Twas the week before Christmas and all through AAMI Park
City fans were stirring, their points tally stark
The nets were hung at each end with care
In hopes that a Marquee player would maybe appear.
The fans were ready to stroll through the gates
We were reminded the ‘Visitors’ were definitely not mates
But is Christmas week the right time for the game
Melbourne Derby in late December seems such a shame
Melbournian sports fans are creatures of habit, September is AFL finals time, November is reserved for Horse Racing, Boxing Day is cricket’s day and January sees the world’s best tennis stars grace our fine town. Our sporting calendar is very congested and sometimes tough to gain a foothold at any given time period. When Melbourne Heart entered the A-League the management wanted to establish a new tradition of their own and reserve a place on this calendar; the Christmas derby.
From their second season onwards Melbourne Heart began hosting Melbourne Victory on the Saturday night before Christmas day. Crowd numbers have been solid with 26,000+ in the last three seasons and the clash is a key component in the club’s membership drive. The Christmas derby has been the biggest drawing crowd every season for the club, but is the timing of the derby right for all parties involved?
Christmas is incredibly busy times for most. Work parties, family gatherings and last minute catch up with friends dictate December in most households. Many of us can’t keep up with the constant socialising the festive period brings; thankfully we have our smart phones to set reminders of when Aunt Kathy’s pre Christmas drink up is. Does an A-League club really need to set their marquee fixture bang in the middle of everyone’s busiest time? You will never suit everyone but the Melbourne derby at AAMI Park is a special occasion for football fans, especially when we play two derbies at the drab Etihad Stadium. A City vs. Victory clash at AAMI is the closest many fans will get to a genuine football experience. A packed house, a real football stadium and two cross-town rivals will always attract maximum interest, especially for a struggling club like City.
There is no need to play the derby so close to Christmas.
Ideally Melbourne City would host a derby early to boost their membership numbers. Still in its infancy, the club still relies heavily on the derby as a major selling point for the club; every second season will only host one derby. The club needs to be smarter when deciding when they request the derby to be played and should look at late November or after the Australian Open in January of February.
Next season the A-League fixture should return to normal, without Australia hosting the Asian Cup and will see the FFA Cup final be played on a weekend or Australia Day (hopefully not). Why not be daring and move away from the Christmas period, and stop losing some much needed exposure throughout the December period. Clubs will always be looking for maximum exposure for their key fixtures and attempt to build certain traditions throughout the A-League season.
On paper the Christmas derby was a nice thought but in reality I think the club could schedule the fixture at a better time for all major stakeholders.Google+