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Another month, another FFA scheduling gripe

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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48 Have your say

    As the moon plods through its celestial schedule, filling up and slimming down, ticking over through the months, so too do the ebbs and flows of the A-League.

    In football, international breaks come and go to a pre-set schedule as well, and yet – not unlike the lycanthropes among us, or those who enjoy (or suffer through) particularly hirsute genes – there are some who can’t help but get riled up, howling in anguish, tearing at their bodies as the bilious fury rises.

    Like the new moon, it feels as though FFA scheduling gripes pop up every month or so.

    Last month it was Brisbane’s Asian Champions League mauling that prompted quivering pointed fingers – John Aloisi’s, in fact – all of them trained on the lumps, scuffs and scratches on the Roar squad, and those were just the injuries inflicted on their egos.

    This month it’s the Wellington Phoenix, who once again have been hamstrung by the schedulers, playing as they will be on the 25th of March shorn of half a dozen of their players.

    All-Whites manager Anthony Hudson named a full strength squad this week, in preparation for his team’s World Cup qualifier against Fiji on the 26th.

    To add further absence to absence, Roy Krishna has also been called up for Fiji, meaning he will miss the Phoenix’s match against Western Sydney as well.

    The Phoenix fans, incredibly, are actually pleased. They were expecting to lose more men. Kosta Bararbouses was not called up, leaving the winger no doubt disappointed but his team somewhat relieved. Barbarouses’ spot has been filled by Melbourne Victory’s Jai Ingham, with the All-Whites apparently keen on luring him into representing them at national level, not Australia, a country for whom he is also eligible.


    Still, Vince Lia, Shane Smeltz, Glen Moss, Thomas Doyle, Michael McGlinchey, and the aforementioned Krishna will all be absent for the crucial tie against Newcastle.

    With the Western Sydney Wanderers barely holding onto sixth place, and the Phoenix and Newcastle both teams breathing down their neck, this is a grandstand fixture in the Jets’ and Phoenix’s seasons. The fact that scheduling made in apparent indifference to the New Zealand national team commitments has crippled the Phoenix’s ability to compete at full strength is – however mundane an insult at this point, for long-time Phoenix fans – fairly appalling.

    There aren’t that many interesting story lines to follow over these last five league fixtures. This final post-season spot is one of them, and if the intrigue is dampened by something as frivolous as poor scheduling, then it’s the figures in charge of such things that should be blamed for any loss of momentum heading into the finals.

    The Phoenix have been scorned for poor attendance this season, as a petering out of crowds following the surge that occurred in response to their license renewal has cast the club into alienation and despondence; in a tie so consequential, a bumper crowd might normally have been anticipated. But who can blame the Phoenix crowd for feeling a little peeved, and a little sluggish, when they know their chances have been handicapped so unnecessarily by the governing body?

    The Victory, who stand to lose Marco Rojas and Ingham to the All-Whites, as well as Besart Berisha (called up for newly formed Kosovo, how wonderful) and James Troisi (who deservedly earned a Socceroos call-up, and will likely make the 23-man squad to face Iraq), have also been affected by the internationals, albeit with much less to play for over their final five regular season games.

    That’s the entire starting front four gone, and Kevin Muscat must be exasperated, and more than a little annoyed, at being forced to reshuffle and reassess to such a degree in preparation for the March 25 match against fourth-placed Brisbane.

    Would anyone object to a break in league proceedings to accommodate for these qualifiers? New Zealand football fans, already living in a lonely place, straddling confederations between league team and national team, now have to temper their excitement at one of the strongest All-Whites teams in memory – Chris Wood, scoring for fun in the Championship, and West Ham’s Winston Reid would walk into the Socceroos – because their only professional league football club is being punished in the process.

    In the wider context of the A-League, with expansion on the mind, and the FFA congress about to be restructured, there are bigger issues to ponder over than this. But not many bigger issues in New Zealand, and if we want the Phoenix to be a successful, present member of the A-League over the next handful of years, then more support must be given to them.

