Posts tagged ‘Melbourne’

A National Headache

The international backlash to the Australian cricket team’s behaviour following their world cup victory has not been a surprise but has been embarrassing. Add to that Shane Warne’s attempted interviews post match and the tournament has ended on a very sour note for most Australian sports fans who applaud their cricketing feats but not their decorum.

This is sadly not the first time the Australian cricket team have behaved in a way that does not befit men who are representing the country. One Australian official in a diplomatic role told this writer that following a tour of India his staff spent a month going around the country mending bridges and apologising for the behaviour of the players.

What compounds the issue is at the celebration the next day in Federation Square,Melbourne the players publicly seemed to revel in the fact that they had been drinking all night. Captain Michael Clarke appeared on stage from the rooftop bar with the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy, and when asked to describe his overriding emotion answered saying, “A little hungover, I think I speak for everybody in that sense. I guarantee you the boys will continue to celebrate today. It’s the Australian way.”

Brad Haddin has since apologised for going on Triple M Breakfast radio in Sydney having been introduced by team mate Steve Smith as the most drunk of players. Haddin on website Cricket.com.au has said that he wished he hadn’t agreed to go on air. “We were celebrating a World Cup win and enjoying ourselves after a long tournament, in hindsight, we should have stayed off the radio. If I offended anyone, it was never my intention.”  The damage has been done as his comments have been spread across the world’s cricket media.

Comments about his team mates which went like this “I’ll paint a picture for you now. I’ve got a coach who’s spooning the World Cup who can’t speak,” Haddin said. “I’ve got James Faulkner who’s got his clothes off but don’t tell everyone. And I’ve got the Marsh boys, and you know I can’t even talk about the Marsh boys because you know what trouble they have. I’ve got Josh Hazlewood … he’s never been drunk in 30 years. It’s a problem. We just can’t get him drunk. He’s an absolute nightmare to drink with.” Totally irresponsible by a man who has been Vice Captain of the national team and therefore was tipped as a leader.

One has say that everyone expects a team to celebrate after winning a World title, as such titles do not come easily. However players must remember that they are held up – whether they like it or not – as ambassadors of this country a country where Cricket is the national sport a sport permuted to reflect gentlemanly behaviour and fair play; although Australia may well debate this quite vociferously. Representing your country, or club comes with responsibilities and sadly for a while now the Australian cricket team have failed to live up to those responsibilities off the field.

The question has to be asked what is CEO James Sutherland done to arrest this? Why have Cricket Australia been so quite in the past few days, while their reputation is being damaged around the globe, or as in India are they expecting others to clean up the mess. Cricket Australia should have had the players in a controlled environment post match and taken the mobile phones off the players while they were drinking, to protect both the players and the image of Cricket Australia.

Now they face a global backlash.  A strong leader would have fined those players such as Haddin, Clarke and others who wore their hangovers with pride and promoted them, they would have then given the money collected to Alcohol abuse related charities and made the players carry out some form of community service, to try and restore the damaged image.

The other thing that would be nice to see is a public apology to the nation by the team. They made many proud with their victory but have embarrassed just as many post match.

All of these things are unlikely to happen, but one thing is for sure Cricket Australia need to take control and ensure that off field behaviour improves and that others do not have to go around cleaning up after these men behaving like teenage boys.

 

 

 

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April 2, 2015 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

Attracting A Global Audience Key to Opening Game

It is quite laughable the reaction of the AFL affiliates and the media covering the sport in Western Australia to the news that there is a bid for the Socceroos to play England as the focal point of the New Stadium at Burswood. All it has done is show how stuck in the past they all are.

Sure a Western Derby is a big attraction in Western Australia for those who follow the code, but how does it compare to a top class international in football? That is the trouble AFL does not have a higher level than the AFL. Its hybrid games against the amateur Irish teams have an equally limited appeal as does the game itself does. Like many other national sports around the world if it is not going to catch on internationally in the first 100 years of its existence it is unlikely ever to.

We will be fed that old line that Perth is a “Football town,” a line fuelled by those with a vested interest. No city is more of a footy town than Melbourne, yet look how they embrace every sport at every level, by creating decent facilities and attracting major events. They are not so insular in their views and have now established themselves as the Sporting Capital in the country.

