A few things to discuss while we’re waiting for the A-League…

Mike Roar Guru

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    With four weeks until season nine of the A-League kicks off, I thought I’d propose some interesting football topics for us to discuss and debate.

    I realise many of them have been brought up in the past, but the football world is always changing, especially in Australia – so it can’t hurt to revisit them!

    1. Will Australia ever host the World Cup?
    None of us can ever truly know (unless we have a mole working at FIFA), but anything is possible!

    Obviously it won’t be happening within the next decade, and probably not even in 2026 as that would make twice in a row that the AFC would have hosted it.

    But, Australia certainly has the majority of the necessary infrastructure in place – minus a bullet train, and maybe certain stadia need work.

    South Africa hosted it, and their national team is not particularly highly ranked (as with Qatar).
    So, being in the top 20 teams in the world is clearly not a prerequisite.

    Of course there is plenty of talk of corruption when it comes to hosting the World Cup – but the biggest thing Australia has going for it is that we’re the only continent (or confederation, if you consider our old roots in the OFC) that hasn’t hosted it.

    Surely there must come a day when FIFA will grant us the opportunity?

    After all, once the Cup has come Down Under, then FIFA can truly say that they’ve conquered the world!

    2. How many A-League teams could we see?
    A-League expansion is something we always like to discuss and debate, and it seems to be a never ending topic.

    Would we rather have a powerful league of 16 teams, or less teams in a promotion/relegation system?

    As much as I dream of promotion/relegation, I must admit that I can’t see any safe way for it to happen. Not any time soon, at least.

    I think the only way it will happen is if Australia becomes a more powerful football nation.

    I have plenty of English friends who still lovingly support their teams in the second and third divisions of their system.

    Something like that here is not impossible, but it would certainly take a much, much larger commitment from the people to back the sport.

    I think two things that greatly hinder this happening are the sheer size and vastness of the country, and our tiny population.

    Of course, anything is possible and only time will tell.

    As for the A-League itself, I would personally love to see 20 teams, but would gladly settle for 16. The AFL had 16 teams for quite a while, and it seemed to work well.

    Of course, a major advantage that football has is that the winner(s) can move on to a higher league in the ACL, and then go one further if they are truly great.

    The fact that there is always a bigger fish is one of the things that makes football amazing.

    Regarding expansion, it looks like there are quite a few contenders for the next round, and the NPL is definitely helping to play a part in its recognition.

    Tasmania, Canberra, Wollongong, and Ipswich seem to be pushing for it, along with the possibility of Geelong and the Sunshine Coast too.

    It will be an exciting time when this day arrives, but I’m happy to wait it out and watch the A-League grow naturally for now. There’s no use expanding outwards if the existing teams have problems, otherwise we’ll keep expanding and end up with 10 teams every time.

    3. How much power can the A-League have in Australia?
    This topic is always an interesting one, that unfortunately has no answer at this stage.

    It would be na├»ve to suggest that the A-League could become bigger than the AFL, but we shouldn’t rule anything out.

    The A-League certainly has potential in Australia to grow, mostly thanks to external factors such as globalisation and a growing migrant population.

    A lot of people have mentioned globalisation, and it’s a very accurate term to bring up with football in Australia as a whole.

    With some powerful European leagues, and the World Cup being the mammoth event that it is, it means that there is a plethora of talent on display in the world.

    And, with the digital age, the desire to have information and interests that come from the rest of the world is happening all around us.

    We’re no longer a homogeneous society that only focuses on what we have in Australia. We are connected to the world, and people want to be part of a game that the whole world plays, and that unifies us in such an incredible way.

    I’ll never forget seeing gold jerseys in every direction as I walked through shopping centres back in June ’06.

    Australia is a very multicultural society, and a lot of its people originate from countries where football is the national sport.

    It’s only natural for them to want to continue to follow it here too.

    We’ve all said so many times that football is a summer sport here, and all of the codes can coincide happily and peacefully.

    We’re a sporting nation, and so many people embrace multiple or indeed all codes.

    But there’s one more thing to keep in mind, and this is jumping forward a bit into the distant future: Something is only as popular as its current generation demands.

    What I mean is, while AFL runs the show in Australia now, and surely will for some time to come, it’s not out of the question for a future generation to follow something else, such as football.