    The Roar aren’t playing this weekend because they have an ACL tie against Kashima Antlers next week; allowances have been given to them, a team currently bottom of their group and with a goal difference of -6. An already beleaguered team, however, struggling to prove their validity, must play shorthanded.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (48)

    • March 11th 2017 @ 7:01am
      Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      This is a really badly written article, what point are you trying to make? Do you think there should be international breaks or not? And the article finishes with “a team currently bottom of their group and with a goal difference of -6” …. so presumably your argument is if a side isnt performing too well (Roar after 2 ACL games) it shouldn’t be given a break, but if a side is performing like Wellington (7th after 22 rounds and 9th after 27 rounds last season) they should be given a break?

      So your argument is that Sydney and Victory should be given an international break because they’re at the top but mariners and Adelaide should be made to play through because they’re at the bottom? It does provide some motivation to perform admittedly but does seem a tad unfair!!

    • March 11th 2017 @ 8:25am
      j binnie said | March 11th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      I think there is a much deeper reason for “scheduling”, good or bad, that Evan fails to mention in this article, and that is the influence brought to bear by those who are now “underwriting ” our top league. the programme schedulers of Fox TV.
      Not so long ago football fans,many of them “family men”, could plan their weekend well in advance, and, if so inclined, could go and watch their favourite team on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or evening.That “small” time slot was quite acceptable for it was in what was recognised as a working parent’s “time off”. All that had to be taken into consideration, was the life style of the district they lived in, this suggesting the “time -slot” be in that part of the weekend where there was a “vacancy” to be exploited ,the suggestion being early evening ,Saturday and Sunday.
      These “times” did not interfere with beach picnics for families or night life attraction for younger fans, no schools to be considered ,nor high business demands at work places.
      What do we have now. We have football being played almost every day of the week, the HAL, Thursday through Friday,the nation wide FFA Cup filling the void, and of course,international demands popping up every three months or so.not to mention “overseas” content.
      All great stuff for those aforementioned TV schedulers who have a plethora of games they can pick from to ensure their viewers can watch football almost,, due to popularity of the game around the world, at any time of the day. They, the viewer, can source a game on their TV almost at will..
      The opposing codes cannot do this of course,they tend to feed their fans “classic matches” from the last 20 years but in today’s society that does not go down well with younger fans.
      So we are left with the questions,who or what is really behind the ,some say “crazy” scheduling of football”???
      Is it the money, the Fox programme schedulers, the FFA, the perceived advantage over other codes,who knows?, but one thing is emerging, the decisions don’t always favour the cash spending fans who like to attend a game of football,when and where it is played. Cheers jb.

      • March 11th 2017 @ 8:39am
        Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        The author fails to address that very point – the TV execs refuse to let the ffa have international breaks and refused to allow the City/Roar game to be rescheduled despite it falling outside if ssfety guidelines. Can the ffa change that, who knows?

        • March 11th 2017 @ 11:03am
          Chopper said | March 11th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

          One would have to ask if a player received a career threatening injury played in a game that fell outside of safety guidelines would the FFA or Fox front up to pay the player and the club(for the loss of the player)when the insurance company refused to pay. The FFA have a responsibility to the health of the players in my opinion and if it came to a stoush with Fox they would win hands down purely on the safety aspect.

          The scheduling is more than this though and fans do appreciate the fact that there is ground sharing with other codes however more recently sports grounds are booked for concerts at a regularity which is damaging the use of the stadiums for their original intentions. This too could be a danger to a players safety and who would hold the responsibility for injury in this case?

          Back to the theme of the article which relates to international breaks along FIFA designated breaks. With a relatively young A League it is hard to suddenly stop the flow of football to the fans who require a regularity with fixtures in order to commit. This argument does not take any credence when you look at the mess the fixture list has been in this year. My own club Brisbane Roar went from three games (including an ACL game)at home in eight days to no home games in 28 days. So I personally think we should have a break in official FIFA time slots, and ensure ACL commitments are met with safe recovery gaps between fixtures, and ensure that fans get alternating home and away fixtures. People will say that it is too hard to do but if companies can promote all the things we like and can’t do without on facebook and our computers using algorithms then using the same equipment this should be a doddle.

          • March 11th 2017 @ 11:31am
            Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            it can be done and there are some constraints that need consideration, this article didn’t really explore anything and it looks like the authors hoping for a sensible set of comments to have the article make sense lol.

