Is this the weekend when football finally overshadows politics?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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57 Have your say

    Why do we watch football? Is it to follow our team’s exploits on the pitch, or to understand what goes on behind the scenes?

    It seems like a relevant question to ask going into an important round of A-League action, with around 50,000 spectators expected to file through the gates for Saturday night’s Sydney derby.

    It’s a measure of the A-League’s success that a fixture with an anticipated attendance mirroring some of the largest in Australian sport has flown largely under the radar.

    That’s because much of this week’s media has been focused – rightly – on the political machinations of Football Federation Australia, and the oft-mentioned prospect of an independent A-League.

    A standalone A-League has been warranted for years, but it shouldn’t be forgotten just how far we’ve come in a little over a decade.

    Following the game during the dying embers of the National Soccer League, few could have predicted a ten-team league drawing huge crowds and yielding impressive results in Asia could possibly even exist in Australia.

    Yet, much as the Sydney derby will attract the lion’s share of attention from this weekend’s round of fixtures, the question remains whether that’s enough to focus our entire attention on the football?

    Or to put it another way, can we trust the FFA to run the domestic game effectively and still do the right thing by its constituent clubs?


    That’s essentially the question put before some chastened FFA officials this week, who belatedly and perhaps begrudgingly look like they’re finally going to cede some power to the clubs who do the bulk of the work to fill the coffers.

    And it’s not just A-League clubs who want a greater say in how the game is run, but the State federations and players’ unions as well – and no doubt plenty involved at the grassroots level too.

    That’s exactly as it should be, as far as I’m concerned, because the state of inertia around the A-League is detracting from the football on the pitch, and leading to commercial opportunities being squandered in the face of newly-arrived summer rivals.

    But when it’s all said and done, does the average football fan even care? Or think it’s important?

    I often ask myself such questions when I sit down to write, not least because some readers insist that only positive news will help the game, or tell me that what football needs to succeed is to present a united front.

    To that I would say I’m about as unlikely a cheerleader as you could ever hope to meet – and besides, writing an independent column means I’ve never felt especially beholden to anyone.

    I would rather write about topics I feel will produce a lively debate – even if that reflects negatively on the A-League, or focuses more on what’s going on in the boardroom than in the stadium.

    Perhaps I’m in the minority though, and the only topic I should be focusing on this weekend is the action on the pitch.

    I hope that turns out to be the case, because too often this season I’ve worried that the leaders in charge are not doing enough to adequately showcase the product.

    And that’s something that needs to change.


    As an aside, I’d like to extend my best wishes to The Roar’s departing Managing Editor Patrick Effeney, who celebrates his final day in charge today.

    In his three years at the helm he has always accepted my late-night filing, steady stream of scurrilous emails and stubborn refusal to even countenance copy suggestions with good grace, gentle humour and, dare I say it, a steady editorial hand.

    And while I know there are plenty of others working just as hard behind the scenes, it would be remiss of me to let the day pass without saying farewell.

    All the best, Paddy – it’s been a pleasure.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • February 17th 2017 @ 5:00am
      peeeko said | February 17th 2017 @ 5:00am | ! Report

      too much time is spent in Australian sports (including football) worrying about the state of support, finances and quality of administration. Living in Chicago for last 6 years its been nice to be solely concerned with my teams and how they are playing rather than worrying if a certain support is keeping up with the rest

      • February 17th 2017 @ 8:13am
        vin said | February 17th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        right on, the support is waning because you see the same games every second weekend, i travelled to watch Sydney Fc up at newcastle twice in 3 weeks last year.

        maybe we should increase the playoffs from 6 teams to 8 teams, that will bring back the band wagon supporters, its bad enough its currently 6 places.

    • Roar Guru

      February 17th 2017 @ 5:46am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | February 17th 2017 @ 5:46am | ! Report

      Until the composition of the congress is determined and any changes to A-League management made, the governance aspects of the game will continue to feed into the news cycle.

      This is not a bad thing.

    • February 17th 2017 @ 7:37am
      j binnie said | February 17th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