    Of course, the opposite could happen, and future generations of Aussies might only demand more AFL or NRL, so it’s impossible to predict now.

    But it is difficult for football here to fail, when it’s the world’s game.

    Anyway, just some fun topics there until the A-League starts in less than a month…

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    The Crowd Says (118)

    • September 15th 2013 @ 5:27am
      al said | September 15th 2013 @ 5:27am | ! Report

      I guess that the time difference is the big enemy for a World Cup in Australia. The main TV market is Europe. No matter if you played games in Australia at noon, 4PM or 9PM, it would be a bad time in Europe. 9PM games would be the “best” option, that would be noon in Europe. World Cup is all about profit. The FIFA wants to make profit. If they don’t get the European audience on TV, they miss out on big dollars. It would be worth researching how big the TV ratings were during the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea. Maybe the ratings were poor and FIFA doesn’t want to repeat it. Just a guess.

      • Roar Guru

        September 15th 2013 @ 8:06am
        Mike said | September 15th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        That’s a great point, and I’m sure there are a whole team of marketing execs at FIFA who manage the viability of each bid and the ratings it would generate. They would need to be up there for Europe, and the timezone is something that can not be fixed.

        So yes, it would be up a matter of how it went in Japan/Korea. FIFA obviously haven’t commented on it and probably won’t, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

      • September 15th 2013 @ 8:10am
        Titus said | September 15th 2013 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        It wont be long before the biggest TV audience is in Asia so I don’t see that one as a problem going forward.

        • Roar Guru

          September 15th 2013 @ 8:19am
          Mike said | September 15th 2013 @ 8:19am | ! Report

          That’s a very valid point too, and one of Australia’s main selling points when they put in a big for the World cup ’22. Economists will all tell you that this is the Asian century, and a shift toward Asia is very real.

          I lived in China for a little while, and the level of growth is simply mind-blowing! You can really see how the world is starting to look east. Even in the EPL Chelsea matches they’re always displaying Chinese ads around the perimeter of the field.

          You can even do some research about Hollywood shifting east. They’re purposely altering movies to appeal to their audience, just because they know how large it is. A lot of blockbusters in the last five years have done this, and a lot more will come in future too. The same could just as easily happen in football.

          • September 15th 2013 @ 6:44pm
            al said | September 15th 2013 @ 6:44pm | ! Report

            One can google “2014 FIFA World Cup broadcasting rights” and it’s on wikipedia. There’s a list of all TV networks who bought broadcasting rights from FIFA. Unfortunately there are no numbers…I’d love to know the numbers. I am sure, the European region brings in the most dollars though.

            • September 17th 2013 @ 10:47am
              cliffclavin said | September 17th 2013 @ 10:47am | ! Report

              I agree that the growth in East Asia and especially China can definitely help us in a future bid. Lets not forget that a country 4-5 times smaller than China (USA) has the major impact on Olympics coverage and even the staging of olympic events for their prime time … remember the issues about the swimming finals. a couple of games ago.

              But i think this card maybe came too soon at the last bid – plus corruption etc – but may be useful for a bid in 2030-34 …

      • September 17th 2013 @ 9:56am
        The TMF said | September 17th 2013 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        While this is a sound theory, from the experience of traveling through England, France and Spain during the 2002 world cup, it matters little what time it is on. Once every 4 years for three guaranteed matches, people arrange to be able to watch it.

        The first two matches for England were early morning so everyone got to work late on those days. Not many bosses or manager would be not interested or stupid enough to enforce anything otherwise. It would for a lot of English be grounds for resignation. Think Australia and the Melbourne cup but once every four years.

        Traveling through France, pubs and bar were packed for any game in the morning. Even when France were knocked out without winning a game. The streets of Madrid were a ghost town during the Spain vs South Korea QF, yet we needn’t have been watching the game to know if someone went close to scoring as every second building had its own spectator choir. The lack of normal buzz later that night when hitting the clubs let us know that we had missed an incredible upset.

        The only reason this argument is pursued is profit from advertising. TV rights bring in more for prime time advertising. Personally i find it a flawed argument. Prime time will always bring in more than early hours through breakfast to midday. The net gain of charging higher for advertising during this time than the gain from standard prime-time revenue which should still be the same during this period should have the networks rubbing their hands.

