I’ve come up with a few points that I think FFA needs to act on to propel football onto the next level.
The recent happenings in football this season caused me to write down a few points that must be acted on to improve the game. There is a mix of short and long-term objectives.
Advertise the A-League
We must advertise the competition! Spend $1-2 million, organise a decent ad campaign, and play it not just on Foxtel, but on free-to-air TV. This is marketing 101.
It’s a responsibility of the federation to do this, and it’s unknown why they wouldn’t want to pump up their own competition. It’s the old adage, you have to spend money to make money. This season is almost halfway through, but it’s never too late.
Sort out ownership squabbles
This is the biggest issue that has the potential to derail the game, and it may take a while to get sorted. Ownership issues are not new to A-League followers, but the recent issues with the Bakrie Group, the constant Mike Charlesworth rubbish comments in the media and the non-sale of the Newcastle Jets have gone on for too long.
We’ve heard too many times that players’ super and other entitlements haven’t been paid. It’s uncertain whether it’s all true, but usually where there’s smoke there’s fire. It’s unprofessional and it has to stop, as it screws with the perception and credibility of the entire league.
The FFA has a massive part to play in this, and they need to sort this out with the owners ASAP.
Build up the FFA Cup, don’t kill it off
The FFA Cup is an awesome concept, and it has the potential to become a huge competition if run properly. But this year’s FFA Cup was a PR debacle for the governing body.
They allowed the state league clubs to play in massive commercial stadiums, like Hume City hosting Victory at AAMI Park with 6000 turning up, and then hitting Victorians with final ticket prices of $40-80.
Tickets at the previous final in Adelaide were appropriately priced at $36-47. They got exactly what they deserved when just 15,000 people turned up. Consumers aren’t stupid these days. Get a grip FFA, don’t kill the comp before it’s actually got going.
Sort out the next TV deal
Talks will have been ongoing about this, it’s been in the media for a while that the FFA are trying to double their current TV deal. I’m not sure if they’ll reach those targets or not, but the sport needs a bigger injection of funds sooner rather than later in order to guarantee the existence of some of the smaller clubs.
Despite all the naysayers, the A-League gets a quarter of the average TV viewers of AFL games on Fox Sports, and gets a third of the average crowds, so the sport’s well on its way after 11 years. It’s still growing, albeit with some pains, but it just needs another push from a keen TV partner.
More money into football would improve on-field quality and the overall hype again, which can’t be said for the other codes, but they keep doubling their TV deals. Some commercial free-to-air TV exposure is also a must in any new deal, even if that’s on a secondary channel.
They could also look at a marquee component of any new deal, separate to the salary cap, where future money could fund $1 million of a marquee wage per club per year, to incentivise clubs to dream big and lure bigger names to Australia.
The new ARU deal shows that all networks want live sport and will pay well for it.
Get to work on expansion
Work needs to recommence on this. The league needs more teams not less, in the short to medium term. Wollongong and Canberra are ready-made markets for the A-League, and Geelong could probably put their hand up in the near future, but instead the FFA are too busy looking in the southern Sydney and Sutherland area, where it would do more damage than good.
The four existing Sydney and Melbourne clubs need another five years to cement themselves and their intra-city rivalries, and then we can look at team number three in each city. And keep Wellington Phoenix, they just need to grow over the ditch, which will take a while.
Build its own bricks and mortar
Football-specific infrastructure, be it club facilities, training bases, academies and stadiums are badly needed. Western Sydney Wanderers are set to build their $20 million training base next year, and they’ll get a brand new Parramatta Stadium in three or so years. Melbourne City and Adelaide also both have their own new training bases.
But it’s not all good news.
Some clubs don’t even have a regular training ground, and the inadequate stadia issue is a massive one, particularly for Brisbane and Wellington who play in stadiums too large for their supporter bases. Hindmarsh would also benefit from a small upgrade and increasing the capacity to over 20,000, meaning Socceroos and international fixtures could be played there.
Defend the game, but don’t give the haters any oxygen
Articles like the recent one from Rebecca Wilson and the comments from Alan Jones are not news for football fans in Australia. They rear their ugly head every 12 months or so, or when the code is going well and prizing away so many youngsters from other sports.
It’s best not to pay these articles or comments any attention, as they’re intended to destabilise football and its momentum. Little do these people know what the average football fan has had to go through in Australia for the last 40 years, and things like this actually have an adverse effect, and help galvanise the sport and its supporters.
We may actually look back at these past two weeks as a turning point in the years to come.
These are my points, there are no quick fixes, but some things could be done better straight away. What do you think, Roarers?