As we put another A-League season in the book we begin to reflect on what Season 2016/17 meant and more importantly is football in a better position than twelve months previous. The season itself will be remembered for the incredible achievements of Sydney FC with a Tim Cahill home return listed as an important footnote but overall for something that promised so much way back in October, it barely made a dent in either the Australian sporting landscape of the history pages of football.
For the most part, the blame has to sit with David Gallop and those held responsible for the running of our game. There continues to be a disconnect between what the FFA is trying to achieve (if anything at all) and the general consensus of the fans of the game, the actual heartbeat of football in this country. Whilst we can never discount how important a fiscally responsible board is, and even more so when you look at how our game has been run in the past; this board is far more concerned with surviving in its current form than it is growing the game and dare I say it taking a few calculated risks.
Whilst the Grand Final was once again an incredible showcase for our game, the last few months of the regular season was a genuine snore fest. A deserved clear leader, a tired finals format and clubs simply just going through the motions lead to an increased amount of people simply switching off two thirds of the way thru the season with the option of rejoining when the finals commenced.
The Promotion/Relegation/Expansion argument is more damaging to the game whilst we have the current leadership in place that are more prepared to roll out a twenty year plan for football whilst they cannot see they game treading water right beneath their eyes. The current sporting market is incredibly tough; one only has to look at the current Super Rugby situation to see this, with one of Western Force or Melbourne Rebels playing in their last season this year. You can understand why the FFA wouldn’t want to rush into creating new teams (or even using existing ones) to expand the current league but the stagnant ten team competition isn’t helping anyone grow the game.
The ‘You’ve got to have a team” campaign typifies the way the FFA think. ‘Yoshi’ was a huge hit with all concerned and one of the best campaigns our game has seen for a very long time. The campaign was well received by all, and most likely surpassed all expectations. So what do you think the FFA followed this up with…? (Awkward silence), that’s right absolutely nothing.
There appears to be absolutely no marketing budget and I can’t see this changing anytime soon, especially when the FFA are trying to convince club owners they simply cannot afford to increase their annual distribution amounts. With the FFA happily crying poor to avoid opening their wallets to the clubs our game simply appears to be always taking one step forward and two steps back.
The Grand Final also saw the end of the SBS partnership at the ‘Free to Air TV’ party. A new partner hasn’t been announced yet and the commercial networks all stood around with their hands firmly in their pockets during the bidding process. The FFA has once again underestimated the power of the free to air network, something that gives instant access to every household (with a television) in Australia.
I recently parted ways with Foxtel due to being unable to justify the costs but have felt a very strong disconnect from the league. Not having Foxtel makes it very difficult to stay in touch with the A-League, and I must say it also makes you appreciative of the outstanding coverage the team are able to supply you with. Sadly continual price increases and the loss of other programming ultimately made the decision for me.
Once you have lost Foxtel, the FFA loses that connection with football fans and until there is an option for a league pass or similar this is a battle the FFA cannot win. Limiting their reach around Australia will dramatically affect their ability to reach key parts of their audience and until the league works out if they want supporters of subscribers they cannot reach their optimum audience.
Throw in the Socceroos potentially missing out on the 2018 World Cup and you have some very troubling waters ahead for our game. If Graham Arnold hadn’t recruited what turned out to be a super squad this year would’ve been a complete waste.
Football in Australia not only needs a clear direction, but a great leader at the helm of the ship. There are far too many icebergs in the foreseeable future to see our great game reach its potential under the current regime, and to be fair this regime has lost the support of their most important shareholder, the fans.Google+