            You can’t ask any team with a squad of only 20 players to play 10 games in 37 days as Roar have done. That’s what it’s meant to be like at the END of the ACL not two rounds in. (bizarrely the author seems to be arguing Roar don’t deserve a break because of their ACL performances, it’s a bit like a boss saying “all holidays are cancelled until morale improves”??).

            In a perfect world we’d have international breaks but it’s not perfect; we could consider using split rounds and move affected teams out of the window; we could expand to 14 or 16 teamswhich would make this easier on Fox who could still have 4 games in a split weekend; we could even have a national second division that could backfill content – who wouldn’t tune in to see South Melbourne take on SU58? There are things than can be done but as usual there’s no discussion or debate allowed – the ffa say this is how it is so suck it up.

    • March 11th 2017 @ 11:23am
      Lionheart said | March 11th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

      I’m not sure the Phoenix deserve special attention in the scheduling because they’re NZs only professional team, which seems to be your logic. Roar’s case is pretty plain – 10 games in what, 35 days or near enough, is just crazy with the limited squad sizes in HAL, long haul travel and no surprise long injury list.
      Bigger squads is surely the answer, and some smart scheduling to boot for those teams with extra (ACL) commitments. Their present place on the ladder, mid-play, is irrelevant.
      International breaks? maybe, as the number of HAL players chosen for their national team increases.

      • March 11th 2017 @ 11:35am
        Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

        To make matters worse Roar have been scheduled to travel away to Perth twice and Adelaide once during their ACL. How can the people in charge of scheduling not think thats wrong – what did they think, “let’s get most of the games in NSWs out of the way before the ACL starts”???

    • March 11th 2017 @ 11:23am
      Midfielder said | March 11th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

      Like most journalist today and these are our Football journalist IMO the article is written in the negative and the easy target is FFA.

      Evan hand on heart mate not the other thing do you seriously think FFA do not understand the issues pertaining to international breaks and to you seriously think if they could have them without serious penalty in a revenue sense they would not have them..

      Evan the cause of the problem is in the following mathematical formula … write how to solve it and we will have a 52 team competition spread across 3 divisions..

      R = Revenue
      Q = Quality
      QP = Quality Player
      RT = Ratings
      DPT = Dollars paid per team.
      NT = Number of teams

      Ratings {RT} = Revenue [R}
      R = QP + Q + DPT + NT

      We all know how to solve OP, Q, DPT & NT ….

      Solving ratings [RT} will solve Revenue [R]

      Start writing on ACHIEVABLE ways to growth ratings… actually do some research and add to growth instead of being a winery by stander crying wolf … akin the Alan Jones school of constantly tell us the sky is falling…

      • March 11th 2017 @ 11:36am
        Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 11:36am | ! Report

        It’s easy Mid. Just break for international weekends like the rest of the football world manages to do.

        • March 11th 2017 @ 12:10pm
          Nemesis said | March 11th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          What price would you be willing to pay for international breaks?

          Suppose you’re CEO of FFA and FoxSports says:

          If you want international breaks, we’ll pay 10% less – so $5m less per season next season? Yes, or no?
          What if it were 10%?

          What’s the maximum haircut you’re willing to take to respect the Fifa International Calendar?

          • March 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm
            Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            But equally what if they were prepared to pay more, say 5% more?

            You can’t tell me that the Wanderers v Nix game with half the Nixs team away is worth more than if it were played a week later with two full strength teams?

            There is a scenario where we could be playing the top two teams with the winner going clear st the top – it will be better viewing for Fox to have two full strength teams rather than one with half the team missing e.g. It might have been Roar v Victory going for the title and with Rojas and Co missing its less of a tv spectacular no?

            Full strength, well rested teams will produce a better viewing quality – maybe Fox will pay more, don’t assume they won’t although I do take your point – the belief is Fox dictate this but let’s not assume they know what’s good for them and the FFA (yes them again) need to get into their ear and explain a few things.

            • March 11th 2017 @ 1:31pm
              Nemesis said | March 11th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report


              Are you honestly suggesting FoxSports would pay MORE for ALeague if we had International Breaks?

