A-League All Stars are the key to Asian football

Paul Williams Columnist

By Paul Williams, Paul Williams is a Roar Expert


131 Have your say

    Whether we like it or not, football runs fourth in Australia when it comes to professional sports – behind AFL, rugby league and cricket. The battle for relevancy is real.

    Just look at how hard the A-League has to battle just to get column inches and TV time, or how the Socceroos’ must-win playoff against Honduras may not sell out.

    This isn’t Europe or South America, where the game just sells itself. It needs more.

    Our local on-field product is good – better than good in some cases – but in Australia, it seems that just isn’t enough.

    The fact is gimmicks work here. Just look at what happens every time a genuine marquee is signed – it’s a gimmick, but it works.

    The second part of the equation is our blatant disregard for anything that happens north of the Timor Sea. I’m the first to criticise our attitude towards Asia, and our view of it being a money pit to be exploited, but it’s an untapped goldmine that we are ignoring.

    Just look at how well the AFL has positioned itself with its now-annual match in Shanghai, turning the match into one giant trade mission and turning that into cold, hard cash – both from companies in China and from governments here. It’s no coincidence Malcolm Turnbull took the visiting Chinese premier to an AFL match earlier this year.

    All Star matches in Asia fit the culture perfectly. In the early years of the J.League they were an annual affair, and more recently involved matches between the J.League and K-League. It’s the case too in Southeast Asia, where visiting teams from Europe often face off against different All Stars teams.

    Create an annual or biannual tournament – played at the end of the A-League season, falling then almost in the middle of leagues on this side of Asia – involving the A-League, Chinese Super League, J.League, and Southeast Asian All Stars.

    Play three games across the week against each of the other teams and work with the respective leagues to develop the tournament into something worthwhile, involve a big marketing partner and have a sponsor put up prize money.

    But importantly, make it an event people want to watch, and one they want to attend.

    With the booming interest in the CSL, imagine seeing the likes of Oscar, Hulk, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Alexandre Pato and co. all on one team against the likes of Besart Berisha, Milos Ninkovic and Diego Castro. It’s salivating to think about.

    Rotate the hosting between the four regions – meaning a nation would only host it once every four to eight years, ensuring it doesn’t become repetitious – and turn it into a trade mission to which governments attach themselves.

    This is where football has a natural advantage over every other sport and it’s one we need to exploit.

    Just as importantly, it would be an opportunity for A-League clubs to broaden their own reach into Asia, building relationships with potential sponsors, sister clubs and expanding scouting networks. With the plus-one rule soon to come into effect, improving these connections is more important than ever.

    The AFC Champions League is a great competition, but sadly one Australians haven’t embraced in our 11 years of participation. This can be an entry point to Asian football for Aussie fans, showcasing the very best of football in our region, and becoming a showpiece event – something we are sorely lacking.

    It might be gimmicky, but so what? If football is ever going to challenge the other sports, we need to be brave and think outside the box.

    So bring back the All Stars!

    Paul Williams
    Paul Williams

    Paul Williams is an Adelaide-based football writer. Specialising in Asian football, he writes about the beautiful game for a host of publications including SBS The World Game, FourFourTwo Singapore and Al Jazeera, and is a regular guest on the Daily Football Show. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulWilliams_85.

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    The Crowd Says (131)

