How does the A-League really compare to Europe?

Anthony Del Vecchio Roar Rookie

By Anthony Del Vecchio, Anthony Del Vecchio is a Roar Rookie


132 Have your say

    Despite what many think about the A-League and it’s ‘standard’ of play, it is as big and successful as leagues in Europe.

    A-League attendance has been a big talking point this season, as it’s down by 13 per cent since last year.

    Is that any surprise without a marquee player and during all the conflict between clubs and the FFA? Let’s call this a bad year.

    Remember last season, when the Sydney Derby had 62,000 there and Tim Cahill’s goal in Round 2? Last season, the league was ranked 16th for attendance, just behind the Scottish League and ahead of the Portuguese, Russian, Belgian, Turkish and Swiss leagues – all respected for their standard of play.

    Locally, we had an average attendance of 12,300. By comparison, on average last season Croatia had under 3000, Czech Republic under 5000 and Greece under 4000 average crowds. Surprising, isn’t it?

    But in Australia, we play in huge stadiums that are made for other codes, rather than the boutique stadiums of Europe that create a fantastic atmosphere on a weekly basis. This has to be part of the thinking for expansion teams – boutique, 20,000 capacity, with a great atmosphere.

    In Scotland, Ross County have a maximum capacity of 6941 and even Bournemouth in the English Premier League have a capacity of just 11,360. (As a side note, it’s unclear why Australian governments insist on having 30,000-plus stadiums when A-League and NRL have small average crowds.)

    The other thing about our attendance is that we probably compare ourselves to the AFL and the Big Bash, which are both in the top-ten best attended leagues in the world on average.

    NRL, by comparison, claims around 14,900 as an average attendance for the regular season, which is propped up by Brisbane, Melbourne and North Queensland, who are the only teams that average over 16,000. I find it hard to believe that the Roosters average 15,400. Really?

    Another interesting aspect is the value of the Australian broadcast deal (including A-League, Socceroos and Matildas) of around $57 million per year.

    In Scotland, their broadcast is only worth $33 million. Poland is similar to ours, at around $49 million. It’s interesting that Turkey has low attendance but has a great broadcast deal, worth around $680 million per year.

    All of these leagues are bigger than the A-League – Scotland have 12 teams, Poland and Turkey have 18, which shows that we’re due for more teams in Australia (name another top-tier league with ten teams, I couldn’t find one).

    According to Deloitte, average revenues of Scottish, Danish, Polish, Swedish clubs are around $10 to 20 million, which is probably similar to Australian teams. By comparison, Adelaide sold for a reported $12 million last week to a Dutch owner and it’s one of the mid-sized clubs.

    In terms of players, there are a few comparisons. Bobo played 211 times in the Turkish Super Liga for Besiktas and Kayserispor, scoring 95 times (2.2 per goal in Turkey versus 1.4 in the A-League). Diego Castro played 260 times in La Liga, while Eric Bautheac played for Lille 41 times in Ligue 1 over the last two seasons.

    Ross McCormack was a big signing for Aston Villa from Fulham in the Championship in 2017. He scored every 2.5 games before joining Villa so he was a proven goal scorer at that level, before nailing 14 goals in 16 games this A-League season.

    Aaron Mooy dominated the Championship last season and has gone on to do really well in the EPL – just two seasons after leaving the A-League.

    All were or are good players in the A-League, but they’re not scoring hat-tricks every week. This suggested that the standard of play is pretty good.

    Either way, we might be being a bit hard on ourselves and those saying we’re going to collapse might dramatising.

    Our league is probably as good as many mid-sized European leagues. We should be proud of that, given it’s only 12 seasons old.

    Let’s continue to strive to be better, no question, but claiming the A-League is broken or not that good is plain wrong.

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    The Crowd Says (132)

    • Roar Rookie

      March 15th 2018 @ 5:20am
      Waz said | March 15th 2018 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      A good little article, well done.

      Football in this country has always worried what other people think about it, from the top at the FFA to some supporters, where how we compare to other codes seems important when really, it’s not.

      We compare well to many global football leagues, the standard of play is decent albeit “up and down” over the last few seasons, and the A League is generating $80m/year with well over half diverted by the FFA into other areas of the game. You don’t see that in many other countries.

      But we do have problems, and some big ones; the operating model is broken because the FFA says so, the way we govern our game is broken because FIFA say so, and issues abound between AAPFC, AAFC, PFA, Fans and a rather beleaguered FFA all of which need urgent attention because after 13 years of new football, our game remains divided!

      But after 41 years of trying, we do have a competition to be proud of.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 1:25pm
        Melange said | March 15th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        Waz, it would be interesting to see a similar article comparing problems other leagues have. Every organisation has its’ issues, nothing is run perfectly but I think we have such a huge focus on finding problems with our league.

        Contributors here regularly thank analysts for talking about games and tactics rather then writing another article on how things should be done. When we perform badly in the ACL Bozza says it’s the end of the world and our teams should be ashamed, however when we see the performance of Victory the other night, in one of the best ACL games I’ve seen and in my opinion a contest much more appealing then what Man U and Sevilla serve up – there is not a mention of it on the Roar.

