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Opinion

The A-League is back, so is this the season it finally lives up to its potential?

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Expert
14th November, 2021
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When was the last time we felt so positive about the A-League? We’re seeing ads on TV, some decent crowds in the FFA Cup and the APL has just launched its very own content hub.

Not since a crowd of 61,880 smashed the attendance record back in October 2016 have we had so many reasons to be excited about the A-League.

There will be another huge crowd at the recently renamed CommBank Stadium on Saturday night when the Western Sydney Wanderers host Sydney FC in the latest instalment of the Sydney derby.

And for the first time in what feels like forever, there should be a sizeable audience tuning in to the broadcast.

How do we know? Because for one thing we’re seeing ads for it on TV.

It’s hard to overstate just how refreshing it feels to see advertisements for the A-Leagues plastered all over Channel Ten.

For a long time the A-League preached exclusively to the converted, but Saturday night’s primetime showdown once again gives casual fans the chance to experience all the colour and passion of one Australian sport’s showpiece occasions.

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Let’s just hope both sets of supporters pack out the stadium and produce the kind of atmosphere we all know the A-League is capable of.

It’s a spectacle Network 10 is more than happy to invest in, as their new sports sales director Nick Bower recently told the Mi3 podcast.

I went to high school with Nick and he’s a football fan from way back, so it’s no surprise he’s been lured home from Singapore to help Network 10 grow their football audience and connect it to major brands.

It’s the same kind of idea that has prompted the Australian Professional Leagues to launch its long-awaited content hub.

Named KeepUp, the content platform quietly went live late last week as a kind of one-stop shop for all things football.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that it not only contains content from the A-League Men and Women competitions, but also a steady stream of stories from Europe.

Given that both Richard Bayliss and David Weiner have been lured across from Optus Sport – a provider which covers the European game in depth, but which now seems on the verge of losing its football content entirely – perhaps that’s not surprising.

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But it’s interesting to see the A-Leagues contrasted alongside European football given how difficult it has been to convince Eurosnobs in Australia to even watch the domestic game.

Joshua Cavallo of Adelaide United

Joshua Cavallo (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

It’ll also be interesting to see how KeepUp covers controversial topics. It’s all well and good to own the messaging, but what happens when the first contentious VAR decision of the season is made?

Will an in-house team have the editorial freedom to cover the A-League warts and all?

At any rate, that fact that more than 4,000 fans turned up at Lakeside on a freezing Melbourne evening to watch defending A-League champions Melbourne City down Victorian NPL giants South Melbourne 3-0 on Friday proved once again that there’s plenty of appetite for the round-ball game.

It also underlined the gulf in class between A-League and state league sides.

The FFA Cup remains a noble cause, but sadly genuine cupsets have been few and far between.

What’s more important, for the A-League at least, is for clubs like Melbourne City to find a fan-base.

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Selling out a Sydney derby will always grab the headlines, but it’s every other fixture that must remain a priority.

Signing genuine marquee players like Daniel Sturridge will help. The former Liverpool striker has only just emerged from quarantine, but already it’s clear he’s got the magnetic personality to help sell tickets in Perth.

We’re tracking towards a huge opening weekend of A-League Men fixtures.

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Let’s hope it’s a recurring theme, because this is one season where we need things to go right.

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