It is incredible to read Mr Cransberg, Chairman of the West Coast Eagles say that as the sport most likely to be the main user of the stadium they should be afforded primary consideration. Why? This stadium does not belong to the AFL it belongs to the taxpayers of Western Australia. The West Coast Eagles will merely be tenants just as will many other sports and musical acts.

Head of the WA Football Commission Gary Walton was quoted as saying, “International events come with pretty significant up-front investment where a derby will in my view guarantee a capacity crowd and it’ll come at no cost to the state.” What small minded insular thinking. It is people with attitudes such as this that hold Western Australia back.

This is supposed to be a state of the art stadium when it is completed, so why would you have as your opening event something that will only garner minimum media coverage within Australia. By hosting a top international sporting event you are immediately putting the stadium, and Perth on the world map as having a venue suitable for world class events. If England or World Champions Germany played the Socceroos you would be assured a sell out crowd. If the Wallabies played whoever lifts the Rugby World Cup at the end of this year it is just as likely to sell out, as would an Ashes Test match. The true code of Football however has to be the biggest drawcard, as it is a truly global sport. The fact is all of these sporting events played between international teams will have far more global and national appeal than a local AFL match, and anyone who says otherwise needs to get on a plane and go and experience the real world outside of Western Australia.

What is worrying is the bias and factual inaccuracies run by the West Australian Newspaper. Mark Duffield wrote that ‘the state government will, in three years time have forgiven Australian soccer officials for leaving Perth off its map of Australia when it drew up the Asian Cup Program.” Yes, they did fail to promote the tournament in the West, have any ambassadors or fan Parks, but the biggest problem was the only feasible venue, NIB Stadium fails to meet FIFA requirements. The FFA stated after the game against Indonesia at Subiaco Oval in 2005 that they would never host an international there again because it was unsuitable for television and spectators. Had the State Government spent some of the money allocated to the refurbishment of NIB stadium on upgrading the changing rooms, then Western Australia would have a case to answer as to why we were left out of having any games. The truth is it was our own government who are at fault on this occasion. (Build it Properly and they Will Come). Some cynics have questioned whether the Sports minister did this deliberately so that Football would not be able to challenge his beloved AFL; It is extremely unlikely that a politician would be that petty and small-minded.

So why would Mr Duffield mislead his readers? Then again you cannot expect Mr Duffield to know these things as being the Chief Football writer, his time would be taken up finding inane stories to keep AFL on the back page of the paper for 350 days of the year. It is also interesting to note that the WA Football Commission has in the past paid for editorial coverage in the West Australian, to ensure that they received two or four pages coverage, yet never did the paper reveal that the space was paid for.

To be fair to Mr Duffield he does make a valid point asking why should it be a sporting event that opens the stadium, why can’t it be a concert of epic proportions? The most obvious answer would be because it is first and foremost a sporting venue.

If we wanted mass exposure maybe looking at hosting the T20 Champions League in Perth would be an option. That would attract a massive audience in the subcontinent and would give thousands of people the chance to be a part of an opening event.

The truth is whatever event or events in what should be an opening week of celebrations are staged, they must be ones that attract global attention. Perth needs to shout about this stadium and the fact that finally we have a stadium to match the best in the world – if it in fact does. Only by global exposure will we attract future events.

It is also important to realise that only by hosting the Socceroos will we see European clubs put pressure on the FFA to have more games here as the flying time will be less for their players returning home! So Football’s case actually would have a long term gain.

 

 

February 13, 2015 at 6:33 am 1 comment

Time To Come Clean

It has come as no great surprise to many that the long awaited report into the bidding to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup football tournaments have resulted in embarrassment for Australia.

First of all let us acknowledge that FIFA needs to look closer to home if it is to wipe out such corruption. If its executive were not open to inducements then various bidding countries would not feel the need to try and affect the voting process with “gifts.”