        I think a lot of comments about the ALeague by sports journos and contributors here are made to prove points or push agendas rather then properly analyse. My first reaction to this article based just on the headline was here we go again, another contributor using a Europe comparison to show how bad we are. I was ready to come in and say I don’t care about Europe I love my league.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather our issues are sorted out sooner rather than later, I just like a little balance and perspective. But I think these problems are part of where we’re starting from with our league, a very unique and extremely interesting point in our sporting history where we can witness its organic growth from it’s infancy.

        I love seeing young players getting a chance as the competition expands, unkown gems like Broich and Berisha gracing our competition, the progression of new Australian coaches, the evolution of our teams as they learn to compete with the best in Asia, underrated players like Nabbout and Petratos developing into stars in their own right. the list could go on and on.

        I’m with you, after years of trying we have a competition we can be proud of. When that divide is removed imagine how much better it will be.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 1:43pm
          Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

          You need to check my comments on the victory the other night .

          The best attacking 15 minutes from any A league team this season.

          • March 15th 2018 @ 6:42pm
            Kris’s Aussie rules said | March 15th 2018 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

            If hawthorn had a team , the A league would be more interesting .

          • March 16th 2018 @ 9:06am
            Melange said | March 16th 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

            I’ll check em out Kanga, always admire your work, although I can’t agree that the Mariners are ewoks

    • March 15th 2018 @ 5:38am
      Nemesis said | March 15th 2018 @ 5:38am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article. I think many of us have been saying exactly the same thing for some time, but always good to have more people hammer the point home.

      Just one small point that is not correct when you say: “the value of the Australian broadcast deal (including A-League, Socceroos and Matildas) of around $57 million per year.”

      It is true, in previous broadcast deals, WCQs were bundled with the ALeague content.

      But, the current broadcast deal around $350M over 6 years that was negotiated 12 months ago is only for ALeague content.

      And, the deal with Foxtel only covers broadcasts within Australia. For broadcasts outside Australia, I think I’ve read the FFA sold the rights to IMG and they will onsell into various geographical markets & on various platforms (PayTV, Satellite TV, digital mobile, online streaming).

      The FFA’s current deal with Foxtel in Australia does not include National Team matches. The FFA does not own the TV rights for any AFC content (WC Qualifiers, ACL, etc.). Rather, all the AFC content rights were sold to The Lagardère Group and the the AFC pays National Federations a fixed amount, which is reportedly US$1 million for each men’s WC Qualifier.

      National Team friendlies the TV rights are owned by the host nation and, by convention, the host allows the visiting team to sell the rights within their own jurisdiction.

      Additional FFA content: FFA Cup, WLeague, international club friendlies are each sold separately.

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2018 @ 10:19am
        AdelaideDocker said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Just out of curiosity, do you think a broadcast deal should include all those additional matches (WLeague, friendlies, National team matches)? I feel as if it would make for a more simple deal.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 10:32am
          Nemesis said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

          “do you think a broadcast deal should include all those additional matches (WLeague, friendlies, National team matches)? ”

          How can the FFA sell assets they don’t own. I’ve no idea how the previous deals were structured, but I can only assume the FFA convinced World Sports Group (who previously owned the AFC content rights) to staple the ALeague rights in Australia, to the TV rights for WCQs in Australia. WSG seem to have a close relationship with FFA, so they must’ve agreed.

          I doubt the WLeague TV rights are worth much. And friendlies? Well, if I were a broadcaster I’d want to know what I’m paying for. And, friendlies are a huge unknown. Plus, Australia doesn’t play a huge number of friendlies in Australia so, the broadcast times are pretty unfriendly for viewing.

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2018 @ 10:44am
            AdelaideDocker said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:44am | ! Report

            I stand corrected! Thanks for that info.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 6:06am
      lesterlike said | March 15th 2018 @ 6:06am | ! Report

      Comparing average attendance of leagues with relegation to those without is ridiculous, especially when only corporate handpicked clubs can make up the top tier.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 9:28am
        Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        Can you elaborate a bit

      • March 15th 2018 @ 10:52am
        R King said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Based on what you’ve just posted Lesterlike, I think that paints the A League in a more favourable light.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 6:28pm
          Mark said | March 15th 2018 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

          Yep, own goal there of the most spectacular kind

    • March 15th 2018 @ 6:43am
      peeko said | March 15th 2018 @ 6:43am | ! Report

      nice, an article with a fresh perspective and good stats. with the Roosters their crowds are boosted by having the Anzac day match last year, a game in adelaide and a game in Gosford. their regular crowds are closer to 11k . Also the crowds arent held up by the 3 clubs you mention, apart from the Broncos the other top clubs have been the dogs, Rabbits and Newcastle recently

      i am not sure if the A league are playing in grounds for other codes (as you mentioned other codes crowds are similar) i think they just chose the biggest multi purpose rectangle stadium in each city. you could say a lot of NRL and union teams are playing at inappropriate stadiums too. I guess when the league begun it would have been embarrassing to play at more boutique grounds?

      on a more serious note, how do i get the My kitchen rules ads from popping up on the scree. thanks Roar for polluting my computer

      • March 15th 2018 @ 9:24am
        Onside said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        Google and install Ad Block. Its free. Will stop all popup ads

        • March 15th 2018 @ 9:39am
          peeko said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          thank you sir

          • March 15th 2018 @ 10:48pm
            Kris’ said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:48pm | ! Report

            I’ll take the win, but that was a pretty ordinary game of football. Meanwhile Gus mentioned the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ around 345 times.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 7:33am
      Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      The crowds are very good for a competition that as you say is comparable to countries like Greece and Czech Republic, now although the countries have smaller populations, they also have far less travel for away games .

