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Opinion

Sydney FC's clash with Melbourne Victory should have been postponed

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Expert
14th November, 2019
45

What’s the point of forever spruiking football’s participation rates if the A-League continues to struggle and the game’s various stakeholders can never seem to get on the same page?

Surely there’s no better example of the way bad decisions take precedence over sensible ones in the A-League than the fact that Sydney FC will take on a Melbourne Victory side missing Storm Roux, Tommy Deng, Kenny Athiu and Elvis Kamsoba to international duty.

It’s supposed to be the biggest game in Australia.

Can you imagine Manchester City going to Liverpool without four first-team regulars, or Borussia Dortmund travelling to Munich without several key players?

Why is it acceptable in the A-League? Because Fox Sports wants content – or so the rumour goes.

But at the start of the season there was another rumour doing the rounds that Fox Sports wanted out of the A-League entirely.

And when you look at the ratings, which are now so low as to be virtually non-existent, you can hardly blame them.

So which is it? Are Fox Sports in or are they out? Because if they want more viewers to tune in, pointing the cameras at a second-string Victory side running out against their biggest rivals is not the way to go about it.

But let’s forget about Fox Sports for a moment. Everyone watches the A-League on Kayo or the My Football App anyway now, right?

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Let’s pretend for a minute that was true, even though it’s not, and throw a little arithmetic into the equation.

If Foxtel’s average revenue per user was $79 in May this year, and a Kayo subscription costs $25, how many extra subscriptions will it take in future to help fund a $750,000-a-season switch from Melbourne Victory to Sydney FC for a player like Kosta Barbarouses?

That sort of move doesn’t happen without a broadcaster like Fox Sports helping to bankroll the league, but increasingly they’re paying for broadcasts only a negligible numbers of viewers watch.

Still, there’ll no doubt be a few extra Victory fans watching the broadcast on Sunday night.

Kosta Barbarouses of the Victory

What’s the Cost-a Barbarouses? (AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)

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They’ll have to, after seeing their travel plans ruined by the decision to move back what was originally a Saturday night fixture by 24 hours to accommodate Sydney FC’s “returning internationals”.

But that’s okay. For 15 years the A-League has treated away fans as an invisible irrelevance, so there’s no reason to stop now.

And what Victory fan wouldn’t want to see Andrew Redmayne and Rhyan Grant make a frenzied dash back from Socceroos duty to line up for the Sky Blues anyway?

Ah yes, the Socceroos. It’s the fact that they played at three o’clock this morning that has brought on a lot of this mess.

In what other country would a crucial World Cup qualifier against a bogey side like Jordan effectively be treated as little more than an afterthought?

Yes, it’s an inconvenient kick-off time. But I would rather watch a replay of the game and some post-match analysis tonight than a weekend of A-League fixtures blighted by international call-ups.

There’s not even an A-League game on tonight anyway.

But none of this apparently matters, because “football is once again the largest club-based participation sport in Australia”.

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Never mind that we seem no closer to connecting those grassroots to the A-League since the day it kicked off.

Don’t worry about international breaks or stagnant revenues or looking for some leadership from somewhere – anywhere – in the game.

Because in a week when Sydney FC’s clash with Melbourne Victory should have been postponed for the good of the competition, all we end up focusing on are things that don’t matter.

Participation rates mean nothing if the A-League keels over and dies.

But that seems the most logical outcome if all our code continues to do is make one bad decision after the next.