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Opinion

If football wants answers, it has to ask the right people

Figlet new author
Roar Rookie
10th February, 2020
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Figlet new author
Roar Rookie
10th February, 2020
13

On Friday night I covered the second fantastic game of football in six days at Perth Oval.

Less than a week after a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Melbourne Victory, we had a six-goal thriller between two sides set for finals action.

Victory was once one of the biggest drawcards for a Glory home game. This season 9945 people turned up. The club was quite relieved. It could have been much worse, as on the same night the Perth Wildcats had drawn 13,309 to its clash with the Sydney Kings.

Still, those 9945 would be back, wouldn’t they? After all, they’d seen a cracking game with two quality goals from Victory and a last-minute fightback from Glory with a sensational header to seal the draw.

Well, no. In fact 2187 didn’t get to the goal-packed extravaganza with Wellington. Instead there was a disappointing crowd of just 7248 people.

Perth Glory fans

(Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Why? Who knows. There are a plethora of theories, which some in the game call ‘excuses’. I’m not sure why someone expected to pay $39 at the gate is expected to provide a note if they don’t come to a game. Yes, I’m aware there are $20 tickets available via Telstra, but casual fans don’t know that, and many of the people not turning up are paid-up members anyway.

My grand theory was Friday night games are a stupid idea in Perth. It’s tough to get out of work, home again to the burbs, grab the kids and come back. Sadly for my instincts, when the Wildcats played on Friday, 17 January, they attracted 13,307. So that theory goes out the window.

So is it the cost? A bronze ticket for the Wildcats will cost you $40. Nickel tickets are $20 but rarer than hen’s teeth weeks out from games. So it’s not cost, then, is it?

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So why aren’t people going to the football anymore? Is it because of the standard?

I’m not sure about that one. The NBL is of course well below the standard of the NBA, but you don’t hear basketball fans saying they are not bothering with the local competition because it is not as good as the best league in the world.

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Is it TV coverage against the gate? Is it football’s constant self-indulgent bickering? A lack of media coverage? Maybe it’s the crazy fixturing – having two games in six days then nothing for a month lacks a certain logic. Maybe it’s because the ticket for the Wildcats brings a full night’s entertainment, not just a game.

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The truth is I have no idea. Plenty of people say they know. Bring in promotion and relegation, add more teams, take teams away, sign marquees, only play kids. Get ten football insiders in a room and you will get 11 different opinions, all of them certain they are right.

The reason we have no idea is that nobody seems to have asked the customers or potential customers. Someone has the ticketing data for 56,371 people who went to the 2019 grand final. Perhaps we could use that to ask about 48,000 of them why they’ll go to that but not a home game.

All clubs have access to their membership records. Have any of those clubs done a proper qualitative and quantitative survey on the ones who have dropped away? Has anyone asked the absentees why?

Has any club asked what the preferred day and kick-off time is? Do fans want more pre-match entertainment – as Glory provided in the old NSL days – more marquee players, more locals in the team, cheaper tickets or beer?

I get the feeling football looks inwards much too much. We are too obsessed with agenda-driven tweeters to seek answers outside the circle of distrust. Either that or people jet off to see what the Premier League does and get the impression that’s what we need to copy, but actually they’re comparing apples with oranges.

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All those people who got het up about a basketball story from Melbourne should go back game by game and compare the crowds for the Wildcats and Glory. Just because you don’t like facts doesn’t mean they aren’t the facts.

Football is getting pantsed in terms of customer service. Instead of expecting unquestioning loyalty it’s time to find out what the fans actually want, not accuse them of making excuses when they don’t part with their hard-earnt cash.

And when they tell us we’d better be prepared to listen.