Let us also acknowledge that Australia’s bid for the Olympic Games in 2000 saw the bid committee do all that hey could to influence those voting, including obtaining access to all of the rooms at the hotel that those voting were staying at and putting on their bed’s gifts from Australia. The aim being to keep Sydney in the forefront of their minds. When traffic in Sydney was raised as a stumbling block in their bid, whenever one of those bidding came to visit the city to make an assessment, in co-operation with the NSW Police a helicopter would be above the car in which the delegate was travelling and as they approached a set of traffic lights the helicopter would radio traffic control who would change the lights to green. Some would say you do what you have to do.

What is a grave concern to football fans in Australia and also non fans who are tax payers is that Government funds appear to have been used for illegal and unethical behaviour.

There should be an Australian government investigation into what actually transpired and current and former FFA Board members and staff should be held accountable.

Four years ago it was revealed that Fedor Radmann and Peter Hargitay were  both hired to help bring the cup to Australia, were to receive up to $11.37 million in fees and bonuses by Football Federation Australia if the bid had been successful. Peter Hargitay was introduced to Frank Lowy Chairman of the FFA by SBS Television’s Les Murray who it was said was a personal friend. The latter defended the FFA when speaking on ABC radio in 2010 when he said “The government grant for the bid is somewhere around $36 million. I’m not sure what people presuppose that money is going to be spent on, but I’m assuming the people of Australia think that money is well spent on a strategy to get a successful bid to bring the World cup to Australia. In their wisdom, correct or otherwise, the FFA have decided that less than a quarter of that money is going to be spent on strategists and lobbyists who are very well equipped to perform the task (and) who are going to advise on the right strategy to get the bid over the line.”

In 2011 as part of FIFA’s 13-member ethics committee, Les Murray was called upon to rid the organisation of allegedly corrupt elements within its political framework. This morning on Melbourne’s SEN radio it has been reported in The Age that Mr Murray claimed ‘the Western countries may have been “a bit naive in the way they went about their business”, whereas “Qataris and the Russians, if they did in fact bribe people or did some inducements, they were very clever about it and kept it well hidden.”‘

At the time that news broke of the Australian inducements in 2010, which included gifts such as pearl necklaces and cuff links with a value of around $50,000, a spokesperson for the then Minister for Sport Kate Ellis was quoted as saying “Obviously the way the FFA spends government money is subject to the usual reporting and scrutiny requirements, any evidence to the contrary will be thoroughly investigated by the government, as would any alleged breach of the funding agreement.”

The then opposition leader, and now Prime Minister Tony Abbott who supported the bid to host the tournament said “I would like Australia to host the World Cup but I think we should win it on our merits and I certainly don’t think we should be greasing palms to succeed in this area.”

In 2011 former SBS reporter Jesse Fink who had raised questions about the Australian bid appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 report and claimed that he had received an email from Les Murray in his role of Editorial Supervisor at SBS sport which read, “”It is not a good look if we, SBS, the most powerful voice in football appear to talk down the bid or declare it stillborn. Given that the bid has great support in Australia, including enthusiastic support by all governments, my preferred editorial policy would be to support it.”

A year ago investigative journalist Andrew Jennings was highly critical of the FFA following a forensic report into for FIFA Executive Jack Warner revealed the FFA had handed close to half a million dollars to the head of CONCACAF. As Jennings asked then did Hargitay admit that he had for a long time been a paid consultant to Jack Warner? “When Warner pocketed Australia’s $462,000 – did Hargitay get a commission, a cut of the loot he had steered from Australia to the Caribbean crook?” he asked on his website.

Once again a lack of transparency from the FFA has let the sporting public of Australia, who believe in fair play, down. The Government did not instigate an investigation into the bid process at the time that Jack Warner was found to have taken almost half a million dollars in tax payer’s money, as an election was around the corner, and Frank Lowy and his Westfield Shopping Centre empire is a generous donor; Well why wouldn’t you be, when as revealed in a report in September that the Westfield Retail Trust and James Hardie, pay no tax at all in Australia.

Throughout this whole sorry bid process anyone who spoke out against the FFA attempts were made to silence them. Former Australian bid team member Bonita Mersiades was fired in early 2010 when it became clear she asked too many questions about the legitimacy of Hargitay, as well as why his son Stevie was receiving money. Some media outlets however still chose to tow the party line, rather than rock the boat.