      It is important to remember that the distance of travel in Australia makes going to an away game all but impossible, but for 2-3 gsmes a season .

      I like to compare where we are against Scotland, the Spl is completely dominated by 2 teams whose travelling crowds provide 3/4 of the support at away venues .
      The skill level in Scotland is not brilliant, but not mediocre either , the pace of the game in Scotland is faster , but you get that when you play in freezing temperatures as opposed to the heat of summer in Australia.

      Even watching the English championship at times , it’s not particularly skilful , what they do have in that level are better finishers and that is something that Australia as a football nation needs to continue to improve is the final third and finishing of goals .
      Apart from a Ffa who are trying to have the game played in front of nobody, the A league is going ok , but it’s time to expect immediately.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 11:52am
        Lionheart said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:52am | ! Report

        I’d probably add better coaches too. I know it’s difficult to judge but we seem to have a dearth of local coaches, and none really stand out.
        Referees could be added too – ours are not so good imo, over officious. In that regard, I’d rate East Asia refs very highly, which then made me wonder why the article didn’t consider our own region, AFC, in the comparisons. Are we going to be left behind by Korea RoK, China, Japan, Thailand and co?

        • March 15th 2018 @ 12:00pm
          Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report


          I think it’s urgent that Australia play against the likes of Vietnam and south east countries regularly. Every off season friendly

          Vietnam gave the Aussie’s a lesson in football at the recent under 23 tournament.

          Also the need for Japanese and other Asian coaches to be brought into our development is crucial or I see Australia struggling in Asian qualifying very soon

          We can’t stand still in this region.

          • March 15th 2018 @ 12:45pm
            Nemesis said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

            Yes. Good point about Vietnam. In fact ASEAN is improving at Youth Level. Good rivalry building.

            2016 AFF Championships, Vietnam beat AUS in the Groups, but Australia got revenge beating Vietnam in the Finale. Was a terrific match. Vietnam went 2-0 up; then 3-1 up with 12 minutes to play. AUS equalised in stoppage time & won on penalties.

            2017 AFF Championshp, Vietnam turned the tables, knocking AUS out in the Semi Finals before beating Thailand in the Final on penalties.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 2:15pm
              Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

              Things will get pretty tough for us going forward.

              The population of Saudi Arabia has increased from 16m (1990) to 32m now. As many as 60% of the population is under the age of 21.

              Vietnam has increased from 67m to 96m in the same time. 40% of the population under 24.

              We have 24m with only 30% under 24.

              As these nations become more middle class with more leisure time and money to spend on frivolous things like sport their huge population numbers could really make things tough for us.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:30pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

                Well I’m guessing u would enjoy the Socceroos losing kris

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:37pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

                R u a fan of the Saudi team ?

              • March 15th 2018 @ 10:39pm
                Kris’ said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

                West Brom and Stoke went down the path of having very heavily specialised squads (big, strong, physical, direct). When it stopped working the new managers didn’t really have too many other reins to pull.

                Now we just need SBS to stop putting Manchester teams on the telly every week for a title chase that is already over. Huddersfield v Palace will be very tense this weeken

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:39pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                Kris is an afl troll on this site mods

                Are you going to let him post and moderate me

                Let’s see how your censorship works ??

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:52pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

                Great information kris ,it’s great to get statistics on Asia and Asian football in general.
                What sources do you recommend for Asian football?

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:57pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

                It’s like waiting for a bus

                Wait for an hour for a message to go through and then 4 go through at once

              • March 15th 2018 @ 3:34pm
                Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

                Kanga Paranoia is strong in you Kanga. Even when I post evidence supporting your contention that there are some big powerful neighbours about to go past us – you still bleat and whinge.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 6:07pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 6:07pm | ! Report


              • March 15th 2018 @ 6:13pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

                Says the person who doesn’t like football …. but disparages every comment made on a sports website.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 7:02pm
        stu said | March 15th 2018 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

        Kangajets…….if comparing the a-league with the spl where numerous first team players have gravitated too, and for most to warm the subs bench, how does that reflect on the overall skill level of the a-league?

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2018 @ 7:52am
      Griffo said | March 15th 2018 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Now that’s looking at the positives.

      Not having our own league would be tough – the period between NSL and A-League was hard – so its good to live somewhere that has a team of some sort.

      As it is said, if we concentrate on being the best we can be, we would be doing alright regardless.