As we are all aware, the Hyundai A-League is struggling in terms of bums on seats, and overall crowd figures throughout the league. The League as a whole has an average attendance of 12,309, which for the 11th year of the competition, is not too bad, but why is it not higher? With the likes of Luis Garcia, Bruno Fornaroli and Besart Berisha on our shores, although not household names, should be more than enough to bring people through the turnstiles. How can the league improve these figures?
Firstly, Football Federation Australia need to lift their game in the marketing department. There is only so much the clubs can do, but without the FFA pushing a really strong marketing campaign, the crowds will not increase. This season, season 11, has seen arguably the worst marketing campaign of any A-League season to date. Quite frankly, people did not know the league had begun until round 2, when the first Melbourne derby was played at Etihad Stadium (40,217 attendance). This is ridiculous. There are so many things that the FFA can use to their advantage: the quality of players on display in the league is better than it has ever been before, groups like Melbourne Victory’s North Terrace and the Western Sydney Wanderers’ Red and Black Bloc bringing an atmosphere unrivalled in Australian sport. The FFA has missed out on the opportunity to tap into the home of the average Australian and
get them to an A-League game, because once you are there, it is hard to leave.
However, in saying this, the only way in which the A-League can grow its crowds is if the news stations stop reporting in such a biased fashion. The A-League needs exposure when there is a great game of football on display, such as Melbourne Victory’s thrilling 3-3 draw with the Central Coast Mariners in Geelong, not when the minority of fans light flares. While flares are somewhat dangerous, they are not warranting front-page news and 5 minute news stories. Ask any A-League fan their number 1 pet hate, and they will tell you news broadcasters. They act in a way that is nothing but unfair, and do nothing but tarnish the reputation of the game. You might think is only a minor issue, yet it has a big effect. The news stations have done such a good job of degrading the code that they will have you know that families are scared to bring their children to games. Fan misbehaviour is such a minor issue, with more people getting ejected at AFL and NRL games, but it is blown way out of proportion by news services, and it is undoubtedly ruining the reputation of the A-League.
Finally, clubs need to do more to bring high profile talent to our domestic League. This needs to be done with a mixture of household names and foreign talent. Id the A-League can get the perfect balance of David Villa’s and Besart Berisha’s, then there is no doubt in my mind crowds will grow. If you have never been to an A-League game, I challenge you to go to a Melbourne City game or a Perth Glory game. You would have to be a brave man to tell me that you are not blown away by the abilities of Bruno Fornaroli or Diego Castro. It is players like this that the league needs, and we need them to be flying the flag for the league, as they would not be out of place in any European competition. As Robbie Slater said, the problem with Australia that people believe that because players are plying their trade in the A-League, they are somehow an inferior product. This is very true, and it is an attitude which needs to change if we ever want to see the Hyundai A-League dominating the Australian sporting front.