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It's the most important A-League season ever - so let's see a fixture list

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Expert
28th July, 2019
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The struggle to put out a fixture list that’s suitable to an uneven number of clubs is a reminder that nothing ever comes easy in the A-League.

Where’s the schedule?

It should have been released by now, and while the fact that it hasn’t is hardly the crime of the century, it doesn’t augur well for what was supposed to be the start of an independent A-League on August 1.

That’s literally three days away. Restless fans hoping for a bit of off-season distraction could be forgiven for wanting to be able to plan their match days accordingly.

But clearly the complexity of adding Western United to the league and factoring in byes has made drawing up a schedule that’s fair for all 11 clubs easier said than done.

Who could have seen this coming? Apparently not those who decided to delay Macarthur FC’s entry into the league by another season.

That delay might suit a Western Sydney Wanderers side moving back to Bankwest Stadium, but the new ground’s so impressive they should have no problem attracting fans through the turnstiles anyway.

And having teams play some opponents three times and others twice is less than ideal.

There was an interesting piece from Dom Bossi on the back page of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday in which he suggested, among other things, that Channel Ten is keen on increasing their A-League and W-League coverage.

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According to Bossi, Ten are willing to produce their own A-League coverage and broadcast games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, doubling the current free-to-air coverage of the league.

But it was his suggestion that Fox Sports are unhappy with A-League ratings that should have piqued the interest of its constituent clubs.

“The A-League’s dwindling TV appeal will be made clear to club owners and FFA next week when they meet with Foxtel chief executive, Patrick Delany, on Monday,” Bossi wrote.

“Having successfully negotiated for the A-League to become independent of FFA, the onus will fall upon the clubs to improve the competition’s commercial and public appeal.”

None of that is new information. But how the clubs improve their commercial viability in a rapidly changing media landscape is anyone’s guess.

“Senior stakeholders suggest they are expected to be ‘read the riot act’ by Delany, with Foxtel understood to be deeply unhappy with the A-League’s ratings,” Bossi added.

“It’s understood Fox Sports would consider ending their partnership with the competition if it weren’t bound by a six-year broadcast agreement which expires in 2023.”

Again, that information isn’t particularly new to anyone with their ear to the ground, but it does beg the question of why there was such a willingness to add two new teams in Western United and Macarthur FC at the behest of a broadcaster seemingly looking to cut ties with the competition.

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That’s not to downplay Fox Sports’ role in the upcoming season. Without their broadcast funds, there might not even be a season to speak of.

But the difficulty in drafting up an acceptable fixture list and the lopsided nature of the draw is a reminder that many decisions in the A-League still get made for the wrong reasons.

If Western United are ready to go in October – and the addition of Italian veteran Alessandro Diamanti alongside Greek playmaker Panagiotis Kone should make them one of the league’s more entertaining outfits – then Macarthur FC should have been too.

An 11-team competition isn’t the end of the world, but it’s hardly the hallmark of a well-run league either.

With any luck the football on display this season makes up for any administrative headaches off it.

We’re still waiting on a fixture list for what is a make-or-break campaign.

Hopefully it’s released this week and we can start planning for what is undoubtedly the most important season in the short history of the A-League.