Western United and the Macarthur Bulls have both had varying degrees of success this season, but both clubs risk becoming irrelevant quickly if the fans don’t show up.
Western United are averaging 3500 this season while the Bulls are at 3900. The average across the league this season has been 5700, with Brisbane Roar leading at 7900.
The Bulls made an impressive start to the season, but have struggled in recent times, losing five out of their last eight games. Their fan engagement is next to nil with minimal interaction on Twitter and Facebook.
The club’s active fan group, The Bullpen, has plenty of internal conflict already. After being charged over $400 for season tickets, the group became splintered with a number of original members angry the club took over the group.
The club has continually charged fans excessive prices, with many in working-class Campbelltown lamenting they cannot afford the prices being charged.
While their early on-field success helped alleviate the drama, as the novelty wears off the Bulls risk becoming another Gold Coast United, whose initial entrance to the A-League was met with plenty of excitement but petered very quickly.
The Bulls have a huge market in front of them, and their fan engagement must be a priority if they are to be a threat.
While the Bulls have hope, Western United on the other hand, don’t appear to belong anywhere. The club has had a number of home grounds already (four in fact) and will have a fifth when they play in Launceston later this year.
While the club will talk about a new stadium in Tarneit, the reality is this is their second season and their fan numbers are embarrassing.
Fans in Geelong appear disillusioned, most Ballarat fans don’t even know the club exists.
The connection with Launceston has left many scratching their head.
Western United, contrary to Macarthur, have given away tickets and memberships. But the fans are still not biting.
The reality is, both clubs paid big dollars to get into the A-League. One must wonder what the investors think of the poor returns so far, even factoring in COVID-19.
There are clubs preparing to enter the National Second Division who feel they could easily get more fans than the Bulls and Western United.
South Melbourne, Adelaide City, Sydney United, Sydney Olympic and Marconi are all clubs ready and waiting to join. All five clubs would arguably get bigger crowds than Western United and the Bulls.
With the new independence of the A-League meaning clubs get to negotiate with sponsors and TV companies, one wonders what other club owners feel about Western United and Macarthur. These two clubs are bringing down the value of the A-League.
Would clubs like South Melbourne or Sydney United do better?
There is only one way to find out.