It comes as no surprise that FIFA would highlight issues with Australia’s bid, as against the other nations who bid for the hosting rights Australia is a minnow, and can be made a scapegoat without harming the game as a whole. The truth is Australia tried to play with the big boys. Frank Lowy knows how to do that in big business, but football is a different game, and he and his team got it horribly wrong. There can be no excuses now, it is time that a thorough investigation is conducted into the whole bid process carried out by Australia, and that the tax paying public are made aware of who was paid what, by whom, and what was expected in return. After all $40million could have been put to great use here in Australia developing young talent. Having had such a large sum of money it seems crazy that only this year the FFA had to go cup in hand to FIFA for AUD$536,000 funding, through the FIFA Goal project, to obtain funding for two years ‘to deliver a National Women and Girls Football Development program,’ yet during the big process Hargitay persuaded the FFA to pay for a Trinidad Under-20 team to attend a training camp in Cyprus! Surely that is a mismanagement of funds?

It is time for a full scale independent investigation and some transparency into what really transpired.

November 14, 2014 at 10:29 am Leave a comment

A Token Gesture?

Was Perth a last minute thought? Or are the administrators simply not on the ball.

Yesterday “Not the Footy Show” was alerted to the fact that the FFA are holding a Fan Forum meeting at Perth Soccer Club tonight. The FFA themselves had sent out no media advice on the meeting and neither had Football West; although apparently they did send an invite out to all clubs. Something that may have been rather futile in the off season unless you are sure that club secretaries will forward to all their members. Oh and they did send a tweet!

The meeting is to be attended by Damien de Bohun, Head of Hyundai A-League, Emma Highwood, Head of Community Football and Women’s Football and Kyle Patterson Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications. It is hoped that Mr Patterson will not be chairing the meeting this time around as his heavy-handed protectionist approach did not go down well last time in the West. (Should Patterson Apologise)

Football West did put a post up on their website about the Forum on Sunday but stated “for catering and space purposes, registration is vital.” Registrations were to be received by “before 5pm on Monday, October 27.” So obviously they are assuming that people go to the Football West website on a Monday in the off season and will read this and then in 24 hours respond.

Supposedly this meeting is important, as it is Western Australia’s opportunity to share its thoughts on CEO David Gallop’s light-on-facts “State of the Game” address. (A Little Less Conversation a Little More Action)

The list of important issued planned to be discussed include: The cost of football, The governance of football, Grassroots facilities, referees and coaches, The development of elite youth players, What should we be trying to achieve with the national team? What should our competitions look like? How do we grow the supporter base of Australian football?

If these issues are so important – and some definitely are – why are the “Football family” in Western Australia only given 48 hour notice on such a meeting?

The last forum held in the West there was very little listening to issues by the FFA representatives and it appears given the promotion of this event that once again they are only paying lip service to the West.

It would appear that these three senior executives at the FFA who happen to be in Western Australia for the FFA Cup quarter final on Wednesday night have decided to make the trip more justifiable, and opted to throw together a fan forum, following their meetings with Perth Glory and Football West.

Football in Western Australia and those involved in the game deserve more respect than a last minute Forum that few are aware of.  Some would go so far as to say that Football West with its invitation letters were actually trying to control those who attend. If hardly anyone goes the Football fraternity in the West will be accused of ‘not caring.’ If they come and air genuine grievances, will the FFA listen or will they once again dismiss us as being the ‘Wild West?’  Let us not forget that following the last forum and the opposition to the NPL, CEO David Gallop advised the Football West board to ‘stare down’ the detractors and ensure it went ahead. The reason being the FFA had already completed the document it was submitting to the Asian Football Confederation stating the NPL was going ahead, and they submitted it prior to two states coming on board.

There has been little evidence so far that Football West (The More Things Change the More they Stay The Same) or the FFA are prepared to listen, and act upon the genuine concerns or recommendation of clubs at semi professional and amateur level or even at A-League level.

Until there is more open communication and more honesty Forums such as these are a waste of time, and are simply the FFA ticking a box to say that they have engaged with the “Football Family.” What has been done about making sure development fees are paid to clubs on time? An issue raised in Melbourne at a fan Forum almost two years ago and in the one in Perth in May 2013. If these meetings are to be successful the FFA needs to take on board the issues and act upon them. The fact that little or no follow up has taken place in a year and the cost to play the game at Junior level has risen to a level that has seen some families walk away from the game would say it is definitely time to listen.

