As an avid A-League fan, a true believer and a football tragic, even I can’t get into this season with the same level of interest or excitement of seasons past.
I still watch the games, but the hype just isn’t there. There’s something missing even though the level of football on offer is pretty good and the quality of many imports this season is right up there, if not the best ever.
But this season more than ever, the off-field issues have taken over the game and its headlines, and they’re turning the punters away, myself included.
While someone like me will never leave the game completely, I can understand exactly why many have chosen to do so this season.
If we’re honest, the writing has been on the wall for the last few seasons. Ever since the Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono show left town, things have been on a slight decline ever since, and this season that decline has reached its peak.
The blame rests on the shoulders of the FFA. Their inaction and infighting have reached new levels, and things are in danger of spiralling out of control.
They seem to have become the laughing stock of the Australian sporting public and are disliked by many in the Australian football community.
That’s a huge problem, and it’s one which is fast becoming irreversible. Change is needed and fast.
This list could go on and on, but let’s just focus on the main issues: zero marketing of the A-League this season, a lopsided governance model, and no action, visible plan or timeline for expansion or for a second division.
Many argue there is actually a resistance to expansion from the FFA, and yet they still expect the current A-League owners to keep investing in their clubs and the league. Something doesn’t add up there.
Things need to happen fast or we’ll be back to the doom and gloom of 2010-11, where average crowds were just over 8500 people per game and fans were dropping like flies. The league was almost on its knees and teetering on the brink.
While it’s not that drastic just yet, if the FFA doesn’t start more actively promoting the game and driving it forward, we may be at that same point in six to 12 months.
The disconnect and discontent within the game is at an all-time high and not just at A-League level. Someone better start listening before it’s too late.
This is my message to the FFA: the football community has had enough. Running the game should be an honour and a privilege, not a right. You are the custodians of the game, not the owners of the sport.
This is what needs to happen as soon as possible:
1. Marketing and advertising
A new $346 million TV deal was signed only last season. Surely they’re able to extract an annual advertising budget out of that total and put it to good use?
This is non-negotiable. Ten teams is way too few, another reason things are getting stale. New teams are a must as soon as possible, but at least build a plan and a timeline and share that with the clubs and the fans.
3. Second Division
This wouldn’t be such an issue if expansion had already happened. A plan needs to be put in place with a view to kicking this off in the next three years or so. A professional second tier would be ideal, but it could start as semi-professional.
4. Fix the congress
This is the single biggest reason why things have got to where they are today and why I’ve decided to write this piece. It’s had a domino effect, allowing the negativity to grow. The FFA need to cede some power and control or the game will go back to the dark ages.
5. A-League independence
This is the only way forward for the top tier. Set up an independent commission and let the clubs pay a yearly fee to the FFA, which in turn helps them run the game. But let the A-League run and fund itself. That is the way it will gain further investment and the best way for it to grow.
What do you think? Are you happy with where things are at? What would you change?