People are listing seemingly never-ending lists of problems with the A-League of late, so here are some solutions.
How do we turn football fans into A-League fans? Why do 90,000 turn up to see Liverpool but only 10,000 turn up to see Melbourne City? Why does the nation get excited about the World Cup but not the local comp?
It has to do with connection – for fans to be invested in a team, they need some sort of emotional connection. This is hard for many teams to develop as most are no more than 12 years old. It’s hard to have a rusted on fan-base when teenagers are older than the league.
One way to build this though is through grassroots football. Every team should be handing out free or discounted memberships to kids who play in the same catchment area.
It would be wonderful for a child to play football on the Central Coast during the day, then see their local side in a professional setting. That pathway will connect them to the game and build a strong sense of tribalism.
The lack of atmosphere at games is a simple matter of optics. Having teams in smaller stadiums increases the noise levels, which looks better on TV and draws more people to games, as it looks exciting.
There is no reason why Sydney FC can’t play games at Kogarah or Leichhardt for example. Both are close to the city, have transport links, with the latter has good food options.
Entering into a ground-sharing agreement with rugby league teams might result in a better rent deal. Both have the capacity to build a four-side seated stadium for a reasonable cost, with a maxed out crowd of 20,000, which is a must for our league.
There are teams in the lower leagues of England that have built affordable stadiums. These are by no means world-class, but they provide intimate atmospheres.
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The size of the deals offered to both the AFL and NRL convinced me of the need for a free-to-air broadcaster to take on the A-League.
Now I’m not so convinced.
The rapid uptake of digital streaming and the rise of a variety of online companies looking for increased content makes me feel football needs to jump on board.
Why can’t the league be innovative and sign up with Facebook, Netflix, Amazon or YouTube? Every other day I seem to read about those companies looking to usurp traditional broadcasters and bid to stream sporting rights. Being that they use customer data more effectively, they could provide better bang for an advertiser’s buck.
A home of football
Apologies to the other great cities in this country, but this ground must be in Sydney.
Almost half of the league itself resides in or near Sydney and most grand finals have been played there. NSW has by far the most registered players and most credible expansion bids seem to come from the Greater Sydney area (one vote Wollongong Wolves).
We could go into a partner payment plan with the NSW Government, with the goal of owning the SFS for example.
Establishing a base there and setting in stone the date of the finals – same day or date every year – will give a sense of ownership over the state of the ground and reduce clashes with rivals codes.
Offering reduced ticket prices to say an Adelaide vs Perth grand final could smooth things over.
Structure of the league
I like the idea of a ten-team Division 1 and 2. Having three lots of nine rounds satisfies the ’27 rounds’ AFC rule and gives teams a chance to get one-up on a rival should they stand at one apiece through the season.
The finals should be replaced with a all-league cup, which involves every team. Imagine if your side is out of the race for the premiership but manages at the end of the season to string together a few good weeks of football and end up with a trophy!
The FFA should go for this, as every team being involved would generate interest among more fans and provide more games to sell to advertisers.
The structure of the second division should be built along similar lines: ten teams with a one up-one down process. Relegation from the second division shouldn’t occur until it has firm roots. The salary cap should be half the size of Division 1 teams, providing incentives to move up.
Televising every game is a must and will avoid the problems that a drop in support for team that gets relegated will have on a city (e.g. if Perth gets relegated, the city can still watch their side on TV in the second division).