Monday, December 08, 2008

Cassio for Adelaide United (v Wellington Phoenix), 5 December 2008

The Australian A-League was only created as recently as the 2005/6 season and so remains in its relative infancy. Set up along extremely American "franchise" guidelines, an initial eight team league was created around the main population centres of the country (plus a team from New Zealand).

Now in its fourth season, the A-League appears to have been a qualified success. Expansion for next season has already been confirmed (with the elaborately named North Queensland Fury (based in Townsville) and Gold Coast United set to join in 2009. 2010 is likely to see the addition of more teams including one from Canberra, a second Melbourne and/or a West Sydney side.

Whilst the profile of football in the country has been raised in recent years (the Socceroos qualification for the 2006 World Cup and the successes of some Aussie players in major European leagues have certainly helped) the quality remains questionable. Whilst it has certainly improved - Adelaide Utd reached the final of this season's Asian Champions League - what I have seen of the competition is broadly akin to the lower leagues of the UK. Queensland Roar's captain (for example) is ex Rangers and Crystal Palace clogger Craig Moore and their vice-captain is ex Manchester City lunatic Danny Tiatto. I note Kevin Muscat and John Aloisi amongst a list of more prominent players.....

Displacing the main national sports of the country was always a tall order - rugby league, cricket and AFL remain more popular - attendances remain reasonable. Just under 9,000 saw the Central Coast Mariners 1-1 draw with the Roar last weekend, whilst 6,621 were at Perth's Members Equity Stadium to see ex-Tranmere striker Eugene Dadi's brace help see off Melbourne Victory.

The attraction of the A-League as a retirement destination for has-been stars seemed initially to grab some publicity - Dwight Yorke was Sydney FC's initial "marquee" signing - but I think the rise of the American Major League might have put paid to this also. Several prominent Australian stars have expressed an interest in returning to their homeland to end their career and therein is the league in a nutshell - a collection of aged, over-the-hill ex-stars and an abundance of players that wouldn't cut it in League Two. Most Australian football fans passionately follow a European team - based on their ancestry, relatives or other reasons - and might look out for their "local" (ha, ha) teams A-League results also.

Still, the league continues to grow in size and the addition of further teams in areas of population concentration will only help attendances, I guess. That two of the current Australian international squad ply their trade in their home league, however (and both for the Newcastle Jets - the reigning Grand Final champions) tells you most of what you need to know.....


Jonny said...

I know I have dropped off the CUAS radar this year but feel compelled to comment since I live in Sydney and am an ex-Sydney FC season ticket holder.

For me, the A League is exactly as you said - comparable to lower league football in the UK. I saw Dwights last game for Sydney - he then left for the Black Cats. But a season ticket only cost 60 quid so I punted for one the next season. I went three times! For me, the best thing about the A League was being able to drink beer in a football stadium whilst watching football with your mates. The bar in The Aussie Stadium is great. Its like having a 40k stadium in your local pub! It was a social thing with my pommy mates and the result didn't really matter.

The crowd at Sydney is a good one. 'The Cove' end is the home of the 'Sydney Lions', who I believe are run by the Aussie Four Four Two editor, and it is full of Poms and the proper Aussie football fans. They wear the three lions on their Sydney Lions t-shirts which is a nice touch. I have been to all sorts of sporting occasions over here, across all codes, and the atmosphere at The Cove was probably the best. Aussies dont really sing when they are winning. They dont sing at all!

However, my heart is not in Sydney FC. I wish it was because I love live football - when I went back to the UK for a holiday this summer I was delighted to fit in a game at Bristol City, Brighton and at VK Stavanger in Norway. But give me the Premiership and Championship highlights on Fox any day, especially as I have all the channels, FOX IQ (Sky+), including Setanta! And we get to see every Prem game live over here, albeit at a funny time. I dont even watch the A League on the box.

I should also add that the only time I have seen burberry on Australia was in The Cove.

Hope you're liking Aus!

Mosher said...

So Newcastle do win things? Wrong bloody Newcastle, but never mind...

I was going to ask about prices, but Jonny's answered that. At £60 for the season it's a bargain but at those prices they'll never compete wage-wise with European leagues. As such, they'll never get the talent as long as they can work elsewhere.

I agree wholeheartedly about the stadia though. I saw two AFL games when I was in Oz recently(-ish) and the fact that fans aren't segregated and that you can drink actual real beer in the stands is a wonderful feeling.

Well. Fosters or XXXX in places, so not *real* beer but close enough.