There was plenty of football going on across Australia over the weekend, so should some of it have been taking place in the A-League?
Congratulations to the Gold Coast Knights, Bentleigh Greens and Edgeworth Eagles, who all won their respective National Premier League grand finals.
Gold Coast saw off Olympic FC 2-1 in Queensland’s state league, Edgeworth stunned table-toppers Maitland 2-0 to win the Northern New South Wales competition, while Bentleigh Greens needed penalties to down Avondale in the Victorian decider after the game finished locked at 1-1 after extra time.
Not one of those crowned champion finished top of their respective leagues, but perhaps we’d better leave the first-past-the-post debate for another day, because if you’re a fan of top-flight football, it’s nearly time to rejoice, as there are now only 26 days until the new season kicks off!
If it feels like it’s been a long time since we last watched an A-League game, that’s because it has been.
By the time the new campaign gets underway it will have been 146 days – or almost five months – since Sydney FC beat Perth Glory on penalties at Optus Stadium.
It’s an intolerably long off-season. But should it be?
The question was put to me by long-time reader and Newcastle Jets fan Ivan Hecimovic on Twitter a couple of days ago.
The @ALeague season kick off is still 4 weeks away. Should be starting now IMO but I suppose when the official broadcaster has interests in the other codes, our games best interests are dictated to accommodating them. Hope this changes in coming years with a independent A-League
— Ivan Hecimovic (@hecivan70) September 13, 2019
Ivan reckons September is the perfect time to kick off the A-League season, and given the interminable wait between campaigns, it’s not hard to see where he’s coming from.
But would it work when it comes to stadium availability? And what about host broadcaster Fox Sports?
If you’re a casual sports fan who picked up a TV remote on the weekend, it would have been hard to miss the wall-to-wall coverage of the AFL and NRL finals.
And in places like Parramatta, where the Eels won their first finals game in a decade on Sunday, there’s a sizeable crossover of NRL and A-League fans.
Does it make sense to potentially force fans to pick an NRL finals game over watching the A-League?
Or has the concept of clean air – with the A-League supposedly keen to avoid the saturation coverage afforded to finals footy – never actually been proven?
Perhaps it made sense a few seasons ago not to pit a fledgling competition against the two heavyweight winter codes, but is that still the case?
And if Fox Sports are scaling back their interest – and it’s worth pointing out that with less than a month before the season begins, we haven’t actually seen much evidence of that – should the A-League continue to take their cues from the broadcaster?
I’m somewhat on the fence about the whole thing.
On the one hand, I’ve always thought the A-League off-season is far too long.
And if I wanted to lob a left-field idea into the mix, I’d suggest you could potentially start the season in September and schedule in a midseason break at the absolute height of summer, perhaps with an FFA Cup final played on Australia Day.
But even that suggestion highlights one of the major flaws with our football calendar – the fact that the NPL and A-League seasons don’t align.
And having said that, it’s easy to see why the A-League schedule ended up looking like it currently does given how many competing interests there are to balance.
But I just wonder if football fans aren’t tired of having to wait for rival codes to finish for our own top-flight season to start.
Certainly some fans are interested in multiple codes, but just as many couldn’t care less what goes on in the AFL and NRL and simply want to watch some football.
So is it time to start the A-League season in September? Or does that run the risk of our code getting lost amidst all the noise of the footy finals?