Sadly trust now comes into play. Trust has been eroded due to broken promises and that failure to listen and address concerns, by the FFA and Football West.  It will take a great deal more than holding a Fan Forum at the last minute to restore faith in the FFA’s pathway for the game. It is time for transparency and financial figures to be shared. The Football Family deserve to know where monies are being spent, and especially funds given by Government agencies and FIFA. These funds are given for set areas of the game, but rumour is rife that they are being used in other areas of the game, and not being given to those they are intended for.

Hopefully those able to attend at the last minute will report back that there has been a change in attitude; but actions always speak louder than words, and tonight is likely to be the same as similar events before, a lot of head nodding and talk, which will result in little or no change in the future.

 

October 28, 2014 at 9:29 am 5 comments

Lost in the Post

Australian football is preparing for its biggest party yet, hosting the 2015 Asian Cup. It is however becoming clear that this is not going to be a national celebration of the game, or if it is the invitations appear to have been lost in the post.

Many around the country were angered when Australia was pitching for the event that the bid was focussed purely on the East coast of the country. Despite the AFC not visiting other states and looking at the stadia in those cities, assurances were made by the FFA, we have an email stating so, that other cities such as Perth and Adelaide would be part of the event. Yet at the moment fans in these cities would not even know that the event was taking place, unless they go looking for news on it.

It seems very remiss of those appointing Ambassadors that they have not appointed people to such roles in the cities where games will not be held, so that they can actually promote the competition, and make people feel that this is a truly national event of which everyone should be proud.

Today it was announced that Ned Zelic would be another Ambassador for the tournament on top of working for Fox Sports as an expert commentator. Is there a conflict there? Will he now be able to speak freely if the tournament has any hiccups? He joins other “domestic football ambassadors” including Sydney-based Brett Emerton, Paul Okon, Rale Rasic and Ali Abbas, Queenslanders Matt McKay and Craig Moore, and Melbourne Ambassadors Harry Kewell and Alan Davidson. Ali Abbas’ and Matt McKay’s appointments also raise a few eyebrows as they are both still currently playing for Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar. Surely such a role should be going to former players who have the time to promote the tournament?

Why have we not seen any appointments in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory?

Zelic becomes the third current or former player in the Australian Capital Territory to be appointed as an ambassador along with Sally Shipard and Ellyse Perry.

It is interesting to note the population of the ACT is 385,000. The Northern Territory is 243,000 and Tasmania 513,000. Based on these statistics they should have at least two “Ambassadors” each. As for South Australia (1.6million) and Western Australia (2.6million) it is a very strange situation that no “Ambassadors” have been appointed, and we are only three months out from the start of the tournament.

It is great that Australia is hosting this event, but once again fans across the country want to feel a part of it. This dysfunctional “Football Family” has sadly, made many once again feel like the poor relative.

One cannot help feeling that once again the chance to make football truly inclusive has been missed. This is Australia hosting this tournament, sure the Government’s of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and ACT have lent financial support in order to host games, and we all understand that travel was a major issue in the running of the event, but it is time everyone across the country was made to feel a part of it. Most states are very parochial and they want to hear that their heroes of yesteryear are being recognised and appointed Ambassadors; to be snubbed is hard to take.

Hopefully an invitation will be received soon!

October 14, 2014 at 10:15 am 2 comments

For Those Who Say, ‘No Way.’

With much of the Commonwealth Games coverage in Australia being focussed purely on Australian athletes and teams one amazing story – no doubt there were many more – slipped past us, and that was the story of England marathon runner Steve Way.

Steve Way is 40 years old he finished 10th in the Marathon. What is so impressive about that many will no doubt be saying; while we say anyone who completes a marathon is pretty remarkable.

