Newcastle’s 5-1 FFA Cup win over local rivals Edgeworth was a reminder that when football does things right, few other codes can match it for storylines.
As the MLS and Chinese Super League suck up has been star players with zillions of dollars like a vacuum cleaner the A-League needs to think outside the box to compete.
In the upcoming A-League season, Keisuke Honda is being held up as the biggest signing since Alessandro Del Piero, but stars like these are few and far between. Not only that, but they are also becoming even rarer when the MLS and CSL can offer far more money for their services.
The FFA see marquee players as a way to boost attendances through the interest they generate, but if the A-League can’t compete for them on money terms then there needs to be a different strategy. The Central Coast Mariners have seen an opportunity and have taken a risk on pursuing Usain Bolt and this might just be the new normal going forward.
While his footballing skills may be somewhat lacklustre, what he lacks in skill he more than makes up for in his ability to generate publicity. And it’s that publicity which is the new currency of modern football, not traditional football values. This has been clearly demonstrated by the expansion battle between Southern Expansion and Wollongong Wolves.
The following passage is from the Illawarra Mercury
“The A-League metrics – the criteria a bid is judged on – has trumped tribalism. Was always going to. Why?
Because the number of eye balls on a screen boosts television ratings, which in turn lifts advertising revenue, which super-charges broadcasts rights deals, resulting in more cash for the game.”
In other words, the success of a marquee player isn’t dependent on their football ability on the pitch, but their ability to generate publicity for broadcasters. While traditionalists recognise a name like Honda they also know that by the time these kinds of players come to our shores they will be past their peak. The general public meanwhile might not even know them at all.
So, if traditionalists who don’t watch the A-League aren’t impressed by ageing washed up players anyway and the general public don’t even know who they are, then going directly for the celebrity factor actually makes a lot of sense. Usain Bolt has more cut through with the general public than all the other marquee players this season put together.
Traditional football fans aren’t the A-League’s target market, the A-Leagues primary target market are non-football fans who want entertainment, and celebrities like Bolt have that appeal.
The path ahead for FFA going forward is clear then. It’s time for FFA to implement a celebrity marquee fund to bring big celebrities with real star power to the A-League.
To illustrate, I’ve selected some well-known celebrities and paired them with A-League clubs.
Central Coast Mariners – Usain Bolt
The world’s fastest man, nine-time Olympic gold medallist and current world record holder has already done wonders for Central Coast even in training sessions. Just think what he could do during the regular season.
Newcastle Jets – Michael Phelps
Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 Olympic medals. With an arm span of 201 cm and a height of 193 cm he would be an excellent choice as a goalkeeper.
Brisbane Roar – Shane Warne
While some might question his age it’s important to note that his skin still looks youthful and smooth and that he still has a good head of hair. If he can do a flipper from a throw in to nutmeg an opposition marker and reach a team mate he’ll become an instant legend in two different sports.
Wellington Phoenix – Dennis Rodman
With his close personal friendship with North Korean president Kim Jong Un, Dennis Rodman could open doors to a lucrative market in Asia to the Phoenix. This could really turn things around for the struggling club.
Adelaide United – Gordon Ramsay
Not only would Gordon Ramsay turn up the heat on the opposing team (and possibly the ref) but he’ll do it in style as he once trialled for Glasgow Rangers. I think red suits him, don’t you?
Perth Glory – LeBron James
I don’t even really know who LeBron James is but I know he’s some sort of basketball megastar from the NBA because I see him on the news a lot. I don’t even know which team he’s on, but who cares? I mean who would create more excitement in the news media, Diego Castro or LeBron James?
Melbourne Victory – Roger Federer
The ‘Swiss Master’ has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles making him the most successful men’s tennis player in history. Unlike Usain Bolt he never struggles with his footwork and should be able to make the code switch without a problem. Melbourne should feel like a second home to him.
Melbourne City – Zach Galifinakis
I have no idea if he’s ever played before but that doesn’t matter. Melbourne City targets the urban, street, hipster demographic and hipsters like beards. I think that he could also have a mentoring role a bit like Tim Cahill, taking young players under his wing.
His age and sense of maturity should help him to keep them in line off the field, rather than getting into trouble at parties and what not.
Western Sydney Wanderers – Jason Statham
This part of Sydney needs a celeb with attitude, an old school tough guy, no Robbie Williams types around here thanks. Jason Statham fits the bill.
Anyone care to disagree?
Sydney FC – Lewis Hamilton
This part of Sydney needs a different kind of celebrity, one with bling factor and a lifestyle to match. As a multiple championship winning Formula 1 driver known the world over, as well as his personal jet-set image, I think it’s fair to say that he has the right stuff.
Welcome to the new age. Selecting players for their celebrity factor will no doubt horrify the purists, but for the FFA’s target market of casual non-football fans it’ll be a huge ratings winner.
And it all started in Gosford…
Article written by Nick Symonds