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Channel Ten's gain is A-League pain as Mel McLaughlin makes switch

Mel McLaughlin (Image via Twitter)
Roar Guru
12th August, 2013
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34910 Reads

Fox Sports’ glamour host Mel McLaughlin will officially make the switch to mainstream television next season, with Channel 10 landing the prized presenter in a move that could potentially be one of the most significant transfers this season.

And while the obvious losers of McLaughin’s move seem to be Fox Sports, the reality is that the entire A-League may suffer just a bit from her departure.

McLaughlin is just one reporter in an army of media representatives, but her strong football coverage for Fox Sports was fundamental to the A-League’s growth last season. It might seem like an overstatement (and almost pure fandom) to suggest that the loss of one presenter could affect the game, but the fact remains that McLaughlin’s departure is a step backwards for the growth of the A-League.

Thanks largely to the Western Sydney Wanderers’ revolution, A-League crowds and television ratings reached an all-time high across the country last year.

Still viewed as of secondary importance to the NRL, AFL and even Super Rugby, soccer/football/whatever-you-want-to-call-it finally started gaining notoriety and prominence throughout the 2012-13 season. The introduction of the Western Sydney Wanderers was an incredibly strong success, and crowds and television ratings alike started to reach all-time highs across the country.

Australians who had solely focussed on the likes of the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League were finally starting to care and passionately support their domestic league once more – the importance of which cannot be underestimated, given the closeness of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The A-League was, by every definition around, a roaring success, and it was little surprise that such growth happened at the same time that McLaughlin started to rise in prominence. An attractive, smart, and insightful presenter, McLaughlin played a key role in Fox Sports’ coverage of the sport last year, and brought with her a whole new demographic of followers and interest.

However, with her departure to Channel Ten, the focus will now come back on Fox Sports and the A-League for their ‘inability’ to keep one of the biggest names around. Right or wrong, that’s the perception that McLaughlin’s move suggests – that the A-League isn’t yet big enough. The perception is that the A-League and the following of domestic football in Australia still has a long way to go.

Less than a year after its biggest growth period in history, that perception could very well be a bitter blow for the A-League and its fans.

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As mentioned before, McLaughlin is just one reporter, and without trying to sound too critical, she will be replaced and soon forgotten. Fox Sports will fill the void left by her in their coverage, and those watching the sport at home will quickly find a new ‘fan-favourite’ who will rise to prominence like McLaughlin did.

However, what they won’t be able to fill (at least not straight away) is the notion that they are starting from scratch in their efforts to build support for the A-League.

Whether that’s actually the case or not is seemingly besides the point.

It’s all about the perception that is provided, and with McLaughlin’s departure, the perception is that the A-League isn’t big enough or reputable enough yet.

The glamorous McLaughlin played a key role in the growth in reputation of football in Australia, and she will no doubt provide a similar impact for the Big Bash League. However, whatever Channel Ten gains in her arrival will pain the A-League in her departure.

Both in terms of her presence as well as the perception portrayed on the league.