Sydney FC are champions and you can hardly say they don’t deserve it. Actually you could, since Perth Glory were clearly the best team all season.
Perhaps a strange semblance of justice was done in the end.
Sydney FC looked like they were robbed in yesterday’s A-League grand final after Adam le Fondre side-footed home in the 28th minute – or was it Glory defender Matthew Spiranovic? – only for his goal to be ruled out by an offside flag.
Was it the right decision? No idea.
I was one of the 56,371 ticketholders in attendance, so having shelled out to attend the game, I didn’t expect to know what was actually happening on the pitch.
Why would I? In almost 15 years Football Federation Australia have never shown any inkling that they care about people who actually purchase tickets.
They’ll claim FIFA prevents them from explaining to fans inside the stadium what’s happening with the VAR, but it’s perhaps closer to the mark to suggest they largely don’t care.
What do they care about? First and foremost they care about the TV broadcast deal.
And they care about old-school media metrics that were relevant 20 years ago.
They’ll strive to hit the back pages of daily metro newspapers when it’s obvious just as many readers engage with online journalism shared across social media.
Faced with the choice of moving with the times or doing things the way they’ve always done them, it’s no real surprise to see the path of least resistance wins out.
It’s just easier that way.
So a year after Kosta Barbarouses scored the winning goal in the 2018 A-League grand final from an offside position, why shouldn’t we expect video technology to get another vital decision wrong?
After 140 A-League matches this season that’s simply par for the course.
Good on Sydney FC shot-stopper Andrew Redmayne, then, for saving everyone’s blushes with a decisive performance in goal.
He didn’t win the Joe Marston medal though, because why would he?
Saving two penalties in a penalty shoot-out is nothing compared to playing some pretty passes in midfield.
But anyone who thinks that Redmayne’s penalty saves from substitutes Andy Keogh and Brendon Santalab were key, not to mention his fingertip save from Dino Djublic in the first half, evidently doesn’t understand the game like the delicate geniuses – or journos – who make these sorts of decisions.
And that’s perhaps the biggest problem with the A-League.
Decision after decision gets made without any sort of transparency.
Important things happen – like a Sydney FC fan getting kicked out of an A-League semi-final – and the response from the game’s governing body is radio silence.
And it’s long past the point where any reasonable fan should be wondering what on earth is going on.
The A-League is in trouble. Who’s responsible for that?
It’s not the 56,000-plus fans who purchased tickets to last night’s grand final.
Nor is it the countless others who filed through the gates at a game this season or those who tuned in on Fox Sports or Kayo or the My Football app.
It’s not even the host broadcaster’s fault. Contentious VAR replays aside, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Fox Sports.
But I expect their coverage to change next season. Not enough fans have been putting their hands in their pocket to make it a viable going concern.
And some new-look coverage next season should be the least we expect.
Much as the motivations of those demanding a breakaway competition must be scrutinised, the harsh reality is that an independent A-League can hardly be worse than what we’ve got now.
Because we should be talking about why Sydney FC are the best team in the land.
But we’re not.
Instead we’re talking about the VAR. And first-past-the-post versus finals.
And those who turned up at Optus Stadium and tuned in on TV are probably asking themselves some serious questions about why they would bother doing it all again next season.