A lot has been made of the current A-League climate.
The start of 2020 has been bleak for the league, with sponsors pulling out left, right and centre, fans seemingly going into meltdown and pundits trying to calm the masses down.
Hyundai, the A-League’s major partner, is rumoured to be considering their options on whether to keep sponsoring the league in June, while Aldi, Caltex, Westpac, NAB and Bet365 have all left. Football right now seems to be in freefall.
Following the rescheduling of the Sydney derby due to horrible conditions, an article was published about the match being relegated to the ABC’s kids channel, ABC Me, in favour of the Victorian Open, a golf competition with no marquee names involved.
This is what happens when a sports league is left neglected by its governing body. The Sydney derby, once the biggest sporting rivalry in Sydney – and a derby, according to rugby journalist Phil Rothfield, had a better atmosphere than the State Of Origin – is now the subject of ridicule as football is once again not taken seriously by the media.
The decision to relegate the Sydney Derby to ABC Me comes at a time of ratings for the A-League on Fox Sports, with three fixtures not breaking the 20,000 viewer mark. Whose fault is this?
Foxtel must take some blame, but most must go to the pre-James Johnson FFA.
There was no marketing campaign released for this upcoming A-League season until a week before it got underway – and even then it was just one video and accompanying posters for each A-League team. This lack of advertising showed apathy from the FFA, who once again neglected their competition.
On top of that, other than an attempt to lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic Down Under on a six-week deal, there has been no real attempt by the FFA to try and lure a true marquee name to Australia, with Keisuke Honda the closest thing since Alessandro Del Piero left the league.
Moving on to Foxtel, they don’t seem keen on supporting the A-League, with the competition often absent when the broadcaster advertises its in print and online, including Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga instead of the local competition.
This has led to fans asking whether a move to Optus would be better for the league. I think so. Optus already has exclusive rights to the Premier League, Champions League and World Cup, the three tournaments people interested in football want to watch most.
But would a move to Optus be better for the A-League in terms of ratings?
In terms of how the FFA can improve the league and the sport in Australia as a whole, there’s a multitude of options. From scrapping the salary cap to employing a head of communications, from giving each team a level playing field in terms of finances to developing grassroots football and reopening the centre of excellence – all arguably mistakes made during David Gallop’s reign of terror as FFA CEO – could improve football in this country and let the A-League thrive.
However, we as fans may have to accept the fact that things will probably get worse before they get better.
Then we move to the media. They paint the sport in a negative way due to the horrible way football’s governing body has gone about communicating important matters. For example, we’re still none the wiser on why Alen Stajic was fired as Matildas coach. There has to be better communication and more transparency from the FFA on where they want to take the game before the media starts painting the sport in a good image. This negative media coverage hurts the game – the England national team experience the same thing from their press before every major tournament.
Right now football in Australia is digging a deeper hole for itself. There are positives, though – Australia will be at the Olympics for the first time in 12 years, the A-League has become much more competitive this season, with only the odd drubbing here and there, and expansion is finally happening.
Australian football and the A-League won’t collapse; that’s just ridiculous. It is, however, precariously close to descending into chaos.