We’re now 11 seasons into the A-League era, and there’s one word that sticks in my mind today as it did when the league first started back in 2004-05 – potential.
Sunday was a massive grand final at the Adelaide Oval, where over 50,000 were in attendance to watch the Reds win their first toilet seat.
It was an awesome atmosphere and a huge occasion for both football in South Australia and the FFA – I’m sure that David Gallop himself would’ve cringed at the idea of a grand final being played in Adelaide only three months ago.
But the grand final was a fitting end to another A-League season.
On the field, this was the best season yet. We had great games, cracking drama and the best football played. The clubs got the majority of their recruiting right, we saw quality foreigners grace our pitches, and great clubs like Adelaide United and the Perth Glory were back on the up again.
However off the field this has been the worst season to date, a complete debacle, with the FFA in damage control for at least 70 per cent of the time.
There was the publicised pay dispute, the ownership issues at Brisbane and Newcastle, the over-ambitious FFA Cup final ticket pricing, the fan behaviour issues leading to walkouts and boycotts, the fallout from the Perth Glory salary cap dramas, and many many more.
I’d love to have been a fly on the wall at FFA HQ in the last 12 months. Damien de Bohun resigning tells a story in itself.
By now, most of the above issues have either been sorted or are being carefully monitored, so hopefully the FFA now starts to look at next season, as it’s the last year before the next TV rights deal. The FFA needs those next rights to not only increase revenues but also increase exposure, and give more eyeballs in Australia access to watch the A-League.
To keep raising the bar, on this already competitive and very watchable league, the FFA need to improve a number of aspects.
Firstly a new marquee fund is needed to bring in more top-quality players. Presently there are two types of marquees: the Bruno Fornaroli marquee and the Alessandro Del Piero marquee. Both are needed to keep growing the league, as they appeal to a different type of supporter, but the latter is more expensive.
Remaining fan issues also need to be dealt with, as does selling off the Newcastle Jets. But the most important issue is advertising the league.
I don’t remember the last time the FFA spent decent coin on an advertising campaign, which is a must for an 11-year-old competition in arguably the most competitive sports market in the world.
We now have a product which is ready for a commercial free-to-air station to show at least one live game per week, to partner it, to cross-promote it, and to ultimately help grow the game.
Again, if the game is governed properly and the right decisions are made in the next couple of years, the same thing comes to my mind as it did some 11 years ago – potential.