      Mike – I am often accused of living i the past because I like to refer to historical factors in our game and this article you have presented , unknowingly touches on that subject matter.
      Having during my “football life” lived through and taken part in,the move from Association to Federation, from localised “top” leagues to NSL,and from that fiasco into the formation of the HAL, I feel reasonably qualified into commenting on where the game finds itself today.
      For years our amateur and semi-professional game was ruled by the committee system of management and to those who have “served” it is not unusual for them to experience the weaknesses in this system where the individuals involved can change annually, at the club AGM’s and therefore decision making is usually left to the “strongest “personality ” in the committee getting his own way by playing the age old “political” game and surrounding himself with supporters.
      Now this thinking was not exclusive to local playing field “huts”, or annual meetings held at a local pub or hotel, it was in existence all across the game at every level.
      It was after one such gathering in the early 80’s, held in the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney,that a certain Frank Lowy walked away from the game after being soundly thrashed in a “democratic” !!!!!! vote” in his attempt to get a foothold in the highest level in the game at that time ,the ASF.
      With his departure the “committee system” got another 20 years to tear apart the very fabric of the game ,making error after administrative error in trying to drive the game forward.
      That brings us to 2003/4, when the same “cast- off” was pleaded with, to revive a game that was in it’s death throes.
      What transpired was no surprise to those myself, had gone before. The man set up a competition involving reasonably difficult financial constraints on entry and heavily dependent on decision making based on financial considerations ,rather than the whim of some individual surrounded by his cohorts “down at the clubhouse”.
      Today the game is faced with expansion demands from the “shop floor”, an apparent huge divide between the top team and those from rural areas. a divide which could be deemed financial as well as personnel driven, and to where has that brought us?,,a top management structure with a linear connection to the immediate past, where the ‘ghosts ” of that past continually haunt, and no doubt affects, their day to day operational thinking.
      It is a difficult time but a phase that has to be gone through and much as I admire many of the well meaning comments offered, it is a phase of government that can only be changed when all things have been aligned into attaining a successful future for our game at that level.
      Have we reached that level???,only time will tell. Cheers jb.

      • Roar Guru

        February 17th 2017 @ 10:24am
        Cameron Kellett said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        And this is why it’s important to have these dicussions. We are fortunate to have someone such as yourself offer such insightful and historical views. For people such as myself who knows really nothing of the NSL, but a lot about the A-League, it’s interesting to hear what took place before our league eventuated.

        I hope that the club owners and the FFA get it right, cause I fear, based on what I’ve heard and read, there could always be the possibility that by FFA relinquishing full control, we could revert back to the old days.

        We need to learn from the past. Whilst many criticise the FFA, I’ve always remained more a supporter than not. I genuinely feel they do have the right intentions, but with that said, they too can still learn from others.

        The way Melbourne Victory’s chairman, Anthony Di Pietro, spoke at their business luncheon recently, showed me he has passion and drive. He is the type of person I feel has the vision and potential to assist in taking the game to the next level.

        It’s CEO’s like Greg Griffin and sadly Tony Sage I don’t have the same confidence in.

        I just hope overall we really get this right. For if we don’t and football goes down the same path as the past, I could only forsee myself struggling to support and new league, much like how some old NSL supporters feel towards the A-League.

        • Roar Guru

          February 17th 2017 @ 10:40pm
          Griffo said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:40pm | ! Report

          Meant to respond to this earlier – agree.

          Di Pietro I’ve heard once or twice mentioned as possible, future FFA CEO.

          As you say, him over Griffin and Sage…

      • February 17th 2017 @ 11:25am
        Lionheart said | February 17th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

        Good comments from yourself and Cameron JB. I felt this was a development obstacle that has to be crossed and you’ve both helped me understand why.
        For JB – I don’t quite understand what you mean by the ‘linear links to the immediate past’? I have read comments elsewhere about the NPL, claiming that it destroys the grass roots clubs. I don’t know enough about the lower structures, but isn’t there are a grave danger if the A League is independent, that the rest of football is left stranded? Or is that already pretty much the case anyway?

        • February 17th 2017 @ 5:27pm
          j binnie said | February 17th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

          Lionheart – the “linear links to the immediate past” was simply a reference to Frank Lowy and Steven Lowy being in charge of the FFA. Steven would be acutely aware of what happened to his father back in the 1980’s and how it was done,and so “the ghosts of the past” are still on hand when the present ruling body are planning a future. Cheers jb.
          ps There will always be a “top of the tree “in any organisation and football is no different ,we have a “pyramid”, from the point at the top down to the broad base at the bottom. Not to worry. jb

    • February 17th 2017 @ 7:57am
      jamesb said | February 17th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Yesterday was quite refreshing. There was a positive football article on the CCM and it generated a fairly respectable 40 odd comments. What was also notable was there was hardly an AFL fans commenting.

      And again, in a small microcosm, it gives an indication of where the FFA should be targeting their marketing.

      FFA giving the A League independence will be important, but to be honest, many football fans wouldn’t know how it would accurately benefit the game in the long term. In general, football fans just want to talk about football.

      The best promotion for the game is more football articles with what happens on the field. And football articles about the rich history of the game.

