For Australian football fans to make the distinction between the winners of the league and the winners of the grand final, we should come up with a new name for the A-League champions.
If someone stopped you in the street and asked you to name the current A-League champions and the A-League premiers, could you answer them off the top of your head? Or would you just say Perth Glory won one title and Sydney FC the other?
I used to know the difference. I remembered the alliteration of ‘p’ in plate equated to the ‘p’ in premiers. Then I had to remember that the team leading the league at the end of the regular season holds up a plate.
So the team that wins the league are the premiers. All good so far. But the winners of the A-League grand final are given the confusing title of champions. So we have both premiers and champions.
Which one is better?
I’m not sure what the dictionary says, but in sport the terms champions and premiers are interchangeable. It muddies the waters as to who the best team is. As football fans we need something clearer.
Since in world terms our finals system is quite rare, it is worth noting how our footballing cousins in Australia do it. The AFL and NRL have their competition names bedded down. The leaders at the end of the home-and-away season are called minor premiers, with the grand final winners called the premiers.
The difference is clear but it also implies that one is superior to the other.
In football we don’t tend to make that same distinction. Anyone who follows football to any extent understands the idea that the league champions – the team with the most points at the end of the home-and-away season – are regarded as the best team in the land.
Football in Australia does a better job of recognising our first-past-the-post winners than the other codes. There is a separate trophy – the premiers plate – as well as critical acclaim from players, coaches and commentators.
Yet there’s more to be done. Some would argue that we should do away with the finals series all together but that’s not really what this article is about.
To clear the air, we could rename either the premiers or the champions. It is the champions tag that is the problematic one, because we want to make sure the team leading the table at the end of the season gets the greater recognition.
Another reason for changing the name of the grand final winner is that the working title of the new national second division is the Championship. If we continue with an A-League championship and the Championship, things will get messy.
If a name change is in order, what should we call it?
If we wanted to name it after the early founders of the league then we could call it the Lowy-Gallop Cup.
OK, that’s a joke.
But maybe something as simple as the A-League Cup could work. In concept, the name is similar to the MLS Cup in the United States.
The Stanley Cup for the NHL ice hockey trophy has a nice ring to it, so why not honour a player from the past? I’ll throw a couple out there: the Abonyi Cup, the Richards Trophy, or why not the Berisha Cup? Maybe you can come up with your own name?
The name itself doesn’t matter so much. What we need is something that clearly delineates the winner of the league from the winner of the grand final.
It’s a simple change, but anything that makes following football in Australia a little easier is worth considering.