The reason Steve Way’s story is so remarkable is that he came to the sport late and almost by accident. He told the BBC “I didn’t really take any interest in sport at school, I was pretty good at maths and physics, a bit of a geek. But I also enjoyed myself quite a lot in my twenties. There was quite a lot of drinking, quite a lot of smoking and quite a lot of late-night kebabs after nights out with the boys in Bournemouth. The big change came when I was 33, in September 2007. I was at my heaviest, about 16-and-a-half stone, and I was smoking about 20 cigarettes a day. I’d have sleepless nights because of the coughing. It wasn’t pleasant.”

It was then that Way from Dorset decided to make a change. As he also told the BBC “I wasn’t clinically depressed but I was just moseying from one day to the next. I had no goals in life. There was nothing going on to get me excited. I needed to find something I could focus all my attention on that was going to help me lose weight and keep me off the cigarettes. In order to bury your vices you need to find an equal and opposite addiction. You need to find a passion.”

Apparently he had first run a marathon the year before in 2006. He entered the London Marathon, trained for three weeks and finished it in a very impressive just over three hours. However he went back to the beer fags and kebabs.

After deciding to do something about his health and this time seven months of training he again took part in the London Marathon and this time he finished with a time of 2:35.26 and finished 100th.

He managed to keep running and ran 130miles a week while still holding down a 9-5 job. No sponsorship for this guy, or full time training he was an old-fashioned athlete.

He qualified for the Commonwealth Games by being the third Englishman to finish in this year’s London Marathon. He was beaten by two-time Olympic and three-time world champion Mo Farah – who ended up pulling out of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games due to illness, – and Chris Thompson.

Way finished the London Marathon 15th in a time of 2:16.27, ahead of British Olympian Scott Overall. Once again the incredible thing about this performance was he hadn’t actually trained for the race. He had planned to take it easy and simply run with some club-mates.

“The prospect of representing my country in Glasgow was not on my radar,” Way told the BBC. “I was using London as a training run for the UK 100km Championships in May. But about a week and a half before London I realised I’d got myself into what I thought was marathon personal-best shape. I’m not sure how I’d done it, but I decided to race instead.” He incidentally won that 100km race by 46 minutes.

He may not have beaten the Kenyans or finished amongst the medals but to have even made it to the start line was an incredible achievement and shows anything is possible.

Of course we have featured our very own Steve Way on the show, Gary Wilmot AKA No More Mr Fat Guy. Gary had risen to a weight of 142kgs before he had his awakening and he has now completed three marathons. Gary is now planning to run from Perth (Western Australia) to Brisbane (Queensland), taking in Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and the Gold Coast along the way  a distance of approximately 5500km in total. He is also hoping to raise $1million for the Heart Foundation. To find out more check out his website. http://www.nmmfg.com

 

 

 

August 11, 2014 at 10:34 am Leave a comment

Foundations For Expansion?

It is great that the A-League Grand Final on Sunday will see the two best teams in the competition take centre stage, especially as the FFA have secured a global television audience for the game. This is great news for the competition, but is it grounds for expansion of the league?

The key now has to be raise the standard of the competition as a whole and have the other teams reach the standards of Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar. Last season was pretty much a three horse race with the Central Coast Mariners being a class act, but a loss of players and a change of coach has seen them fail to build on that success. Rejuvenating a team and sustaining success are never easy, and are even harder in a competition with no transfer fees and no competition of a standard close to the A-League underpinning it. It will be a long time before the NPL is an adequate second tier competition, and will take a great deal of investment to speed that process up.

This week there was an article in an East Coast newspaper stating that the A-League should expand, and that Sydney should in fact have a third team in the competition. This opinion is no doubt based on the outstanding success of Western Sydney Wanderers, yet no one will reveal how big the investment was in the newest franchise created by the game’s governing body. Let us think what the reaction would have been from football fans across the country had they failed to succeed, it would have been extremely embarrassing for the FFA. Western Sydney Wanderers had to be a success! There is no doubt on the pitch Tony Popovic deserves a great deal of credit and has shown that he is one of the best and most forward thinking coaches in the competition. However the truth is we are not comparing apples with apples, as Western Sydney have operated under different rules and different operating circumstances to the other A-League clubs.

