On Friday, the structure for the 2018-19 A-League season was announced. The main talking points were; no international breaks, no split-rounds, some teams playing each other twice, and some teams playing each other three times.
The way this will be determined is by three priorities. The first priority is Foxtel Metrics, the second is competition fairness and integrity, and the third is match attendances. You read that right, TV ratings will decide who plays each other three times, and who plays each other twice.
So, its already blatantly obvious as to who will play each other three times. Western Sydney Wanderers versus Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory versus Melbourne City and Sydney FC versus Melbourne Victory are often the matches that are attended and watched the most. But what will the other ones be?
Take Perth Glory for example, because many of the games are scheduled at around 9:00 PM on a Saturday, not many people will watch in those areas. So, it will take a club with many fans to boost up those TV ratings.
If the FFA want these Fox metrics to be up to standard for Perth, they will need to play the following clubs.
Sydney FC, big club, many fans.
Melbourne Victory, also a big club with many fans
Western Sydney Wanderers, many fans.
Adelaide United, time zone being 30 minutes earlier than the Eastern States.
Brisbane Roar, well supported and friendlier time zone as they have no daylight savings. And then its probably a free choice for the next team.
I am a Glory fan so I’ll try and keep my bias away, but this will really hurt the Glory if they play these clubs. It was shown this season that Glory struggled against Sydney and Melbourne Victory.
Glory lost three times to Sydney FC, and once to Melbourne Victory at home. You’d imagine that would be a very annoying thing for Glory and they may drop a lot of points. And then we look at the clubs who do have those high TV metrics and attendances. Take Sydney FC for example.
Sydney FC are in the most common time zone in the country and are one of the biggest clubs in terms of support. Because they have the higher TV metrics, they won’t need to play big clubs three times to get good metrics.
Expect Sydney to play Melbourne Victory three times as that’s a rivalry, Western Sydney Wanderers because it is a derby, Central Coast Mariners, Wellington Phoenix, Newcastle Jets and then Perth Glory. Much easier draw than Perth Glory if you ask me.
Its kind of scary to think that people watching could possibly help a club win the league. Could this mean that fans will not watch other team’s matches because it will give the home team an advantage?
What if in 20 years, the whole league is based on metrics? Just imagine Melbourne Victory in finishing ten points short of the finals, but getting in because they had the highest TV metrics and attendances. Unlikely, but you never know.
There are already signs of this in the Semi-Professional leagues. My local club, who played in the second Division of Western Australia Football in the 2017 season, was promoted to the NPL that year but finished second.
The only reason we were promoted was because the club that finished first didn’t meet the “Non-football criteria” to play NPL.
Perhaps, as a bit of karma, we lot 8-1 on the final day of the season and were then relegated back to the State League and are currently around mid-table.
Here is a message to the FFA, don’t make these types of decisions on the basis of TV metrics and make them from football.
If you make these decision based off football, then the league becomes more attractive to football fans in Australia that don’t follow A-League (Like Eurosnobs) because they are used to a football based model in the EPL and other big leagues and you know what, maybe you’ll get more money.
I hope I’m wrong but it looks like there will be a few teams getting easier draws next season because of their good Fox Metrics. And football will become more metrics based if we don’t make a change.