    • November 8th 2017 @ 7:32am
      LuckyEddie said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      When a journalist believes that the AFL has a foothold in China, it’s time for him to get a new job. Footballs situation is simple the three codes you named AFL, NRL and Cricket are owned by the media, in particular FOX. Now a lot of money has been spent by FOX and Co on those codes to the point that they run those games. You might see people from those codes in front of the camera but they are just a front as the money men run the show, Now as for poor media coverage and a lot of negative media that’s pretty easily explained. All major companies look out for not only their product but any that could challenge their product/s. Once identified the next step is to buy that product, IT companies like Google do it all the time. Next step is to usually shelve the opposing product you have bought and then back to your business. FOX bought football in Australia because it was the only sport that could with the correct marketing and management challenge the three the journalist named. Effectively FOX owns football and does with it whatever it likes e.g. stupid kick off times. A prime example is in Brisbane where the FOX newspaper the Courier-Mail either ignores football or finds a negative to run. Why does the company that owns football never promote it and ignores it, The same with 99% of the TV news coverage with the worst is probably, ‘their ABC’. FOX bought football to ensure it never succeeds because they have their major products in AFL , NRL and cricket. FOX and the media will ensure it stays exactly where it is by ignoring and not promoting it. What can be done is simple? First is the obvious and that is put a football person in charge of football!!!!!! Second is use the huge untapped power we have in registered player etc. to force the politicians to look after football. That is for example, we have a close State election in three weeks in QLD and the FFA should going to each party asking about a Roar stadium and better field for the clubs. The Cowboys did this in the last Federal election and got a new $200 million stadium. Good on them and that useless FFA has to get political and use our massive numbers to put pressure of parties. Once you get the best deal from a party get it out to all clubs, members and football family which party is going to do something for football. If FFA sit back the pollies, FOX and media will just treat us with comtempt. Maybe we need Football deplorable to get the message across. The other thing is the WC sure do our best but if we make we get three days media coverage every four years. The a-league is the bread and butter of football and thats where the money needs to go. Cut out the youth tours overseas and get money used to promote HAL. Look who cares if we make the u18 WC quarter finals, the media would not even mention it. Back to the main one get a football person in charge of football and get political otherwise pollies etc. will just treat us like a joke, FOX and the media already do that. OH and if all the football fans cut the FOX cord today you would see some action. Why pay money that mostly goes to AFL, NRL and cricket and treats the HAL , mens and womens as a joke.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 7:50am
        chris said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        I agree with most of what you said Eddie but I do think Fox does a good job covering football.
        And yes its about time we started converting the playing numbers and fans of football to put pressure on govts at all levels. In my local area we recently lost a football field to a cricket club who plonked a pitch right in the middle of the oval. This club has money and obviously some clout because it had been a football field for years.
        Whilst teams are allocated 1/2 or 1/4 of a pitch to train on, we have a cricket club taking over a field that they only use once a week.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 9:08am
        Andrew said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Wow, just wow. One of the most long winded pieces of garbage ever written on this site right there
        Fox has a longer relationship with the NRL in particular and also with the AFL and cricket to a lesser degree. SO yes it ha slong established much of its strategy around these sports.

        But why you think it would be in Fox’s interest to spend millions of dollars on the coverage of a sport (football) if not to make money from it? You really think they are trying to bury it? How does killing one sport create more subscriptions for the other sports?

        If they are all about rugby league, why are they not showing any games live or on replay of the current World Cup?

        Fox took on the A-League because they thought the mass participation in the game would turn into viewers, it didn’t. It never has. Blame kick off times if you like. Fans of the NRL and AFL will tell you they don’t like the kick off times in their sports either – so it isn’t a conspiracy to bring down soccer.

        Throw out the usual whinge about negative press, because the Premier Media / News Limited aligned papers never run negative press about other sports…

        Let me put your mind at rest – Fox don’t run rugby league or the AFL, Infact in the case of both sports the sport REQUIRES them to cover the lower tier games which they wouldn’t cover if they didn’t have to. To cover those lower tier games costs them over $200k per game and they drive next to no subscriptions. So they would be happy to cut those.

        And the FFA do lobby government – they have staff and contractors on retainer doing that job at Local, State and Federal Level. They have alot of success at local level – because lobbyist can refer to participation numbers, so Council’s support them by giving them more fields and fields of higher standards. They have had less success at Federal and State level with Stadium builds because the ask is much, much greater and they have very little data to support and justify the spends that would turn into votes for them at elections because all the data and history is very clear – the participation numbers don’t correlate with the interest in the professional game in this country.. And that is the way it is.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 10:49am
          chris said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          “They have a lot of success at local level – because lobbyist can refer to participation numbers, so Council’s support them by giving them more fields and fields of higher standards.”
          Oh really? I know of many clubs that turn players away because they can’t accommodate them. A club that has more than half a field to train on is doing very well. I see league & union fields that remain dormant, lights blaring but not a player in sight, while the football fields cram dozens of players onto one field.
          You should hear the cricket lobbyists at local council meetings wanting “their” grounds earlier in the season so they can prepare their wickets. Just about every ground is scarred by a wicket running through the middle of it.
          So what were you saying Andrew?

      • Roar Guru

        November 8th 2017 @ 9:34am
        Rick Figjam said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Please use paragraphs.

        Someone might read it then.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 9:52am
          LuckyEddie said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          Sorry if your mind cannot comprehend a document. Maybe next time I’ll put in pictures to help you out. Seriously I have been a member of Roar from day one and up here we put up woth no coverage from the media and a football stadium that is wrecked by pop concerts. We have Bondall arena for concerts. Still might be worth a read and I’m quite happy to get critical feedback but spare me the English lesson.