      • February 17th 2017 @ 8:29am
        Buddy said | February 17th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Of course there is always the possibility that an independent A League could end up not dissimilar to the EPL which is completely self serving and appears to do nothing to serve the greater good of the game. On the one side, it perpetuates a terrible myth that all is well with football in the country as the league is so popular and well supported, it also allows much deplorable behaviour on the field and off it to and just like a well known religious organisation currently being castigated at the royal commission, has a tendency to look after its own, protect the wrong people for the wrong reasons and fails to look at the much broader picture. I hate our our continual slide towards becoming a “nanny state” but I don’t see too many shining examples of where self regulation works well.

        • February 17th 2017 @ 8:57am
          Franko said | February 17th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          That is my fear.

          The A-League follows the path of the EPL (or more likely SPL) where clubs look out for clubs and not the game or the National Team.

          IMO The FFA is best suited to looking after the game as a whole in this country and the National Team, not the A-League clubs.

          • February 17th 2017 @ 9:38am
            Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | February 17th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

            I think I would rather have the FFA stay in charge as well. However, the dividend that the FFA give the clubs from consolidated revenue is appallingly low. The clubs want and need a better deal from the TV A-League money received, which is more benificial—to keep them in the black—at present it falls well below par, and that has to improve immediately.

          • Roar Guru

            February 17th 2017 @ 10:52am
            Cameron Kellett said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

            John Didulica, CEO of the PFA, was recently on a football podcast and spoke at length about this very issue. I can’t seem to find the podcast he spoke up, but essentially he spoke about the different ways in which this approach can be taken. He said the FFA are in a strong position compared to competitions like the EPL and SPL and therefore have more say as to how this pans out. We can take the MSL approach, we can even take the Bundesliga approach. But whatever approach is taken, it needs to ensure the FFA are not screwed over and in turn the national teams, coaching and junior development.

            If the clubs take control they will have a lot of responsibility to not ruin the hard work the FFA has done. They will need to provide very clear vision. Will they want to expand, will they care to create an A-League 2, what will they do for engagement with regards to community and junior development? There is so much taking place here that it is not going to be simple and it is important to explore all avenues.

            May I suggest listening to the Daily Football Show regularly. They speak about these issues regularly and do it well, much better than article will do for Mike only has so many words to express what he is trying to say.

          • Roar Guru

            February 17th 2017 @ 3:53pm
            Griffo said | February 17th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            Franko, Cameron et al agree that is the real danger.

            Good comment Cameron as I agree there is much at stake for the FFA to do what they need to do (however well that might be) and the complexities of working out what the next 10-15 years might look like. I especially think it shouldn’t be rushed and have mentioned recently that it needs both (or others like the PFA) to be willing to compromise and work out what’s best for the game.

            My real fear for years has been an owner-led A-League group that spins off and becomes about the money, at the expense of the whole game, the national teams, and even grassroots…

            All good discussion.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 17th 2017 @ 8:40am
        Stevo said | February 17th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        I want to read more articles about the people behind our game and the rich history and stories like that of Walter Tully and especially from an Australian perspective. I also very much like jb’s contributions because without the historical perspective you often can’t see what is driving certain decisions and behaviours. And you can avoid repeating mistakes. And thanks Mike for this article.

        • February 17th 2017 @ 11:29am
          Lionheart said | February 17th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          I’m calling on JB to write a few articles, especially on development of tactics through history.

          • February 17th 2017 @ 5:41pm
            j binnie said | February 17th 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

            Lionheart -The history of the development of football tactics is quite long ,pundits would say some 90 years so it would require quite a number of “articles” to cover what has happened.
            I am not passing the buck here,but if you are interested I can recommend a book,easily read, and first published in 2008 so is reasonably current.
            The book is called “Inverting the Pyramid” written by a relatively young journalist called Jonathon Wilson. The reason I found this book so accurate that I have been lucky enough to see live many of the teams he uses to illustrate his findings.
            It is not “heavy reading” but is extremely accurate in his interpretation of Tactical innovation. Cheers jb.

            • February 17th 2017 @ 6:15pm
              Lionheart said | February 17th 2017 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

              thanks for that jb

      • Roar Guru

        February 17th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Kaks said | February 17th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        “The best promotion for the game is more football articles with what happens on the field. And football articles about the rich history of the game.”


        And to think Mike actually garnered some respect from me with this article;

        And here we are, reading another article not talking about the football – but telling us that we should.

        Start writing articles about the football and no on will talk about the politics.

        • February 18th 2017 @ 10:19am
          j binnie said | February 18th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          Kaks – This is a very worthwhile thought ,but the impracticality of it is greatly outweighed by the possibility of it ever happening.
          The history of the game in Australia is inexorably intertwined with political maneuverings that have not always been made for the benefit of what we see on the field.
          Just as recently as 2003 we have had a government inspired investigation into these maneuverings in the Crawford report ,and, to prove we do not stand alone in this problem area, in 2015, we had the top man in FIFA resigning for the same underlying problem.
          The root of the problem in both cases proved to be money, or the use of that commodity, and as long as we have “professional” football,that potential problem will exist.
          Wish you hopes could be innovated but ?????? Cheers jb.

