The conclusion of season 12 of the A-league is almost upon us, and it looks like it’ll be a four-horse race to win the toilet seat, with Sydney FC, the Victory, Wanderers and Brisbane looking the teams most capable.
The Sky Blues are heavy favourites, after wrapping up the Premiers Plate early. City and Perth have a sniff, but they’re starting from a long way back.
On field, it’s been a mixed bag this season, which started with a bang, with Tim Cahill and co. lighting up the Melbourne derby in Round 1 with an absolute screamer.
But since then, most of the clubs, with the exception of Sydney and to a lesser extent Victory, struggled to find form and consistency.
Cahill and City rally dropped the ball after lifting the FFA Cup, and unfortunately the ongoing soap opera at FFA HQ has taken over the tabloids and hogged what little space the game gets in the media.
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Unsurprisingly, the numbers have remained strong, with crowds on par with last season, and TV ratings slightly up. The league has a rusted-on core of fans, which is great to see, but that has to grow.
Expansion, a national second division to eventually allow for promotion-relegation, allowing for a proper football economy and transfer system in the domestic game, the W-League, youth development and growing football’s infrastructure should no longer just be talking points. It’s now time for action on all these points, but the sport’s chiefs are too busy worrying about their level of control, and politics in the boardroom.
Make no mistake, the current wrangles are all over power and money, with plenty at stake. The game is at a crucial juncture in its lifecycle, and the next decisions are crucial, especially at the top level.
For even the most diehard fans (myself included) the current impasse has heavily influenced interest in the competition. As I mentioned earlier, this season started with a bang, but once again self-interest and self-preservation have taken over at board level, and the current issues have single-handedly taken the focus off the pitch, not just in the media but also in the terraces.
Unfortunately, I have seen this movie before, and it’s a terrible ending every time, with the game itself ultimately being the biggest loser.
So I say to the FFA, sort your stuff out ASAP. Be inclusive, the days of dictatorships are behind us, if we want the game to grow and move forward we need all facets of the game – A-League clubs, the NPL, state federations, women’s football, futsal and beach football, referees and the players union – all pulling in the same direction. And this needs to happen sooner rather than later, otherwise they risk alienating supporters, who won’t stick around forever with all the current issues at play.
Our game has always had the numbers, and they are its greatest strength, but it’s never quite managed to turn that into a huge positive for the sport.
Quite the contrary, it’s actually worked against the game time and time again, with too many people putting their own needs before the needs of the game. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself yet again.