It’s the associations, it’s the associations

Midfielder Roar Guru

By Midfielder, Midfielder is a Roar Guru


45 Have your say

    When Bill Clinton was first running for president of the US against George H.W. Bush, a sign in his campaign headquarters read, among other things, “The economy, stupid.”

    Professional football in Australia has, in over 80 years, not been able to connect to its player base. The importance of connecting to the player base cannot be overstated.

    Why is this so? What could they do for football? Answers later.

    Three teams in my lifetime have connected to the associations and were amazingly successful. Perth Glory, The Northern Spirit who copied PG and KN United years before.

    No other team to my knowledge has connected to the player base in a meaningful way.

    Today feels to me like a bit of history with many people proclaiming new systems will be a fix all. P&R is the current flavour of the month with advocates believing it is the Holy Grail itself.

    P&R will be a huge part of our growth but we need to have people caring about football first.

    Ange Postecoglou said on Offsiders why he felt like an outsider, he said he wants to appeal to all Australia culture, not just the football culture which is what many in football believe.

    To my earlier questions, why they are so important and what can they do?

    The often quoted 18% player base connection to the professional game is the core issue. Increasing this will result in revenue gains the like we have never seen.

    I want to break this down to a single imaginary team and introduce Human Behavioural Science [HBS], techniques and models. Assume a team has 16 players with subs. Now apply the 18% factor and you get between two or three players per side interested in the A-League.

    HBS models will tell you two to three people in a group carry some but limited effect on group think and human dynamics.

    Growth the interest level to say 30% to 32% and you grow the group to five to six players. HBS models will tell you the growth in interest and with the number between five and six, there is a real possibility to grow this number to between 60 and 70% quite quickly.

    A connection of anything around 40% would generate rating and revenue we have never seen before, anything around 70% is mind-blowing.

    With 780 clubs and over a million players and arguably another 50,000 volunteers, add parents and friends and we are looking at maybe 2 million people.

    Each club has a president or chairman or similarly titled leader and a committee that runs the club. Canteen, training schedules, kits, dressing fields, arranging coaches and so on.

    The president and their committees are usually trusted by their player base and have some influence over this group.

    Marketers will tell you a recommendation from a trusted source counts very high with most people.

    Most of the people who work on committees are football folk, and most are willing to help so long as it does not create a huge amount of work for them.

    My frustration that FFA and the clubs have been unable or even tried to connect to this base, and that our media historically give credit for the player base to the professional game when it has always been the district associations and their park team and their volunteers who have grown the player base.

    FFA and clubs should go and ask the associations how they can help. The associations hold the keys to the gold mine.

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    The Crowd Says (45)

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 2:31am
      RBBAnonymous said | November 22nd 2017 @ 2:31am | ! Report

      Why would any club want to help the FFA or the A-league? There is nothing in it for them. I don’t think you have thought this through. Perhaps we can ask FIFA to sort it out when they come here in about 10 days.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:45am
        Midfielder said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        I think you are wrong …. many people at Park level would be willing to help as long as its not too much work.

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 7:20am
      Not so super said | November 22nd 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      They do t connect to the base because many play football because it’s easy and they can’t play the other sports that are tougher
      Maybe they like the gladiatorial aspect of some sports

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:00am
        Post_hoc said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        What a load of rubbish super.

        You pay your $300 or what ever to play a sport because you like that sport, if you don’t like that sport you go play non-contact versions of the sport you like, touch football or AFL 9’s.

        If they are really scared of being injured but like watching other people being injured,

        1) It says a lot about the mentality and development of those people
        2) They aren’t really passionate about a game they just want to see people hit each other, try MMA

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:14am
        Fadida said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Not so super, you are a half wit. At best.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:36am
        Nemesis said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        @Not So Smart

        What you say doesn’t stand up to basic common sense.

        If you are suggesting significant numbers from the grassroots football community are drawn to the Coward Punch Sports of AFL & NRL (we can ignore RU because that sport now ranks below badminton for participation at adult level in Australia), then it means the grassroots AFL & RL communities are not interested in elite competitions for their own Coward Punch Sports.

        You can’t have it both ways. The engagement numbers for AFL & NRL are not that big to suggest there is significant interest in those competitions from outside their grassroots communities.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:01am
          Billy said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          Ah Nemisis… You throw poop and call other sports names while your one and only sport has a professional athlete throwing a young boy to the ground… in a final… infront of a full house… oh wait… no that last bit did’t happen…

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:10am
            punter said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

            Yeah Run away son!!!

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:55am
            chris said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

            But why wasnt the ball boy doing his job! If he had been, the player would not have reached around trying to grab the ball causing him to fall over.

            • Roar Guru

              November 22nd 2017 @ 10:01am
              AdelaideDocker said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

              I somewhat agree with this.

              Ball boy blatantly wasn’t doing his job, but I reckon the force used from the AUFC player was verging on excessive. The lad shouldn’t have tried to hold up a game, the player shouldn’t have used as much force.

              Potatoes, potahtoes.

              • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:21am
                chris said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

                AD it surprises me that no one has picked up on why the ball boy turned his back hugging the ball. If I were his parents I’d be giving him a swift kick up the behind. Not that you can do that these days haha

              • Roar Guru

                November 22nd 2017 @ 12:13pm
                spruce moose said | November 22nd 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

                Yeah, but that can NEVER be an excuse for doing that to the kid.

                The kid is a kid, and more prone to making immature mistakes in big situations.

                The adult however, should be rational enough to respond in a more mature way.

                In the same way a player can’t tackle a referee when they make a mistake in the heat of the moment, the player can’t really be tackling a kid.

              • November 22nd 2017 @ 2:22pm
                Lionheart said | November 22nd 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

                the player can’t really be tackling a kid
                I only saw it on TV from two angles, but it looked pretty clear top me that Marrone was trying to grab the ball off the kid, quite understandable under the circumstance.
                What caused the kid to go down? It looked like a dive, but also understand that he be given the benefit of the doubt that he was knocked over.
                The kid should be banned, outright, from doing that duty again at any level, and the ball-boy mentor, whoever that is, needs to get active and teach these kids something about their responsibilities.

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 11:28am
            apaway said | November 22nd 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

            No Billy, the full house happened the week before in a real international game.

        • Roar Guru

          November 22nd 2017 @ 9:57am
          AdelaideDocker said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          For someone who seemingly takes a lot of offence at any and all criticism of football, you really do freely throw around terms like “coward punch sports” quite often. Strange.

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:01am
            Nemesis said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

            Wear the name with pride. The media certainly thinks Coward Punches are a point of difference that separates “real men’s sports” and sports that are too effete for Aussie males.

            During TV ads for State of Origin & AFL the Coward Punches are cheered & highlighted. So, why are you all bashful about it now?

            • Roar Guru

              November 22nd 2017 @ 10:07am
              AdelaideDocker said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

              If advertising for AFL highlighted coward punches, I’d be beyond horrified.

              I’m not sure, though, that you’re understanding what a coward punch is. It’s the type of things that kills people on a Friday or Saturday night out in the city. A coward punch is “made from behind, allowing no preparation or defence from the victim”.

              The AFL would never tolerate let alone advertise a coward punch. Hell, a player got suspended for 6 weeks this season for a similar, unprovoked hit that knocked someone out. What they celebrate are the “bumps and tackles” that are authentically part of the game.

              AFL and NRL (and RU) all feature big contact. It’s part of the game. But none of those sports would ever tolerate coward punches.

            • Roar Guru

              November 22nd 2017 @ 12:21pm
              spruce moose said | November 22nd 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

              Your so called “coward punches” have never existed or been tolerated in either the AFL or NRL. When a coward punch has taken place, such as Melbourne’s Danny Williams against the tigers about 12 years ago, they are suspended for 18 weeks and get a complete savaging in the media. Barry Hall will never be able to escape his past, and he is openly acknowledging on the embarrassment he has caused himself.

              Punches in the AFL are given a month’s suspension at the minimum, while in the NRL a player is sin-binned and then given a suspension. They are being eradicated from the game.

              You claim not to watch these games – ever – but yet to seem to be very au fait with how they are played and what the fans want?

              It’s also ironic that you make these comments considering the current Victory coach was the best exponent of outright thuggery football in Australia has known. A man who thought a good elbow to the face or a studs up tackle from behind was more effective than playing football. Did Muscat ever apologise or feel a sense of shame for his antics?

              • November 23rd 2017 @ 8:06am
                AR said | November 23rd 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

                For all this silly pettiness, it’s quite amazing that Fuss – who worships at the altar of Kevin Muscat – feels he sits on some high horse on the issue.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:52am
        chris said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report


    • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:02am
      Post_hoc said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      Midfielder, really interesting article, as a grassroots club committee member and a supporter of the A league and WS Wanderers member, I presume I am the type of person you see as an enabler. How do we progress this idea?

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:51am
        Midfielder said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        The first thing is to ask the park committees what they want.

        Some simple an easy things… Large A-League signs at canteens, at key times when the player base is together a recommendation to watch the A-League and giving reasons, hand out to each team some club flyers…

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:59am
          Post_hoc said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          Not bad, when i speak to my two teams after or before training, the examples I give, i try to use as an Australian base (rather than Messi or EPL), it works especially well for the girls, as I can point to Matildas that are 10 years older than some of these girls and it clicks.

          I try and make sure they know of any FFA cup games etc on. The issue we face though is the competition doesn’t line up, so difficult in that way. Early part of season with rego, works well. FFA should be using that time to promote A league, maybe register before X Date and get a child in free offer.

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:06am
            Midfielder said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            If most coaches did that and at key days like photo days, end of year, etc IMO it would have an effect and as I said it does not need to be a lot because once it gets to a certain size it takes off.

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:23am
            chris said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            Good points PH. I will do the same in future. Too many times I use Man City or Barcelona or Juve to make a point. I’ll use Sydney FC, MVC and WSW from now on : )

            • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:57am
              Post_hoc said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

              You have to be careful, got into strife (jovial way) from my Sydney FC loving relatives when I was talking to them about my practices and I told our striker to loom at Santalab LOL.

