Time for the FFA to consolidate.
A lot has been written and debated about crowds in the A League. The facts are they have been declining since a high in Season 3. Season 6 sees a 40% drop in average crowd numbers since that season. Indeed it is only Adelaide and Melbourne Victory who can hold their heads high with having the most consistent crowd numbers since season 1. MV crowd’s only dropping off big time this season with the entry of the Heart.
The New Zealand knights lasted 2 seasons averaging just over 3k each season. Financially unviable and the FFA rightly handed the license to the Phoenix, who have done a great job in engaging the community. However their crowds are down 25% since their first season as well.
The FFA were adamant in season 1 that the league had to learn to walk before it could run and had a “No Expansion for the first 5 seasons” policy. I think this was for existing cities.
Season 4 sees the FFA give licenses to Gold Coast and Townsville. The original GC Galaxy bid was never going to fly under the FFA rules, as it could not guarantee financial support. Townsville was the same. Up steps Clive Palmer, the Qld Billionaire who just writes out a cheque for $5 Million and the license is his. The FFA rush to bring in Townsville before they have the cash.
At the end of season 5, Don Matheson can’t keep taking the losses in Townsville and hands back the license to the FFA who took over the running of the club. Gold Coast loses money as well, but Clive can take the hit. However the battle in the stands heats up with most supporters backing the Fury supporters who have had better support than the Gold Coast with a 3rd of the population. Most punters outside of the GC are calling for them to be axed. This is mainly aimed at the Club management, with our loyal band of supporters getting some encouragement from other supporters and media.
Season 6 sees GC crowds plummet by almost 50% after Clive announces he is shutting down ¾ of the stadium so he can limit his losses. Many GC supporters left “en masse”, vowing never to return until Clive is gone. Some media and a lot of other supporters call for GCU to be axed and not the Fury
We have Sydney, the most populous city in Australia with a 25% drop in crowds from last season and 50% down from season 3.
Brisbane Roar, riding high on top of the table, winning the Premiers plate and playing very attractive football have managed to reduce their crowds since last season, and again a 50% drop since season 3.
The question is WHY? Now each club could analyse their own unique position and have some reasons. But the biggest indication lies in a report from the ABS recently released, FOOTBALL: FOUR GAMES, ONE NAME
This report clearly shows that “Soccer” has the highest participation rate from age 15 to 44 out of all the Football codes. However it has the lowest attendance rate by a long way out of all the Football codes.
What this says to me is that there is a huge number of people out there who play the game but who just wont support it at the top level and go and watch. Aussie Rules and Rugby League are part of the Aussie Psyche. We will play the game but wont go and watch it.
Despite being the “World Game”, it hasn’t penetrated this part of the world like it has elsewhere.
The FFA needs to stop any expansion of the League immediately and look to build what we have. It looks like the Fury will go and that Gold Coast will stay (for the time being). The FFA needs to revisit their “Franchise Model” and re jig it to make it more financially viable for the clubs and the fans. Build a league that people will talk about in a positive light. Get the grass roots involved. This may take 20 years to get right, but it must start now.
By ditching the Old NSL and creating the A League, the FFA has made some powerful enemies. It is time to start mending those bridges and talking to those sate league clubs on how to grow the game. Its great we don’t have the basket case that was Soccer Australia, but it is a shame we have lost some much football passion from the people who brought the game to this country.
There has to be a compromise or we will just end up like the Middle East and always be in crisis looking for the next attack to bring our game down.
I love this game, and I want to see it survive. The Game is the most important part of the whole equation, followed by the Fans. The administration and the clubs must remember this, or in fact be told this. They might be running a business but the shareholders are the fans, and our stake in the game is emotional and not financial.