    • September 15th 2013 @ 7:20am
      SVB said | September 15th 2013 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      Maximum a-league teams would be 16 in my opinion. Wollongong and Canberra in around 5 to 10 years time. Then maybe Nth Qld and GCU and Geelong and Tasmania sometime in future. But that is a maybe for the last 4 teams. Although I am fairly confident Nth Qld will come back some time again.

      We will never host the World Cup in our life times so wouldn’t even worry about it.

      I could see football becoming the number two sport in 20 to 30 years time in Australia. But I am not sure it will ever be number 1. The U.S is an insular nation because it thinks it is bigger than the rest of the world and does everything better. Australia is an insular nation because of its isolation from the rest of the world. These factors would make it nearly impossible for the world game to take the number one crown in either of these nations. There are already established sports in both countries which will always get precedence over football.

      • Roar Guru

        September 15th 2013 @ 8:13am
        Mike said | September 15th 2013 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        We’re definitely similar to the U.S in the sporting world. Their MLS comes after NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL. But at the end of day, the number two spot in Oz would be fine with me. It’s about stability, and not necessarily domination. After all, one type of sport will always be bigger than another, just like a country will have a bigger economy than another.

        As long as football is here to stay (and problem-free), then I’m a happy man!

      • September 15th 2013 @ 11:20am
        Vic said | September 15th 2013 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        It’s already changing now!

        The ‘Latinisation’ of the US is happening rapidly before our very eyes BUT most Australians choose to remain ignorant of the fact!

        It’s estimated that by 2025, Latin Americans will make up more than 50% of the US population AND guess which sport they care about?

        One doesn’t need to be a futurist to see that the US will eventually become so Latinised that they will no longer be interested in Australia OR the UK for that matter.

        It would seem to be a smart idea for Australia to totally ignore the resident and hostile anti-Football brigade, led by CH 10, going forward into a future dominated by the Asian Century, wouldn’t you think?

        • September 15th 2013 @ 1:44pm
          The Hurler in the Ditch said | September 15th 2013 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

          >>Latin Americans will make up more than 50% of the US population AND guess which sport they care about?

          Baseball?

          • September 15th 2013 @ 3:59pm
            SVB said | September 15th 2013 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

            Not that I agree with Vic’s theory. But apart from Cubans and Maybe a few other smaller nations, which other Latino nations care about baseball? Not the Mexicans or South Americans. That’s for sure. The Thing with the Mexicans in California and other Southern states in the US is that they do love football, but they follow their own Mexican league in preference to the MLS. There is actually a nice strong rivalry between the US and Mexico at both international and club level.

            The strong base which has actually driven the MLS growth has come from the North Western corner of the US. Cities like Seattle, Portland and Vancouver average the strongest crowds in the MLS. Mostly white folk, but cities which have an alternative edge about them. So it is not really the Latinos who have resurrected the MLS in the US. I think in the long run the whole Western part of the US will be the stronghold of the MLS, with teams like LA Galaxy, San Jose and Real Salt Lake growing stronger and stronger all the time.

    • September 15th 2013 @ 7:59am
      Jukes said | September 15th 2013 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      1. Its not something that overly concerns me or keeps me awake at night. We hosted the Olympics in 2000 which people love to point out, BIG DEAL, the world cup is on a whole different level. A lot of non football fans in Australia and the government just don’t understand how big it is. We will NEVER get any cooperation from the other sports. That was made plain and clear for all to see during our bid for that last world cup. We do not have PROPER football stadiums in Australia. If we were to build them then the AFL would seek to make them into multi purpose venues so they can use them as well. No thanks FIFA.

      2. 16-18 teams would be a great number. It will take time, especially considering where your players might be coming from. If you want a good sustainable league with good players you need a constant stream of juniors playing and developing at a good rate. We need cheaper rego’s, more academies, more playing fields, we need to be able to use fields that are lying dormant ie AFL fields in Western Sydney that aren’t being used. Its the kids who are now 8-12 years old in 10 years time will be our stars of the A-league. With improvements to players and an increase in numbers it will filter down to all levels of football. In 5-10 years time the NPL might be as good as the A-league is currently, just salivating to think how good the A-league could get.

