The A-League has finished for the season but the chatter among fans about where to take the beautiful game is never ending.
The talk around football and particular the A-League takes on greater importance as fans look to the FFA for direction in regards to expansion, promotion and relegation.
The FFA has taken an overly cautious approach which has drawn the ire of many, but the approach of people outside the game who want to be involved show the potential of our code.
It’s this potential that gives football the opportunity to become our true national code.
The game has no state boundaries blocking its ascension and has always welcomed every race, creed and gender to its flock. The fact that other codes are scrambling to introduce women’s leagues and celebrate diversity show how far behind the world game they really are.
The game that used to be ridiculed now has its competitors scrambling to promote corporate controlled friendly images that say, “look, we cater for x, y and z”.
Football has been doing this all along!
However, before this potential can be reached, we need to sort out what football actually is in this country. I love the game but it suffers from a cringe-inducing identity crisis that it has yet to truly solve.
This identity crisis can be seen in the little things. A-League fans hold up winter scarves like an old European club – in the middle of summer.
We have ‘active supporters’ who sing all game, yet hand out song sheets to members like a school choir. We have people marching in the streets to the game singing “we are the famous [team]” when their club has existed for less than five years. We both praise and admonish active support in the same breath.
We seem to crave the tradition and atmosphere of the European clubs we all used to love and support as a kid, but attach them to corporate created teams that track support in spreadsheet data rather than community support.
All of this could be fixed if we decided what model to follow.
Do we follow an American model or a European model? An American model opts for franchises rather than teams. They exist and can be transferred at the whims of the owners who have deep pockets and willing councils to help fund stadium builds.
The European model opts for clubs who have a firm footing in their community, forming the nucleus of a group of people. It favours promotion and relegation, although lately it could be said it has come under the influence of wealthy backers who only see the club as their own private plaything.
All the discussions going on in football play an important part in shaping its future. If we get these discussions right, its future is limitless.