The same article called for expansion of the A-League to 12 teams by the time the next TV deal comes around in 2017. Is that really a sound reason for expansion? To try and squeeze more money out of television. The hard truth is television stations are hurting, advertising dollars are not there, and it will be hard for all sports to get a vastly improved deal on the ones they currently all have now, when it comes time to re-negotiate. If Fox Sports turn their back on football – very unlikely – there is no way anyone will match their investment.  This is unlikely as fans should watch closely as Murdoch-owned television stations across the globe are making very strong bids to own the rights of every national football league. Word is they want to create a 24 hour football channel. However once they have all the leagues locked in, they will have the power and dictate the terms to the leagues; it is also believed that they intend to make games pay-per-view due to the money they will have invested in buying the rights unable to be matched in advertising revenue. So be warned.

Should the A-League expand? Next year will be the tenth year of the competition. The league has so far seen three teams come and go so far, and several others teeter on the brink. Maybe John O’Neill’s one team one city plan in hindsight was not the best. Maybe teams need to be where the football has registered players in substantial numbers, and the club aligned to those people who are involved in the game.

CEO of the FFA David Gallop when revealing the television audience for the Grand Final explained the reason so many countries have purchased the rights was “The presence of marquee players has been the catalyst, but it’s the quality of play and entertainment value that has convinced broadcasters at home and abroad to invest in our rights. We have opened the eyes of the world to the Hyundai A-League and now fans worldwide they can watch all of our stars in action on a weekly basis, including Sunday’s blockbuster in Brisbane.”  (That is not entirely true on many levels as the television rights in several countries are in some cases linked to a central contract; but that is by the by).

There are questions over the quality, yes there are entertaining games but sometimes the quality is poor. Stars of the A-league? Who are the big stars of the A-League? Who are the players everyone in the country would know straight away? Who would they recognise walking down the street? Alessandro del Piero, and Emile Heskey, definitely. Archie Thompson probably as for Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha maybe. How many of the “stars” are homegrown in Australia?The truth is the number of true “stars” in the game are very few. Guy Finkler is a star in Melbourne yet many around the country would walk past him and not even bat an eyelid.

The concern to some who have been around the game a long time is that the A-League under the stewardship of Frank Lowy is heading down a similar path as the National Soccer League, even though the television coverage hides the fact; Lowy has also learned second time around to have key media outlets on his side.

The NSL commenced in 1977 with an ambitious 14 team league. By 1981 clubs were looking at ways to cut costs as few profitable; the same applies to many an A-League club. The clubs voted for a Summer Competition back then, but the game’s administrators at the time, the Australian Soccer Federation rejected the idea. The league was tampered with and two divisions set up, but they reverted back to a one division 14 team league in 1986.

Interestingly as interest started to wane the NSL looked to import players as an easy way to attract media attention; sound familiar?  It has been written that “their value was often questionable.” The glamour was only passing to true fans, as ultimately football is about entertainment and about the team not one player. The FFA have made it clear that they have financially assisted clubs bringing in overseas superstars in the twilight of their careers, but as much as they too may have created media attention how many have been a success on the pitch? The likes of Alessandro del Piero, Robbbie Fowler, Michael Bridges, Emile Heskey, have all been well below the standards that they set when at the top of their game. Some would say that Sydney FC suffered the past two years on the pitch having to carry an immobile del Piero, even though his vision sometimes won them games. Perth Glory owner Tony Sage, a sucker for a big name, admitted to the West Australian newspaper in February that French import William Gallas had not provided an adequate return for investment on the pitch. However he did claim that the international exposure created by the former France international’s signing had given the club value for money.

The NSL saw clubs come in and drop out of the league with a scary regularity. As mentioned the A-League has so far only had three teams drop out, but is it really ready for expansion? With two teams head and shoulders above the rest at the present time can the A-League afford to expand? Until the standard of the clubs at the bottom of the table improves and they become more consistent in their performances expansion could prove very risky.

Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar have set the bar, and deservedly are the flagship teams in the competition. Let us hope that the football they serve up on Sunday in the Grand Final emphasises that point. As for whether it is an advert for the whole A-League competition, never forget one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Does the FA Cup final reflect the standard of every level of English football? These are one-off games and should be judged as such.

May 2, 2014 at 11:38 am 3 comments

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