      3. We are only limited by ourselves. I am not trying to start code wars, I don’t really care what other sports are doing. I mainly follow football. It is interesting though that the AFL would be only too aware of footballs growth. The battle for hearts and minds, for junior players, for sporting fields, for registration costs, for media control (AFL tv). These are things the AFL are to some extent prepared for already. I am not having a go at them either, good for them, they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, protecting the investment they have made in their sport, ensuring continued growth, making sure they grow the AFL pie for everyone.
      They are limited by the fact that only 3 states are really interested in AFL, Victoria, SA and WA. They have no international fixtures, hardly any players from outside of Australia and they have no global presence. If they want to take their game overseas they are more than welcome to try.

      The massive advantages that football has is the fact we are a global game, we are a multicultural society whose first love of sports is mostly football. We have international fixtures and a truly global world cup which grips every nation including ours. We are in the region of Asia with a massive population and a massive appetite for football. From where I sit we have only scratched the surface of how big and powerful the game can become in Australia.

      • September 15th 2013 @ 10:51am
        realfootball said | September 15th 2013 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        Excuse me, Juke, but I understand that AFL is expanding in South Africa and China, and that Europe and the US are targets.

        The subject is discussed with the utmost seriousness on AFL threads. The sleeping minnow awakes!

        • September 15th 2013 @ 6:48pm
          al said | September 15th 2013 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

          They’re dreaming.

    • September 15th 2013 @ 8:23am
      Titus said | September 15th 2013 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      Football will probably never be bigger than AFL in Victoria but nationally there is no reason why we can’t be as big or bigger. We already have the most participants.

      If we can improve our player development, hold onto our talent and attract world class imports then our game has the ability to grow into Asia which gives it growth opportunities that the other codes don’t have, so realistically we should be able to grow much bigger, it is going to take a while though.

      • Roar Guru

        September 15th 2013 @ 10:49am
        Mike said | September 15th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        That’s a good point Titus. AFL/VFL is very well established in Victoria, and football might not ever be able to match that down south. But nationwide, it can have a massive impact. That’s why it would be important to have a Tasmanian and Canberra team, and hopefully one based in Darwin eventually. The league would then have an outreach like no other in Australia.

        I think the limited visa spots in the A-League will help to promote local player growth. The marquee signings are a great boost, and will help to get some recognition, but I like that the FFA is playing it wisely. Recently in England there has been comments again by certain managers wanting to reduce the number of foreigners in the EPL because it’s restricting the English national team.

      • September 15th 2013 @ 3:53pm
        Kyle said | September 15th 2013 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

        There is nothing more that frustrates afl fans in victoria more than the telling them “soccer” has more participants than footy it irks them when they realise AFL is really only the focus of Victoria in terms of the Big 3 states

    • Roar Guru

      September 15th 2013 @ 8:23am
      Mike said | September 15th 2013 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      I like the idea of the NPL’s quality being where the A-League is at within a matter of years, and it’s something that could easily happen. Even watching some of the NPL highlights is very impressive!

      I couldn’t agree more about the youth, academies, etc. It’s one of those situations where the FFA can only do so much with the current league and teams, but they could easily be forward thinking and invest in the future (which is exactly what David Gallop believes too, fortunately!). Better leagues and better development will lead to better future Socceroos. And the better the Socceroos do, the more exposure the entire sport gets in Oz.

      I really like your last sentence there, and I think you’re spot on! We really only have scratched the surface, and we’re in such a good spot that we’re a part of the AFC.

    • September 15th 2013 @ 9:11am
      SVB said | September 15th 2013 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      I think Football’s great advantage is that you are truly measuring yourself against the rest of the world. Even when you are doing poorly there is something to look forward to in terms of trying to improve and catch up to other nations. Once more Australians start realising this it opens up a whole new world for everyone. This is something other mainstream sports in this country simply don’t have.

      I also think the sport is spectator friendly and very accessible to play. In the long run the sport will grow. It just has to be careful in how it handles the media and the tactics of other codes. A good example is Panthers attempts to buy Wanderers and the AFL’s behaviour during the World Cup bid.

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