              But it was to illustrate his movement at the top of the box. The real issue is us losing players like Mooy and Maclaren (great poacher, great example of someone going in for the second and third phase balls)

              I need to watch more FC games as I don’t use their players as example, institutional bias maybe.

              The issue with EPL etc, most of the kids only see the highlights, so thats the goals, what i want to show them is the work off the ball players do, the runs that draw players but might not end in goals, the defending which NEVER makes highlights.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 11:01am
          Post_hoc said | November 22nd 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          Going to take a suggestion to our committee, FC v WSW fun skills session. The kids dress in either blue or red/black might work best for 6-7’s get some banners up from the club and have a small sided game, maybe some skills games, battleship vs submarines, british bulldog type games. Might be a good way to introduce new mum/dad coaches to some skill games for the 6’s and 7’s.

          We are lucky to have Steve O’Connor as the TD for our Association, it might be something we can get him to help with.

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:44am
      Nemesis said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Very useful insights, Midfielder.

      The key is grassroots engagement.

      If we analyse “regular engagement with ALeague” to be watching on TV, or attending, at least 1 ALeague match every week, then the data suggests we have around 10% of the football community engaging with ALeague.

      If we can aim to get 50% of this community to regularly engage with ALeague, or National 2nd Division; we will have more people engaging with the Top 2 Tiers of AUS football than engage with either AFL, or NRL.

      How do we do this?

      1) National 2nd Division
      2) Promotion & Relegation where every FC in Australia has the opportunity to aim to play in the top competition.

      Additionally, the competitions must be operated independently so that investors have incentive to put their hands in their wallets to extract maximum value from the Hidden Football Market.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:28am
        Midfielder said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report


        I think you have the structure right, IMO a tad to early to introduce… lift the 18 to say 24 or 25 % and then introduce new models and structures.

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:12am
      Andrew said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Players are a natural target market but I don’t think the connection is as black and white as you suggest.

      Many of the participation numbers include people who play 5-a-side. The choice to play 30 minutes of fast paced 5-a-side with your friends, vs committing to watching and investing in a team that plays a 90 minute, slower game.

      Me, I played soccer with a club for many years, when i moved inter state I trialed with another club and hated it. I realised the reason i played and enjoyed soccer was because I was playing with my mates. So i ended up going off and playing another sport that i had particularly wanted to play. Playing and caring about the game are two different things.

      The other point I would make is, if you spend some time around an aussie rules club, you will find most of the players have a favourite professional team, but often they are a wide range of professional clubs they support. And the key point; they cared about those teams before they joined the club, so they were already supporters of the professional game when they joined.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 9:57am
        chris said | November 22nd 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        So what should be done Andrew?

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 12:36pm
          Andrew said | November 22nd 2017 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

          I don’t have the answer. All I can do is speak as an example of the person Midfielder wants to connect with.
          I grew up playing the game, I stood behind the goal during the penalty shootout against Canada back in 1993 when a young Mark Schwarzer got Australia through to the next stage. I had the first media pass ever issued by the A-League, but the last A-League game I went to was Sydney v the Mariners in Oct 2009 (i know because I went to the NRL Grand Final that weekend also). I could name 7 or 8 players from the 93 national side and plenty from those sides of the early 2000’s but could name two maybe three players in the current squad.

          The A-League resonates with passionate fans and that is great, but it struggles to connect with more general sports fans. Why? Don’t know. Maybe more people watch the NRL so they can be part of the water cooler conversation on a Monday. Maybe our culture is that soccer is a sport we play and NRL/AFL is a sport we watch – because it is the way it has always been. Some fear the old NSL concerns of crowd violence and now as parents don’t take their kids along. A-League fans will tell you the atmosphere is fun and safe and it probably is as safe and fun as any other sport, but making cultural shifts doesn’t happen over night.

          All you can do is continue to improve the product, and get away from the old school ways of promoting the sport: Market in different ways – more short sharp online video content, get players infront of potential fans – do more to teach them how to engage with people both face to face and online. I think you need to get away from the concept of junior participation equates to fans and think broader about where fans can come from.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 10:30am
        Midfielder said | November 22nd 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report


        Its more than players…. its parents, friends, volunteers etc…. but where they all are, easy to get too and must have some kind of interest is the player base.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 11:15am
          Nick Symonds said | November 22nd 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

          “Many of the participation numbers include people who play 5-a-side.”

          I think that overall futsal has around 100,000 players in Australia. Twice that of Rugby Union.

    • November 22nd 2017 @ 11:20am
      Redondo said | November 22nd 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

      Midfielder – good article. I think you are on the right track – it’s all about critical mass.

      Everyone will remain anxious about the A-League until it is clearly self-sustaining. It’s close now but frustratingly not there. So connecting the grassroots is a great place to start – much more effective than expensive advertising.

      Once the A-League ireaches critical mass, the revenue will bring in better players, better coaches, more teams, more advertising and then more revenue etc.

      The A-League will never be the EPL but it could match the AFL one day.