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Opinion

Does the A-League have the clout to make a UK-bound event round work in season 2024/25?

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Expert
16th April, 2024
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The success of Magic Round in the NRL, Gather Round in the AFL and the glorious trip rugby league took to Las Vegas to kick off the 2024 season have proven one thing, events rounds are the go and the A-League Men need to be next on the bandwagon, or risk irrelevance.

The most logical destination is Europe, the spiritual home of football and a continent keenly aware of the mastery of the Australian players that have emanated from the land down under.

A fact-finding and feasibility trip undertaken by Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka and Stan Lazaridis should be the first step towards taking the A-League Men abroad in October 2024.

Once the nuts and bolts have been ironed out and the dates selected for the week-long jaunt, planning should become more detailed and the match-ups and stadia pencilled in for what could be an astonishing week in the history of Australian football.

Logic suggests the Round 2 fixture during the later weeks of October would be a perfect time for the league to ship off to the UK, with the Premier League underway and the weather still decent with average London temperatures of around 16 degrees.

Ten of the EPL clubs will be playing away from home that week, thus leaving their home venues up for lease and the clubs are almost certain to lap up the notion of high-quality Australian footballers entertaining English fans on the pristine surfaces.

Michael Ruhs Western United

Michael Ruhs of Western United. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

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Whilst not wanting to give the organisers too much instruction on exactly how they should plan and out and structure the matches, a Monday night blockbuster between Western United and Perth Glory at Old Trafford might be a good place to start.

English folk are well versed in mid-week football and after a lay day, the Brisbane Roar could face off against Newcastle Jets on the Wednesday at St James Park in Newcastle.

Just imagine the Geordies out in full force and cheering on their namesake, all kitted out in the red and blue of the Australian club. The 52,000 capacity of the venue could well be challenged.

The following day, Adelaide United would be up against Macarthur FC at Anfield, in a match certain to have the home fans in raptures.

With cost of living pressures considerable in the UK, Liverpool fans could simply wear the home kit of their team and support the boys from Adelaide without anyone even knowing the difference.

Stories of English military man and early settler John Macarthur would circle through the stands as the Bulls rep the area with pride and the Kop end might well go bananas at the sight of Hiroshi Ibusuki heading home from close range.

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The remaining three matches write themselves.

Etihad Stadium would host the Friday night Melbourne Derby between nominal home team Melbourne City and Tony Popovic’s Melbourne Victory.

Tottenham coach Ange Postecoglou could be paraded around the ground in an open-top car during the pre-game, firing up the home fans, as footage of his championship-winning team in Melbourne is broadcast on the stadium’s big screens.

Then, Postecoglou would return to a private box where he and Pep Guardiola would settle in for some classic derby action and banter, on either side of the ledger when it came to support.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou gestures after the Premier League match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday August 19, 2023. (Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou. (Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

London Stadium is the obvious venue for a Sydney Derby to be played in front of a likely packed house. The West Ham Eastender crew would no doubt take the side of the working-class Wanderers in the battle and the sight of the red and black walking onto the playing surface amidst a swathe of bubbles would forever change the A-League.

The final match of the week-long ‘Festival of Football’, where have we heard that before? It would see the two best sides of the most recent season do battle at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, in front of a capacity 12,600 people.

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Little incentive would be required for Ryan Reynolds and the other guy to be in attendance, with the players on both teams hopeful of an expression of interest from the owners and a future spot in the Wrexham squad alongside goal-scoring freak ‘Super Paul Mullin’.

Just close your eyes and picture the fans, the Aussie flags littered around the stadiums, the millions of Brits watching on television and the billions flooding into the coffers of the APL.

If the last few seasons of team sport in Australia have taught us anything, it is that the event round – and particularly one abroad, is a winner by definition and something the APL should be planning and investing in for the 2024/25 season.

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I have it all mapped out, yet don’t want to assume the APL has not already made plans for something similar.

Something tells me that a trip to the UK could be the shot in the arm the A-League needs.

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