          • Roar Guru

            November 8th 2017 @ 9:58am
            Rick Figjam said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            No seriously, you should really use paragraphs, especially with the amount you have typed.

            I read most comments here, but I skipped over yours (like many others will too). It’s quite hard to read on a computer, laptop, iPad, smartphone etc. in its current format.

            Just trying to help.

            • November 8th 2017 @ 1:14pm
              LuckyEddie said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

              OK Rick I’ll take your advice on the paragraphs.

          • November 8th 2017 @ 11:25am
            Onside said | November 8th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            I enjoyed reading your post LuckyEddie. Agree or disagree ?, doesn’t matter.

            In the spirit of things , perhaps a few paragraphs, but hey, don’t stop writing.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 10:31am
        spruce moose said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        “Next step is to usually shelve the opposing product you have bought and then back to your business. FOX bought football in Australia because it was the only sport that could with the correct marketing and management challenge the three the journalist named.”


        If you think Foxtel have a spare $56 million a year to just throw around purchase a product and then park on the shelf, you are a deeply, deeply deluded individual. This is a TV network that is feeling a massive pinch from online streaming services, a marked slow down in new subscribers and lost the rights to it’s summer babies – the EPL and the BBL.

        And I echo Rick’s comment – please use some paragraphs in future. A basic commitment to good writing never hurt anyone.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 10:50am
        Redondo said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report


        The ABC has no commercial reason to kill off Football, yet you say they are the worst offenders in terms of covering Football. How does that fit with the rest of your conspiracy theory?

        • November 8th 2017 @ 1:40pm
          LuckyEddie said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          It’s no conspiracy theory it’s just basic big business, buy out any opposition to your products. The big tech companies frequently buy out new small companies to keep market control. As for the ABC TV well for some reason they have trouble even telling viewers the game is on let alone covering the game. In the end their ABC hardly matters anymore. I come back to the newscorp (fox) paper in Brisbane the Courier-Mail and the fact that although they own football they hardly even mention it even when the AFL and NRL are in their off season. If they genuinely like the product of football and want it to reach great heights why do they fail to cover it and basically ignore it. WHY?

          • November 8th 2017 @ 3:27pm
            spruce moose said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report


            Because talking about AFL and NRL sells more papers. How do they know this?

            By tracking the clicks of their articles.

            Don’t you get your little dilemma with your conspiracy theory? You rail against mainstream media for not giving you what you want, and when it does…where are you? Boycotting it. So they just see a low click rate instead.

    • November 8th 2017 @ 7:34am
      Fadida said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      I can’t see it working. Football fans that aren’t going to the A-league are no doubt watching the big European competitions. Eurosnobs not only snub the A-league but Asian ones too

      • November 8th 2017 @ 10:05am
        LuckyEddie said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        You are 100% correct Fadida and we saw it in Brisbane when the Liverpool circus came to town. The contract FFA signed basically handed the money and stadium to Liverpool to make some easy money. The Roar members in return for supporting HAL were offered nothing in regards to their season seat or any sort of preference in getting a ticket.. The event goers and the Liverpool fans in Aus got precedence over the Roar faithfull and have never returned to support Roar in the league. Roars membership dropped about 50% after that debacle and most have not returned. The Euro snobs rocked up to see Liverpool and hear that song and donated to the EPL club and sadly it set the Roar back rather than help. The call from the FFA was that these games will attract people to HAL. Well it not only did not get new fans to the game it cut the Roar membership. People have had 10 years to go to HAL yet will pay big money to watch a friendly and then they disappear until the next event.

    • November 8th 2017 @ 7:55am
      Paul Nicholls said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      Thumbs down from me. There’s not a whole lot of interest in all stars games against quality opposition – there’d be zero interest to see a bunch of over-the-hill overpaid hacks from the Chinese Super League.

    • November 8th 2017 @ 8:41am
      Waz said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      A big ✔️ to the author for writing something relatively new.

      I don’t dislike the concept but I don’t see it working in football; the “all star” concept really works best in sports where there is lack of competition eg NBA

      Football gets its relevance from healthy international competition even if our politicians can’t see the importance of that. Replace “all stars” with a rotating Asian 4 Nations competition with the Roos v Japan, Korea, and China and it might fly.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 9:54am
        LuckyEddie said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Good points but not much will work if the media go out of their way to ignore your concept. The media is heavily invested in cricket, AFL and NRL and will not embrace anything that challenges their investment. Coke does not advertise pepsi.

