An article in The Australian this week praised the Sydney Kings and the NBL for getting a record-breaking crowd of 17,514 to the Sydney Superdome on Sunday.
On the same day, some 25km away from Homebush, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory played in front of 16,116 people at Kogarah Oval.
The article went on to criticise the A-League’s crowd and TV numbers, while claiming the NBL is second to the NBA (some Euro Leagues will dispute that). The article went on to further criticise the A-League for not being able to attract the same calibre of players that the NBL does.
The article certainly created a stir within the Australian football community, which it seems the Australian journalist was looking for.
Some have criticised the A-League and FFA for falling asleep on the wheel, some NPL/NSL supporters took glee from the article and claimed it as further ‘proof’ that the A-League is dead, some have criticised the article and the journalist for unnecessarily taking a dig at football, while others were indifferent about it.
But let’s get to the point straight away; there is no NBL vs A-League. They’re two entirely different sports, they’re not in competition with one another and they are not a threat to each other.
If anything, they both complement each other considering the state both sports were in over the last 20 years and where both the national leagues and national teams currently sit.
So why is this an issue? Why is there a belief that the NBL is dominating and the A-League continues to fail? If anything, both sets of fans don’t really care and are not concerned about each other.
The reason is, whenever the A-League has been struggling, non-football journalists have said the A-League should look at current fads bringing crowds to other games.
For example, one article stated the A-League is not entertaining enough. The atmosphere is supposedly ‘dead’ because of low crowds, and so they should look at the success of the BBL and how it is bringing crowds in.
Football fans and club administrators will tell you these are not the issues. Several years ago, the A-League caught the attention of the non-football public because of the atmosphere that was generated by the active support groups – this saw sellouts of a lot of A-League games.
There were a few lean years due to outside influence, but this season the A-League has had an increase in crowds numbers – especially a near sell-out of the Sydney derby at Bankwest Stadium – and active support is slowly returning.
The NBL are doing their own thing and kudos to them for thriving considering that, just ten years ago, the NBL was on its deathbed after four clubs folded and reduced the competition to just six teams.
The reboot of the NBL in 2012 has seen an increase in crowd numbers, TV viewers, the influence of Australian players in the NBA and, more recently, exciting young talents like LaMelo Ball, Terrance Ferguson and Brian ‘Tugsy’ Bowen skipping college basketball for a chance to play professionally has created more interest in the NBL than in previous seasons.
However, the Sydney Kings, Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers have equalled or surpassed the crowd at any of the GWS Giants home games this year – why isn’t anyone talking about that?