              Based on everything we’ve read & heard over the journey this is not the case. Foxsports wants content. And they want content every weekend.

              FoxSports don’t want gaps in their content calendar.
              FoxSports don’t care about what will be good for the game, or good for the players, or good for fans, or good for the competition.

              Simultaneous kick-offs on the final matchday are not allowed because FoxSports won’t allow it.
              We kick-off in the searing heat of summer at 5:00 pm because FoxSports want us to kick off then.

              • March 11th 2017 @ 1:41pm
                Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

                The surprising thing is you can come up with a solution to building stadiums for A League teams but not one idea for creating content to replace 8 hours of content that will see two teams (Nix and Victory) seriously disrupted and others moderately weakened.

                There are solutions to this, the ffa (because they are in sole charge of the league) just need to look for them.

                If anyone thinks Fox can’t be flexible ask yourself this:

                – how have we only got 2 games this weekend?
                – how have we only got 3 games next weekend?

                – how did the Jets/Victiry game get postponed to a Monday night?

                Fox will work with the code.

              • March 11th 2017 @ 1:53pm
                Nemesis said | March 11th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

                If FoxSports is a willing, flexible & accommodating TV broadcaster then let’s do it. So far, over 12 years, they’ve shown just the opposite.

              • March 11th 2017 @ 2:11pm
                Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

                agreed on that.

          • March 11th 2017 @ 8:45pm
            saul said | March 11th 2017 @ 8:45pm | ! Report

            foxtel no longer has the epl rights, they do not have the BBL highlights either, the FFA should take advantage of this and use it as leverage to get better deals. It’s lack of vision that’s destroying the game, the FFA need to stop acting like it’s 2007.

    • March 11th 2017 @ 12:46pm
      Midfielder said | March 11th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report


      There is only one maybe three other countries like the Australian sporting market … the US which we are most like, Canada & NZ…

      Its easy to wave away our sporting environment as non important and go ahead … but in the cold light of day the money men in Australia at this stage don’t agree.

      We have over 100 professional sporting teams that could be 140 within 5 years … we need ratings and rating will lead to revenue which will lead to more teams, P & R and international breaks…. do this before the revenue and we will be back at the NSL…

      Just consider

      RL today 16 teams … 5 years maybe 18 teams plus 8 women’s teams…
      AFL today 18 teams 8 womens teams… 5 years maybe 20 male teams & 16 female teams
      Netball today 10 teams… 5 years maybe 12 yeams
      Cricket … BBL 8 male and female teams … 5 years 10 male and female teams
      Basketball today 10 male and female teams [I think]
      Union today 5 teams… 5 years 3 teams… they are going backwards.

      So thats 93 professional teams per Football

      Add Football 10 Male and 10 female teams growing to 16 male & 12 female within five years

      Thats 113 professional teams today

      Five years possibly 145 professional teams… most likely about 130 ..

      This is the Australia market place …to assume as the number four just code after, cricket, AFL & League we have the power to delicate to the market place or bend the market place to our will .. is pure madness …

      Until we convert players to TV watchers we are going to cope it in the neck…

      Essentially recognise the issue rather than take the Alan Jones system of analysis … ie simply point at someone doing something and say its their fault

      • March 11th 2017 @ 12:53pm
        RBBAnnonymous said | March 11th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

        Can I point at someone not doing something and say it’s their fault as well?

      • March 11th 2017 @ 1:11pm
        Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        Mid, you haven’t done any analysis you’ve just listed a whole lot of statements and assumptions and used them to support your point.

        Taking international breaks will improve the product – less injuries through a built in break and full availability of international stars. Why wouldn’t Fox be interested in that?

        A statement you keep making is “Until we convert players to TV watchers we are going to cope it in the neck…” .,. ask yourself this, why would players commit to a competition that doesnt take international breaks? why would players come to see Roar/Victory in three weeks and pay full price when Victorys front four is away on international duty, Roars captain may be away and it’s only poor form and injury that sees Maclaren, Oar and DeVere playing and not in the Middle East!! And there is a youth training camp in Spain at the same time which may yet rob Roar of Brown, Borrello, D’aggers and Caletti. It’s entirely possible Roar could have been without 8 first team players. As it is Victory are taking the hit this time and they may still lose some youth players with the squad yet to be announced. Why would people follow a league that doesn’t take itself seriously?