      • November 10th 2017 @ 7:28pm
        Matsu said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

        This comment actually should serve as a major wake-up call.
        About six years back, Australia was invited to participate as one of the four teams taking part in the East Asian Cup. Its been a while but iirc North Korea had been behaving badly and was barred from the competition late in the day, so Australia was invited to step in to the vacated spot. The competition went very well (even though Oz struggled a bit, they got a good run-out).

        For those who are unaware, the EAFC includes Japan, the Koreas, China, Mongolia, Guam, and not much else. Guam, Mongolia and NK regularly vie for the fourth spot with Japan, S Korea and China being automatic entrants. Due to both timing (usually December or January, when Euro leagues are still in action) and location, the participants are almost always domestic league stars.

        Following Australia’s enthusiastic participation, Japan proposed (and China and S.Korea expressed modest support for the proposal) that Australia join the EAFC. This would give them a near-certain spot in the competition, every two years.

        What happened? You tell me. The proposal was rejected out of hand by FFA. Ive yet to hear a convincing explanation for why . . . .

    • November 8th 2017 @ 8:51am
      Nemesis said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      If anyone thinks Eurosnobs & event-watchers are going to be interested watching J-League All Stars vs CSL All Stars vs ALeague All Stars they are seriously delusional, or they have absolutely no understanding of the mind of the Eurosnob.

      Eurosnobs are not football fans, they’re celebrity fans. If Messi, or Ronaldo, went to play CSL or MLS the Eurosnobs would disown them as “too old, not good enough”. The vast majority of people who turn up to watch EPL clubs touring Australia wouldn’t have a clue about Hulk because he didn’t play EPL. They wouldn’t care any more about Oscar, or Tevez because they don’t play for clubs who feature prominently on their PlayStation.

      We already have 6-9 Asian Clubs visiting Australia each season. The competition is called the Asian Champions League. Proper sporting competition; not a gimmick.

      For the casual Aussie “sports fan” who wants to be entertained by gimmicks, like they are when they watch TV or a film, my advice: go to BBL, AFL, or watch Ninja Warrior because ALeague is not, and it never will be, for you.

      The AUS football community has made it perfectly clear what needs to be done to improve their engagement with club football. Rather than ridiculous ideas like this, how about we just listen to what potential fans actually want?

      • November 8th 2017 @ 9:27am
        Waz said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        I don’t know whether you got to read this yesterday:


        Supports an awful lot of your thoughts over the last year

        • November 8th 2017 @ 10:10am
          Nemesis said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Thanks for the link. What a terrific piece – exactly what I’ve been saying for a long long time.

          And, no… I’m not Ben Groundwater. 🙂

          • Columnist

            November 8th 2017 @ 10:23am
            Mike Tuckerman said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            Ben is a fantastic writer and a massive Socceroos fan. And he’s not wrong about Australia’s place in the world of sport.

            • Roar Guru

              November 8th 2017 @ 10:55am
              Rick Figjam said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

              It’s easy to see why you guys would be impressed with it. Talk about selective stats coupled with a high level of resentment.

              I especially loved the part where Mongolia and Iceland are far superior sporting nations. Just beautiful stuff, along with the Kiwis because of the All Blacks.


            • November 8th 2017 @ 1:22pm
              Casper said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

              So Mike, what is Australia’s place in the world of sport? Top 10, top 20, top 50?

              Name a couple of countries that are far superior to Australia when it comes to attendances and performances?

              The Brazilian soccer league averages about the same as the A League. This is a country with 200m people.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 1:28pm
                spruce moose said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

                I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m sure Ben can write up a list.

                Today’s example: http://www.traveller.com.au/tips-for-shopping-overseas-10-ways-to-avoid-getting-ripped-off-when-haggling-gzgmfu

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 1:48pm
                Rick Figjam said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report


              • Columnist

                November 8th 2017 @ 3:21pm
                Mike Tuckerman said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

                Germany and Japan are way more into sport than Australia, both in terms of participating and spectating.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 3:35pm
                Casper said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

                Mike, I don’t know about participation as I’ve never lived in those two countries.

                Looking at the spectating figures available, it appears that Australia surpasses both of them when you take into account our smaller population and greater land mass. Also more competition in Oz.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 3:29pm
                Rick Figjam said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

                What metric are you using there, Mike, or did you just make that up?

