Football’s powerbrokers sitting on their hands doing nothing while the A-League crashes and burns is no longer looking like a commercially viable option.
Before we all rip into the diatribes about how this is just another navel-gazing, sky-is-falling waste of an article, let’s kick it off with some facts.
Such as the fact that ANZ Stadium will be nine-tenths empty tonight.
Or the fact that a fan base once considered the most loyal in the A-League has all but abandoned their team.
Or the fact that TV ratings are now so low it must be getting difficult to justify the cost of producing the broadcasts.
“So what?” I can picture the usual suspects thrashing away at the keyboard. “New revenue streams will come along!”
Fingers crossed. But if that were really the case, wouldn’t they have come along already?
And if promotion and relegation truly was the only thing holding football back, wouldn’t clubs in the National Premier Leagues be playing in front of packed houses every week?
And if all football needs to flourish is for Australians to ditch mainstream media and get all their information online, shouldn’t that include residents of a city like Perth?
Because I just wrote a positive piece about how Perth Glory topping the table was a good thing for the A-League, and practically no one from Perth responded.
In fact, almost no one did. It was the journalistic equivalent of tossing a handful of sand into the Fremantle Doctor and trying to catch it again in one motion.
Yet I hear, constantly, that the A-League is going fine. That when the broadcast money runs out, streaming rights will replace it. That online media is all that matters.
It’s nonsense, obviously, but it’s a collective delusion that seems to go largely unchallenged.
And when people do challenge it, like I’m doing right now, all the anger and opprobrium that results from it is almost always misdirected in the wrong place.
I can guarantee right now that I don’t get paid enough to fix the A-League’s problems.
But I can think of a few people earning a quid from the game who have been conspicuously absent of late.
So what have Football Federation Australia been doing while A-League attendances have dropped precipitously, TV ratings have fallen off a cliff and our national teams have gone backwards?
Sacking successful coaches for reasons hitherto unknown? Telling expansion clubs they’ll have to wait an extra year so as not to inconvenience their neighbours?
Hey, at least the A-League is on a mainstream free-to-air network these days, right!
If I was the managing director of an A-League club, I would be extremely preoccupied with planning for an independently run competition right about now.
And I would be thinking very hard and very carefully about what the future looks like once the current broadcast deal runs out.
Because at the moment things don’t look particularly rosy.
And the next six months between when this dumpster fire of a season ends and the new season begins is looking increasingly critical.
Because the A-League cannot continue at the rate it’s going.
And it’s not good enough to expect the dwindling base of hardcore fans – people like me and you and the loyal supporters who actually do show up in Homebush tonight – to keep putting our hands in our pockets to fund mistake after strategic mistake.
We deserve better than the leadership we’ve been seeing. And it’s about time we started getting it.
More than a few of us will watch an A-League game or two this round, just like we do every weekend. And a handful of us will have it out in the comments section of this column.
But it’s not enough.
The A-League is withering on the vine before our very eyes.
And if the powers-that-be don’t start coming up with some plans to rejuvenate the competition, by the time next season rolls around, it might already be too late.