        That’s just one game.

        why would anyone bother to commit themselves to a league that doesn’t take themselves serious enough to take international breaks? There is a problem converting players to fans and this is part of the problem – you can support a team all year but have your title hopes wrecked by international call ups at senior and junior levels. If you want players to commit – introduce international breaks

        There’s too much BS from people who are scared of their own shadows.

      • March 11th 2017 @ 8:53pm
        saul said | March 11th 2017 @ 8:53pm | ! Report

        The problem is there isn’t been enough criticism of the management of football in this country I mean When Lowy got appointed as chairman I was reminded of Phil Olivetti from we can be heroes “I mean this whole Australian of the year thing, It’s….. I mean, I laughed at the suggestion……………. when I nominated myself, when I sent in the form”

        funny meme

    • March 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm
      Midfielder said | March 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

      Yes and yes and yes.

      RBB no matter who is in charge and what form it takes…the issue of scarce resourses to feed to those in need. No one or single solution can change the Australian sporting market place.

      To grow rating we need to connect to the park teams via their associations.

      FFA have been woeful in this regard.

      • March 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm
        Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        The feedback I get from grassroots is that the FFA spends too much time looking after the Socceroos and the A League. How the ffa expect to convert players when they’re so disconnected is to be honest, a mystery.

        • March 11th 2017 @ 1:57pm
          Midfielder said | March 11th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

          FFS Waz I have been saying that for and YELLING AND SCREAMING THAT for years…

          Thats the BIG F*****ing thing I keep going on F****ing about … connect to the grassroots to improve the ratings.

          • March 11th 2017 @ 2:27pm
            Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

            But the ffa aren’t listening Mid, they treat grassroots as if they’re an audience for the Socceroos and the A League and they are NOT and won’t be/can’t be until their (grassroots) needs are addressed.

            The ffa ran “you’ve gotta have a team” (which had a really good marketing reach) and the response from grassroots was “I’ve already got one, it’s my local junior club” so it was well intended but it missed the mark and highlighted an unhealthy divide in our code.

            This is where the BS from the FFA and their “we’ve got the whole of game to look after” is actually alienating potential fans at this level – the ffa aren’t looking after grassroots, they aren’t helping at a local level when they could and should be.

            So here’s a tip – players don’t need to follow the HAL so they ffa should stop treating them as if they should and start figuring out how to help them. When that’s done they might start turning to the Hal but atvthe moment we have a big divide in our game between FFA/HAL and NPL and Grassroots – and one that’s getting worse not better.

            • March 11th 2017 @ 2:45pm
              Midfielder said | March 11th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report


              Please accept yes for an answer .. WTF are you arguing about…

              Go back over 9 years of this site and I have criticised FFA, SFC for not connecting with the grassroots…

              That IMO is the problem … most everything else is of little in the long run consequence …

              Where I have defended FFA is were IMO delusional assumptions are made about our market size and strength and therefore FFA can do X & Y … very similar to Rugby thinking in that you can change the top without changing the bottom… further that things that have been known about for 60 years and our best brains have not solved .. can be solved by posters who in the first instance are using what they want to happen as fact.

              On the spilt round… its still a round… further its not me .. I actually agree having a break is the right way to go.

              I repeat a very simple question …. please answer yes or no…

              Given all we know and FFA know about the importance of international breaks do you seriously think FFA agreed not to have them unless there was major revenue shortfalls.????

              • March 11th 2017 @ 2:53pm
                Waz said | March 11th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

                If it means less revenue Mid then yes, have international breaks. The game will benefit in the long term and the integrity of the competition will be protected.

                But for clarity, I do not believe revenues will fall if we introduce three international break weekends.

        • March 12th 2017 @ 7:57pm
          Euromob said | March 12th 2017 @ 7:57pm | ! Report

          The FFA is run by ANTI-Footballers. People who have no clue whatsoever about the true spirit of Football. They all need to be sacked and replaced by EUROPEANS who grew up with Football in Europe and who KNOW and LIVE the true spirit.

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