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Opinion

Daniel Sturridge's signing is huge, but it seems old habits die hard in new football

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Expert
3rd October, 2021
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First it was the W-League and A-League brands being rolled into one, then Perth Glory went ahead and topped that news by signing former Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for football in Australia.

The news that the W-League would cease to exist – in name at least – is not a decision to be viewed lightly.

It might be seen as little more than a symbolic act by some fans – particularly those who watch only men’s football – but it’s a step the A-Leagues were brave enough to take first before any of Australia’s other domestic competitions.

The W-League brand might have developed its own cachet over the years, but bringing the men’s and women’s competitions under one umbrella signals an end to viewing the two leagues solely through the prism of gender.

And whether you think the name change is a big deal or not, it’s also a welcome sign of activity from an administration that has been more comatose than asleep at the wheel over the past few seasons.

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Yet it was Perth Glory men’s sudden signing of Daniel Sturridge that really got the keyboards clicking into overdrive as we hurtled towards the weekend.

The fact it was Perth and not a team on the east coast that signed Sturridge should be viewed as a good thing for the A-Leagues in general. The unrelenting focus on teams from Sydney and Melbourne over the past couple of seasons has been hugely irritating to fans of every other club.

Whether Sturridge actually manages to get fans through the gates at HBF Park is another story.

There are probably some similarities to when the Newcastle Jets signed Emile Heskey, who was another former Premier League cult hero who didn’t exactly set the turnstiles spinning during his two seasons in the Hunter.

Sturridge undoubtedly made his name at Liverpool, where he formed a deadly partnership alongside Luis Suarez up front, but he also had stints at Manchester City and Chelsea.

Will that be enough to get the Eurosnobs to shell out for an A-League ticket or two? Perhaps.

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(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

But what Glory need to do is make sure their match-day experience is enjoyable enough for casual fans to make coming to games a regular occurrence, travel restrictions notwithstanding, which is pretty much the mission across the board for the men’s competition this season.

The new broadcast deal should help. It might be worth less than the previous deal in dollar terms, but the free-to-air exposure on Channel Ten should cast a wider net than the one previously locked behind a paywall on Fox Sports.

But whether there’ll ever be any sort of common ground between the A-Leagues and National Premier League clubs remains to be seen.

NPL Victoria side South Melbourne’s decision to prevent Western United from using Lakeside Stadium as a temporary home is an unedifying look for the game.

You can kind of understand South Melbourne’s position, but a smarter decision would surely have been to allow Western United to play at Lakeside and win over some of the A-League administrators and fans who still view former National Soccer League clubs with such suspicion.

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Now there are rumours doing the rounds that Queensland NPL side Lions FC are not overly keen on hosting Brisbane Roar at their home ground Richlands in the FFA Cup.

The logic is simple enough. As the designated home side, Lions will earn higher gate receipts if the game is played at a larger stadium. But moving the tie from Richlands defeats the purpose of the cup entirely. What good is home advantage if you don’t even play there?

Hopefully common sense prevails and Lions run out against the A-League club they spawned at Richlands.

As we saw in another unpredictable week for Australian football, old-world thinking only gets you so far.

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