Memberships in the A-League are up 14 per cent, crowds about the same and TV ratings also on the rise. It’s an interesting indicator of how fast football is growing in Australia.
The often said reality of football playing in summer is to avoid going head to head with the NRL and AFL is slowly becoming a myth.
The 10-team competition already plays through the preseason and to the latter stages of the first round of the AFL and NRL. In the foreseeable future with 12 teams it will probably play into the early stages of the second round. Hardly hiding away anymore.
However, the real test has come from other major sports. But before we get onto these it’s worth mentioning other events that take place when football is being played.
There’s the Bathurst 1000, Spring Racing carnival with the Melbourne Cup, various major golf tournaments, various tennis tournaments, with both golf and tennis having their Australian Open. Then there are the V8 super cars, Phillip Island and Formula One, throw in Ironman, Bells Beach, the Tour Down Under, as well as basketball and the end of the netball season.
This year cricket has extended its season to five months, starting a full month early and finishing a month late. Rugby league has continued on with its successful end of year Test match series. The AFL has its International Rules against Ireland, and don’t forget rugby union, with the Wallabies’ extra match against the All Blacks, the tour of Europe, and the new National Rugby Championship going head to head with the FFA Cup.
Football from about Round 2 has been pushed to the back pages by league and cricket. Ratings for the rugby league Four Nations, cricket to date and the AFL’s International Rules have been very solid if not spectacular.
Against this back drop A-League 10 started, with no major marquees signed, the loss of some big-name players, and the Socceroos proving a much lesser side compared to previous years.
This is blow torch to the belly stuff, the kinda of test if passed over a full season will send a clear message to those funding sport in Australia – sponsors and broadcasters – that football is here to stay and grow.
It’s amazing to be in the position we are at the moment in regards to memberships, ratings and crowds considering what we have been up against.
There is a relationship, co-relationship or correlation if you like between media, crowds and ratings. Compared to cricket on TV and radio, and also in print, the coverage and reach we are getting at this stage of the cycle shows that David Gallop and his management are doing a stellar job.
There is a contributor on FourFourTwo’s forum who believes football has won, or is winning, the battle for the younger generation, particularly primary school kids. Kids in summer run out with football balls rather than cricket bats. Further, he argues people over 30 are mostly already set in their ways and the older they are the harder to turn to any new code.
His argument says the football fan day experience is what’s winning the youngsters over and so too is T20 cricket. It’s resulting in other codes trying to copy football, with crowds adopting football terms like derby matches, and wishing to emulate football fans at matches.
Whether or not he is close to the mark or not, our growth is down to a combination of Football Federation Australia and the fans. We are up across all measurable areas.
In closing, March will be interesting. Cricket, AFL, NRL, basketball, Super Rugby and football will all go head to head, and as an old soothsayer once said ‘Beware the Ides of March’.