Something Australian football fans know all too well is that the sport is often relegated to the sidelines when it comes to mainstream media in Australia.
The World Cup is always an exception, but other football leagues or cups can be a bit of a wild card, depending on the network and date/time.
One network might report on the A-League, but then another may not.
But one thing is usually for certain: football is Australia does not receive the attention it deserves in the mainstream. By this, I mean the mainstream media such as the 7, 9 and 10 television networks, and the newspapers and tabloids.
I try to avoid the aforementioned media outlets because I feel that there are better sources out there for news, but people easily perceive something as popular based on the media’s exposure.
If something is reported on often (such as the AFL), then it is popular.
If it doesn’t get a mention, then society won’t know about it, and might not accept it, which is a problem we sometimes have with football’s exposure here.
So, over the past couple of years, I’ve paid curious attention to the media at times to see what the football coverage is like.
I’d start off every morning with a coffee and watching Sunrise on 7, or the Morning Show on 9, purely waiting for the headlines.
Usually the sport would barely get a mention, and if it did, it would only show a few seconds of footage from one of the big EPL teams.
Unfortunately, most of the time it wouldn’t even get airtime.
In fact, quite often other sports like golf, cycling or motor racing would get a mention, but no football. The evening news is not much better, nor are certain newspapers.
But in the last few days, things have been quite the opposite. Obviously there’s a good chance that football’s exposure is assisted by the AFL/NRL off-seasons, but the fact that the sport is suddenly receiving such good attention is very promising.
The first thing that took me by surprise was seeing A-League ads between 6pm and 8pm on the major free-to-air networks.
Even though it’s officially an ad for Fox Sports, it is exposure for the league nonetheless.
Other things have come in the form of billboards and posters around cities. But I think what has impressed me the most was seeing football mentioned in the news headlines. I watched the Friday night evening news and waited for the sports segment.
The very first story was about the Melbourne Derby, and the second story was about the Socceroos clash.
Later that night, after the A-League opener, I saw a news update on Channel Nine, featuring four headlines: three serious news stories, and the fourth being about the A-League.
And then, the next day, the A-League was all over the back page of the Herald Sun.
Later that day, I turned on the evening news again, and saw that Holger’s sacking was the third story mentioned on the evening news!
The last time I saw the evening news mention football so early was back in the days of the ’06 World Cup.
Overall, it seems like there is a sudden boost in the mainstream media for football. Hopefully it will be a regular thing and not just an A-League launch promo.
But I believe it’s a clear sign that the sport is rising and gaining recognition.
The huge membership sales, crowd numbers, and audience for the first SBS match are all undeniable indications. I even saw a couple of young boys wearing Chelsea jerseys today at the supermarket (this year I moved to a small town of 11,000 people, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything football-related in the VFL-dominated region).
Five minutes later, I overheard a teenage boy talking to his mother about a football website that he came across, and I saw that he was wearing a Barcelona jersey.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but seeing the young men wearing their jerseys at the start of the Aussie football season was encouraging.
If all of this exposure continues, then the A-League is really only at the beginning stages of its potential growth.
The game will continue to grow naturally, but the mainstream exposure is a huge boost. Even if someone is not a football fan, seeing the sport mentioned on the big networks might be enough for them to, at the very least, accept it as one of Australia’s national sports.