    • February 17th 2017 @ 8:55am
      Greg said | February 17th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      “It’s a measure of the A-League’s success that a fixture with an anticipated attendance mirroring some of the largest in Australian sport has flown largely under the radar.”

      Yes, yes and yes. It is crazy how well the A-League does considering the lack of mainstream media attention it gets. What is even more scary is that all A-League clubs have had examples of, in Australian sporting terms, are massive crowds. The support is there, the lack of media attention means that unless you are absolutely drilled into following the competition, you lose touch with what is happening.

      It needs one big investment from a mainstream media outlet. Someone who is willing to take some losses/hits with low TV ratings but back the product and market it. Foxtel have done this for a small proportion of the market (those with PayTV) and it has been a massive success for them.

      Given the ownership structure of Channel 10, it appears it would be most likely to make such an investment. The best outcome for the A-League would be for ten to have both the A-League and Big Bash and do a bucket load of cross promotion.

      • February 17th 2017 @ 9:26am
        pauly said | February 17th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Keep in mind that Foxtel can weather the low ratings because ad revenue isn’t their sole source of income – they also get subsciption fees. They earn these fees irrespective of whether subscribers watch or not.

        They’d be aware that there would be a number of subscribers who are only doing so because of the HAL and by doubling their fees for the league they’ve ensured retention of most of these subscribers (presumably some may drop out for reasons other than the sports content, such as loss of employment etc) as well as potentially picking up new subscribers.

        One thing Foxtel needs to do is improve its online platform, this would make it accessible to so many more people that cannot have satellite dishes drilled into their rooves or cables run into their homes.

      • February 17th 2017 @ 9:52am
        Chris said | February 17th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        Well said Greg. Is it any wonder that Channel 7 is going under? Channel 9 almost went bust a couple of years ago.
        They haven’t changed their model one iota and still shell out ridiculous amounts of money to other sports while completely ignoring the A-League.
        Would love it if Channel 7 went broke.

        • February 17th 2017 @ 10:06am
          pauly said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          Well TV ad revenues are actually DECREASING. Subscription-based streaming models are steaming ahead.

          Think about the last time you watched TV and the ads came on. Maybe even during a sports telecast. What did you do? Did you sit there absorbed in the advertisements thinking “What an amazing product. Shut up and take my money!” or did you flick to other channels, get up to fix yourself a drink or go to the loo?

          TV advertising is not as effective as it once was and people and many of us have now become inured to it. Sure you might pick up a few customers but as a proportion to the viewers of the program it would be quite small.

          • February 17th 2017 @ 10:31am
            Chris said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

            I have IQ and if I watch the ever diminishing list of shows on FTA, I record it and fast forward through the ads.
            My comment was related to the fact that both Ch 7 and Ch 9 paid ridiculous amounts of money for the sports they push and with the revenues drying up, you have to ask yourself why such high amounts?

          • Roar Guru

            February 17th 2017 @ 3:58pm
            Griffo said | February 17th 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

            I never thought FTA ad revenue was based off measuring how many people actually watched the add at 8:57pm last Wednesday night but the estimated audience for a time period (prime time, etc.). In this way the highest earning ad spot on TV is where the most viewers, or the particular demographic (20-24 year olds) were likely to watch…

            …though I’m probably wrong here.

            Ad revenue is failing due to decreasing numbers watching tv, and being made by online ad streams. A loss overall due to fragmentation of the viewing market with online options…

            • February 17th 2017 @ 4:32pm
              Chris said | February 17th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

              Hey Griffo – actually I know for a fact that the data exists to show who fast forwarded and at what time etc etc on the IQ box. (I used to work for a company that analysed all this type of data).
              We packaged up all of this and sent it off to whichever retailer was interested in it.
              Now whether the advertisers actually work off this type of granularity I couldnt tell you.

            • Roar Guru

              February 17th 2017 @ 10:45pm
              Griffo said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

              Chris – had a response but must have got lost…

              Basically I did know and expect that – subscription services work off accounts which are tracked much like IP addresses are for online streaming services.

              I was mainly thinking the old school teev, which isn’t tracked except by extrapolating a sample of the population.

              How much more are people watching online, or have more choice, than just a night in front of the telly…it’s those numbers that affect ads…

              It’s why I usually have the SBS streaming alongside the TV just so it counts 😛

    • Columnist

      February 17th 2017 @ 10:39am
      Glenn Mitchell said | February 17th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

      When I saw the headline Mike, I was hoping you weren’t referring to Donald Trump!

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