              • November 8th 2017 @ 3:39pm
                Nemesis said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

                “Mike, I don’t know … as I’ve never lived in those two countries.”

                And, therein lies the problem with so many Aussies – totally ignorant about other cultures & life in other countries, but never embarrassed to express their ignorance again & again.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 3:56pm
                Rick Figjam said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                Well this will be good. I’m looking forward to hearing about Mikes experiences living in both Japan and Germany.

                Never met anyone who’s lived for extended periods in both these countries.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 4:15pm
                Nemesis said | November 8th 2017 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

                “Never met anyone who’s lived for extended periods in both these countries.”

                That probably reveals a lot about your business & personal networks. The majority of people within my networks have lived and worked, for at least several months, in multiple countries across Europe, Asia & North America.

                I lived & worked in Tokyo for 10 months just after 2000 & have spent huge amount of time living & working in Germany.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 4:35pm
                Casper said | November 8th 2017 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

                Nemesis – stop embarrassing yourself. Everyone on this tab knows that you previously had the username of Fussball. We all know that you haven’t recently come back from living in Europe. We know that you were a rabid Hawthorn supporter, and we know that you never played state league soccer.

                Give it up mate and stop living in dreamland.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 4:24pm
                Rick Figjam said | November 8th 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

                Wow you know people who have worked several months in other countries. I’m impressed with your network.

                A whole 10 months did you say in Japan?

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 6:38pm
                AdelaideDocker said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

                “And, therein lies the problem with so many Aussies – totally ignorant about other cultures & life in other countries, but never embarrassed to express their ignorance again & again.”

                Nem, that’s rubbish. Australians are among the most travelled people in the world. Yes, some are completely ignorant, but that’s unfair to label Australians generally as ignorant. Besides, Caspar was honest in saying he hadn’t lived in those two nations. That’s not ignorance, that’s just simply not knowing. If I asked you what you thought of sports participation rates in Kyrgyzstan, and you didn’t know, you wouldn’t be ignorant in the slightest. You just wouldn’t know. And that would be okay.

                Also, knowing people who lived or worked in other countries isn’t as special as you’re making it out to be. I’ve lived in another country in my childhood. Hell, I was overseas for the first time as a five-month-old. And will be overseas for an extended period of time (providing all goes well) next year for uni. My dad has done, in recent years, months-long work in other nations. Multiple direct family members live and work in Europe. Are my connections impressing you, yet? 😉

              • November 8th 2017 @ 6:48pm
                Sam said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

                Imagine being invited to a dinner party……. and Nemesis was there. Long Night!!!!!

              • November 8th 2017 @ 6:47pm
                Nemesis said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report


                1) If you asked me what I thought of sports participation rates in Kyrgyzstan, I’d say I don’t know & I wouldn’t be ignorant & diminish the sporting culture of that nation.

                That’s the difference between the bogan Aussie & the Aussie who is respectful of other cultures

                2) I never said knowing people who lived/worked overseas was special. Disnick said he’d never knew anyone who lived/worked in Japan & Germany & I found that extremely strange since the majority of people I know have lived/worked overseas.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 6:52pm
                AdelaideDocker said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

                Nem, most of that is fair. I agree, largely. But not one person in this thread has been “diminishing the sporting culture of any such nation”.

                Also, on a sort of seperate topic, where in Germany did you live/work. There’s a good chance I’ll be doing an exchange there next year and was curious if you had any thoughts. Could be thoughts about the sporting culture, if you wanted to stay on topic!

            • November 8th 2017 @ 2:50pm
              Post_hoc said | November 8th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

              amazing AFL fan boys obsessed with crowd averages. I guess when you have nothing else that is what you have to go with

        • November 8th 2017 @ 11:01am
          Fadida said | November 8th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          Great article! I will disagree on one point though, missing out on the WC in 98, being at the MCG on that fateful night was earth shatteringly depressing. I still feel sick when I see Bosnich beaten for the equaliser.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 12:50pm
          Onside said | November 8th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          Good story Waz. Gippsland ? must be the long way home for you

    • November 8th 2017 @ 9:16am
      Caltex TEN & SBS support Australian Football said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      @Lucky Eddie, great post!!!! (Sorry the reply button is not working)

      • November 8th 2017 @ 10:17pm
        c said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

        a big ✔️ to Lucky Eddie