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Opinion

The A-League Men's teething problems are nothing that can't be fixed

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Expert
22nd November, 2021
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Depending on your online persona, the A-League Men’s opening round was either the dawn of a new era that will save football in Australia, or the worst thing to ever happen to humanity.

It’s safe to say Paramount+ has a few kinks to iron out.

The lack of a dedicated app for a sizeable range of smart TVs isn’t a great start. When it came to sitting down to watch the first game on Friday night, many fans didn’t actually know how to.

And Melbourne City’s 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar was entertaining enough, even if a certain refereeing decision deserves further discussion.

The first major problems for Paramount+ occurred on Saturday night, when the coverage of Melbourne Victory’s 1-0 win over Western United in Geelong was plagued by technical issues.

Plenty of us were oblivious because we were watching the Sydney derby on Channel Ten anyway, which produced an engaging but entirely predictable scoreless draw.

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There was nothing wrong with Channel Ten’s broadcast, apart from the fact that crosses to the other game in Geelong were non-existent.

And it’s worth reminding ourselves why Ten ViacomCBS purchased the rights to the A-League in the first place.

Plenty of fans were annoyed by the idea of two Saturday night games kicking off at the same time. Yet Paramount+’s entire business model revolves around selling subscriptions.

They aren’t simulcasting two games on one night to appeal to hardcore A-League fans who already have subscriptions, they’re trying to convert casual viewers who might be watching the main game on Channel Ten and decide they want to see more.

The whole broadcast would have made more sense if they had crossed between the two games, but as it turns out they were struggling to produce vision of the clash in Geelong.

It prompted a mea culpa on social media that was reminiscent of the outcry around Optus Sport’s disastrous World Cup coverage in 2018.

Their coverage has since gone on to improve drastically and the telco dropped a huge bombshell late last week when they announced they had retained the rights to the English Premier League for another six years.

This was the streaming revolution we all supposedly wanted, so we can’t act surprised when a non-linear broadcaster fails to dish up the exact same quality as the previous rights holder.

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At any rate, it was the F3 derby that ended up being the pick of the round as the Central Coast Mariners stunned the Newcastle Jets – and ruined my tips once again – with a 2-1 win in the driving rain at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Josh Nisbet finally bagged his first A-League goal and Jacob Farrell crashed home a second from a diving header in what was a pulsating encounter under sodden skies in Newcastle.

Joshua Nisbet of the Mariners

Joshua Nisbet of the Mariners (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Macarthur then drew 1-1 with Wellington at the same venue under farcical circumstances, after it turned out the pitch at Campbelltown Stadium is evidently unplayable.

This is what happens when you rely on local councils to support football in Australia.

But while certain things are beyond the A-League Men’s control, Danny Townsend and his administration should have a serious think about how they’re currently using VAR.

Let’s be real here, Brisbane Roar were robbed of a point when Kai Trewin’s late header was chalked out for offside by the VAR after he apparently strayed offside by a fraction of a millimetre in the 2-1 defeat to City.

And the APL would do well not to fall into the trap of previous regimes in believing that only clubs from Sydney and Melbourne matter.

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There’s a growing resentment in cities like Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth about how their clubs are being treated.

And the persistent use of the VAR to chalk off goals for the most marginal of infractions is ruining the entertainment.

At least the coverage will only get better.

As a complex opening round attests, things are never so binary in the A-League as to simply be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on one weekend of football.

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