Monday, 1 October 2012

Let's give Australian football, the A-League, an almighty shove.

It's been a roller coaster ride for Aussie football fans over the seven years of the A-League but has the FFA finally embedded the code?

Football has had many ups and downs in Australia over the last seven years. And while the Socceroos are crucial to interest and revenues it's the A-League that is perhaps the true test of our stability and potential for growth.

The A-League starts Season 8 on Friday. Did you know?

There has been so much to like about the A-League over the last 7 years but for every glorious goal or fantastic game, fans belief quickly wobbles as financial woes lead clubs to go bust time and time again.

And of course Australia has the unique media approach to football - ignore it, slag it off and if you are like Rebecca Wilson, Peter Fitzsimons, Cory Bernardi and the like take every opportunity to denigrate the code. Tiresome.

But to Fitzsimons and Wilson - you can whinge all you want - but maybe just maybe the community and times will have passed you by, finally!

Even on Saturday in The Age football was again attacked in an Opinion Piece about the AFL Grand Final - the stupidity.

We've seen the screaming headlines around crowd violence in pre-season and until Del Piero rocked up we were looking like entering the season on the back of media attacks from the tried and trusted.

But thanks to some amazing investment from Sydney FC, Newcastle and the FFA, we enter the season with renewed hope, perhaps even more positive than in Season 1.

There is so much goodwill for football. The World Cup bid, attacked by the AFL, perhaps was too much too soon for the FFA. Up against a cashed up and connected indigenous organisation - read that again - we were not ready for such a bid, or at least our A-League wasn't.

But you have to wonder that finally, just finally, do we have real hope, nay a plan, for the future.

Maybe the FFA now has a leader who has some dollars to play with and a real sense of how we can build and entrench the game still further in the Aussie psyche.

We've cried out for a business model, a plan, to embrace the fans, for fans to embrace, and to spend the money wisely and slowly build the game. Little boot by  little boot,  fan by fan.

We can do it - we've always known it - we just haven't been sure those running the game knew it.

Do we now have a plan?

1. FFA to invest in a Marquee a la Del Piero every year?

Dwight Yorke showed us Sydney will come to games when we have a real Marquee. The league should invest - maybe they have - in a Sydney marquee. Shinji Ono, great player is not a real Marquee - Del Piero is.

His presence has given the A-League a huge boost in the media ahead of the new season. We had it last year with Kewell and Emerton.

Lesson 1: Do it every single year and reap the benefits of the global game. Last year Kewll, this year Del Piero, next year Kaka, Ronaldinho or the like.

Can we budget to bring in one or maybe two players like this each year? Look at the media message we got out as the AFL and NRL finals bedded down. And that ain't easy is it.

It's a great and easy way to promote the season. And I love the fact that we turn the global game to our advantage. 

2. The TV deal - this ones for you Peter FitzSimons.

Some Rugby Union types preposterously call football the 4th code. Whatever! If the rumoured A-League on SBS each weekend is to be believed - and I do - then Union will surely be hanging it's head a little lower this week.

How big?

I'm not sure people have really grasped how many could watch a Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory crucial game, or a Grand Final. A million? Maybe more? That's enough to get those Commercial channels sniffing isn't it! Yuck, I mean great for the future.

What better time to get on fta with a few new star players flying in.

3. Money

Football needs it like no other sport. International teams galore, Women players poorly paid, grassroots facilities non-existent, junior fees higher than the cashed up AFL programs.

But if the TV deal stabilises clubs there are many other commercial sides for football to gain from. jumped onto Sydney FC recently and all Sydney games will be beamed live to Italy.

When did that happen....for mighty Collingwood or those Bulldogs or Waratahs!

Sydney has three new sponsors this season, the Mariners, Perth Glory have all recently announced new sponsor deals. Things are looking up.

With fta on board the attractiveness of football to sponsors can only grow.

Stable clubs will reduce losses. They won't make money, but they will and can increase revenues and that in turns mean they are selling more jerseys, more sponsorships, more community programs. More, more of everything is good! 

It seems football after seven years - let's not mention the previous 100 plus - is on the cusp of something new.

Now is the time to get behind the game and give it an almighty shove. 

Get to as many games as you can, watch as many young Australians playing the game as you can, and tell your schoolmates, your workmates, your mum and dad to sit down and enjoy the game.

And here's hoping Adelaide United can win for Australia in Uzbekistan on Wednesday night - but you knew that!

Melbourne Derby opens the season on Friday - don't miss it - it'll be a cracker.

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