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Opinion

It's high time the A-Leagues showed the same passion they demand from fans

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Expert
13th March, 2022
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Western United’s 2-2 draw with Melbourne City on Saturday may have been a classic, but it highlighted one of the glaring issues of a season that has generated more questions than answers.

Most critics seemed to think John Aloisi’s managerial career was over after he stepped down as Brisbane Roar coach in December 2018 after overseeing a catastrophic start to the season.

The former Socceroo had to bide his time before getting another chance at Western United, but he’s made the most of his opportunity and the team from Melbourne’s west – not that they actually play there – would have gone top of the table had they managed to hold on to a two-goal lead at AAMI Park.

Leo Lacroix has been one of the signings of the season and the former Sion and Saint-Etienne defender is yet another reminder that A-League clubs can sign high-quality professionals even if they don’t have the most glittering CVs.

The big Swiss defender stooped to head home his third goal in two games to give Western United the lead in front of 8127 fans at AAMI Park.

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And when Slovenian international Rene Krhin coolly side-footed home his first goal in the competition, the nominal hosts looked well on their way to victory.

Leo Lacroix

(Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

But Melbourne City are champions for a reason and having battered the hosts over the early stages of the contest, it was no surprise to see Connor Metcalfe pull a goal back before half-time.

They deserved their equaliser too, with Jamie Maclaren once again proving why he’s the most dangerous striker in the league with an unerring finish into the far corner of Jamie Young’s goal.

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It was one of the most entertaining 2-2 draws we’ve seen all season and if you happened to be a Brisbane Roar or Wellington Phoenix fan, you didn’t see it all.

One of the most glaring problems with the way the A-League Men competition is being marketed is that those who run it can’t seem to understand why Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix fans are not automatically tuning into a fixture between two Melbourne teams.

Brisbane Roar’s gritty 2-1 win over the Phoenix on Saturday was desperately needed, but it was watched by far fewer fans than in previous seasons because it kicked off at the exact same time at Western United’s clash.

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That’s what Paramount+ wants. The only way to secure mass subscriptions is by capturing fans from every market.

But one of the unwanted side effects of this approach is that it effectively cannibalises the league’s own audience. I used to watch almost every game each weekend, but that’s impossible now.

And that wouldn’t be such an issue if fans could watch replays of fixtures they’ve missed in a timely manner, or pause and rewind games that are already in progress.

In fairness to Paramount+, they were reasonably quick to post a replay of Saturday afternoon’s Western United game, even if highlights of fixtures continue to elude us.

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And the overwhelming tendency of the A-Leagues to favour teams from Melbourne and Sydney has infuriated fans from outside those two cities for years now.

Even when the A-Leagues continues to focus almost exclusively on just two cities, it’s not like it helps fans in those markets anyway.

Ticket prices at Macarthur FC are a disgrace, but the Bulls get away with robbing supporters blind because the Australian Professional Leagues have apparently thrown their hands in the air and decided that administering a football league is simply beyond their capabilities.

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Now the Bulls are busy blocking anyone on social media who dares question their exorbitant ticket prices.

The APL deserves to have the book thrown at them for running a competition that makes the National Soccer League looks like a paragon of virtue.

Fans are growing tired of the litany of excuses and the overwhelming bias towards clubs from Sydney and Melbourne.

They’d better have a plan for next season, because this one has been a joke.

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