the A-League’s inception.
For the first time, TV audiences also eclipsed 10 million for the season. It’s a fantastic achievement, and further validates the competition’s growing popularity.
While gate-taking and TV audiences have been on the up, so has the use on digital platforms and social media.
There has been a 40 percent increase in digital platforms, while a 105 per cent cumulative increase across all A-League channels on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s a significant rise and once again demonstrates why football is the sleeping giant of Australian sport.
“The A-League is not just on the move, it’s expanding massively in the mainstream of Australian society and capturing thousands of new fans live, on TV and in the digital space,” Gallop said.
“Importantly, we are riding a demographic wave. We are a young, exciting and international sport. We represent the diversity of Australian society like no other.
“Now we enter the new-look A-League Finals Series that will showcase all that’s great about the competition into an action packed three weeks of sudden death football.”
As we enter the new-look finals format we reflect on what has thus far been a fantastic year for the A-League. While the figures are all encouraging, we must remember that the competition had a similar trend a few years back.
In the 2007-08 season, the A-League set its highest average attendance of 14,610. The previous year, it was 12,297. While this season’s average gate-attendance was the third best on record, there is still much work to be done.
After the record set in 2007-08, crowds dipped to under an average of 10,000 in 2009-10, and at its worst, a meagre average of 8,393 in the 2010-11 campaign.
In the past two years, we have seen two expansion clubs – Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury – disbanded from the competition.
Western Sydney has been an obvious success story off and on the pitch, although the same cannot be said about Melbourne Heart.
Since its inclusion in the 2010-11 campaign, the red and whites have failed to make a significant imprint in the Melbourne sporting landscape.
When dissecting the club’s average home attendances this season – excluding the Melbourne Derby and the visit of Alessandro Del Piero’s Sydney FC – their average was under 6,500. If we include those two fixtures, it was 8,484.
In the heartland of Australian sport, those figures are simply unacceptable for any elite sporting franchise.
Yes, results haven’t been great – finishing equal last on the table with cellar-dwellers Wellington Phoenix – but something must be done to get people through the turnstiles.
Was it the right move to include a new team, with visibly no market differentiation, playing at the same stadium in direct competition with the A-League’s biggest and most successful club in Melbourne Victory?
The jury is still out on this, however given the FFA’s decision to expand into Melbourne and with an impending TV deal coming in next season we can assume FFA will persist with the Heart.
The addition of the Melbourne Derby has undoubtedly been an exceptional advertisement for the A-League in its past three seasons.
The enmity between the clubs is evident, the atmosphere is electric, and the entertainment has been first-class.
However, a club’s existence cannot primarily be to offer a cross-town rivalry, it must form its own identity and write its own story.
It’s important that the competition continues on its current wave of momentum.
In July, the A-League All Stars will lock horns with English powerhouse Manchester United in Sydney, while Melbourne Victory will entertain five-time European champions Liverpool at the MCG.
The ambition to succeed is more evident than ever. Under the guidance of Gallop, football is heading in the right direction.
Courtesy of Goal Weekly
Follow Robbie on Twitter @RobertDiFabio