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Opinion

Developing a marquee fixture list for the A-League

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Roar Rookie
29th June, 2021
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The AFL and NRL have been excellent at developing marquee matches throughout their season on key dates, such as Good Friday and Anzac Day.

It is high time that the A-League follows suit as fans of all codes love tradition and consistency wherever possible. Here are some of my suggestions.

Season opener
The opening game each season should feature the winner of the previous season’s grand final playing host to the winner of the previous season’s FFA Cup, for an Australian version of the FA Community Shield, but instead for competition points. If the same team happens to win both finals in the previous season (or a non-league team happens to win the FFA Cup), then the game should revert to a grand final replay.

Wednesday night football
The COVID-19-interrupted season we just witnessed has forced a lot of midweek fixtures, and this is something that should remain (in part anyway). This would allow the league to have a point of difference to the other codes, and we would play at least one game a week when no other code is on.

Wednesday night football games should not be scheduled on any Asian Champions League or FFA Cup match days obviously, and it would probably be best if no games were held on State of Origin nights either.

I would then like to see a similar brand for the W-League established on Thursday nights, so that football is played five nights a week (minimum) in season. Adding an extra night per week when football is played would allow for more matches to be played at night in the hotter months.

Scott Jamieson of Melbourne City celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot during the A-League Grand Final.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Summer nights series
It would appear that a summer season is here to stay, and we all know now how much the heat of an Australian summer impacts the speed and quality of a match. To work around this, all matches scheduled between December 1 and February 28 should be played at night wherever possible.

Playing matches on a Wednesday would obviously allow for an extra night per week and Wellington’s time zone should be utilised to stage multiple night games on some match days. Perth would be tougher to manage but perhaps they could have a few less home games scheduled during that period (and Wellington a few more), with those games instead coming before and after the summer period.

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Games could be played concurrently on Saturday night, and the free-to-air match on Channel Ten could function similar to Goal Rush on Optus Sport whereby one match is broadcast in its entirety, but the coverage cuts to other concurrent matches for goals, chances and red cards. That is, creative production that will excite casual fans tuning in to the free-to-air Channel Ten game.

Summer festival of football
The league should schedule nightly matches for the period around Christmas during school holidays. In season 2021-22 for example, there should be a match a night from Friday 17 December to Sunday 9 January, barring Christmas day of course. That’s 23 games in 24 days.

The other benefit of scheduling a run of games early in the season like this is that it allows the ladder to take shape much quicker, which is good for discussion and promotion of the league during the season.

Boxing Day (Melbourne Victory versus Western United at AAMI Park)
I suspect that even once Western United’s stadium is ready to go, they might just continue to play games against the Victory at AAMI Park. So far, the matches between these new rivals have been mostly excellent, so it is time to formalise this match at a time during the festive season.

Alessandro Diamanti of Western United FC looks on

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

New Year’s Eve (Central Coast Mariners at home)
This one is already well established so it should continue with the opposition rotating each year but not featuring any of the Sydney or Melbourne clubs (they are well catered for in this list).

New Year’s Day (Western Sydney Wanderers versus Sydney FC at Bankwest Stadium)
Western Sydney Wanderers seem to feature quite regularly on New Year’s Day, so all I would do is formalise this and lock in their opponents, none other than crosstown rivals Sydney FC.

Australia Day (Sydney FC versus Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium)
Australia Day is becoming more controversial with each year that passes, but while the day remains a public holiday, the Big Blue rivalry should continue to be staged on this day.

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Easter long weekend
You may have noticed that fixtures during the Easter period last season featured nine games on seven consecutive days over the Easter period, and 14 games in 11 days all told in that period (with Thursday 8 April the only day not to feature a match between April 1 and April 11). I would like to see this heavy schedule of games over this period continue, with the following marquee match-ups locked in.

Start on Easter Thursday with Melbourne City versus Western United at AAMI Park. This is a derby that is probably going to a take a bit of time to develop due to the relatively low fan-base of each team, so scheduling this match to open the Easter period might give it a little bit of a boost.

Then the line-up is Good Friday (Adelaide United versus Melbourne Victory at Coopers Stadium), Easter Saturday (Newcastle Jets versus Central Coast Mariners at McDonald Jones Stadium) and Easter Sunday (Macarthur FC versus Western Sydney Wanderers at Campbelltown Stadium).

Bruce Kamau of the Wanderers celebrates after scoring a goal

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

There is not a lot that needs to be commented on with these three games other than the Easter weekend would then be chock full of mouth-watering derbies and rivalries.

Anzac Day
This day would host Brisbane Roar versus Wellington Phoenix at Moreton Daily Stadium or Sky Stadium, and Adelaide United versus Perth Glory at HBF Park or Cooper Stadium.

It seems criminal for Wellington not to feature on Anzac Day but being that Sydney hosts NRL games, and Melbourne hosts NRL and AFL games on this day, it seems logical that Australia’s third biggest city would host the Nix each year on this day (not that Redcliffe is even actually Brisbane). I would then increase football’s Anzac Day footprint to include Perth, who would host Adelaide. These fixtures could then be reversed the following year.

On any of these marquee match days, additional matches could obviously be scheduled at random to fill out the draw as appropriate. Additionally, of the 18 derby and rivalry matches that exist in the current 12-team league (based on straight home-and-away scheduling), 11 of these matches would remain untouched for scheduling at various other points throughout the year to ensure a marquee fixture is always just around the corner throughout the season.

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Of course, other combinations of teams could work too, it is more about locking in match-ups on specific days once and for all, such as the NRL do with the Sydney Roosters versus St George Illawarra Dragons on Anzac Day for example.

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