Monday, January 16, 2012

I have decided to take up a columnist position at Soccernewsday and therefore will not be updating this blog in the foreseeable future.

You are find regular football articles from me here


Saturday, January 8, 2011

2011 Asian Cup Deserves More

Got up and watched the opening match of the 2011 Asian Cup last night and was very glad that I did. Fantastic game and one that deserves more attention from the media here in Australia.

If you ever needed more evidence that Australia is yet to embrace our move into Asia you only need to scan through the news stations today and witness and the total lack of reporting about the Asian Cup.

It's a pity because it got off to a cracking start last night with Uzbekistan running rings around the tournament hosts Qatar. The first half was all one way traffic with the White Wolves dominating possession and terrorizing Qatar down the left. The Qatari right back had no answer to the skillful and quick Djeparov. It was a joy to watch.

Qatar was extremely fortunate to head into half time 0-0. But it was only a matter of time before the Uzbeks broke the deadlock. In the end it took a outstanding long range strike from Odil Akhmedov to give Uzbekistan the lead. It was a cracking goal and it will be difficult to image it not being the goal of the tournament (though we have a long way to go).

The result and the disappointing performance by Qatar does not bode well for the remainder of the tournament. The fans could be seen on TV leaving their seats by the thousands with 10 minutes to go in the match. Whether they will continue to support the other matches remains to be seen. The true test will come tonight when Kuwait takes on China in the other Group A opening match.

I for one will be be tuning in.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FFA To Look Into The Mirror

Hi all

I am back after a six month hiatus and what a six months it has been.

A new season and with it a new club in Melbourne. After a great start the Heart seem to be struggling. Not that this should be a surprise to anyone. It was always going to be a difficult ask for a new club to enter the Melbourne market and take significant support away from Melbourne Victory.

Although the 4000 odd crowd against North Queensland Fury was extremely disappointing I still think we shouldn't write off Heart just yet. There were a lot of factors that contributed to such a low figure including competing AFL finals, weather, time of day and lastly the fact that North Queensland had just played in Melbourne a fortnight beforehand.

I still think that over the course of the season a 8,000 average crowd for Heart should be seen as a reasonable start and will allow them to build numbers into their second season. I am looking forward to the first Melbourne derby in October which I am still confident will draw nearly a full house at AAMI Park.

Crowds numbers already seems to be concern with most media pundits though. I will admit I also am concerned at some of the low crowds we have been seeing and I agree with Ray Gatt here where he lays the majority of the blame squarely at Ben Buckley's doorstep. However lets not let the clubs off the hook as they too need to take responsibility for their own promotion within their communities.

The FFA though need to take a hard look at all of their policies as there is no doubt many of them are contributing to the lower numbers. The attempt to ban pull over type banners early in this season was just another example of administrators and security not understanding what draws people to a A-league game. Add to that the restrictive “Home End Membership” policy, the common template applied to all club marketing, the heavily regulated merchandise approval process that clubs have to go through and it all adds up to a very bland league.

The FFA need to change their approach to one where they support clubs to find their own identity. Instead of the current view where each club needs to look and feel the same, they need clubs craving out their own individuality so that they can target fans. A close look into the mirror is needed and changes within required.

Of course I am not sure this will be enough to turn around some of the clubs. Gold Coast United may have burnt so many of their bridges it just may be impossible for them to recover under the current ownership.

The pity is the football this year has been by far the best we have seen within the A-league. Adelaide and Perth have been fantastic and Brisbane, Fury matches have been a joy to watch. The season is shaping up to be very even and already the two “big” clubs in Sydney and Melbourne Victory are under pressure to improve their performances.

Lets just hope the FFA can get their act together.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Clive Needs To Go

Its disappointing to hear that yet another A-League club, Gold Coast United, are struggling financially after it was revealed that billionaire owner Clive Palmer has notified the FFA of his intention to withdraw his support of the club.

Must say the timing is very suspect with the FFA just concluding a rescue package for North Queensland we now have the leagues richest owner deciding that he can no longer sustain the losses the club is currently experiencing.

Not that you can blame Clive. If the reported $4 Million loss is correct it would be a bitter pill to swallow to see your fellow start-up club receive a extra 2.5M from the FFA while you are continually writing cheques with no support.

So the new newest clubs introduced to the league last year are both effectively out of money after one year. The question must be ask how this was allowed to happen. How could the business models be so wrong that both clubs are experiencing double to triple the losses to what they were expecting going into their first year.

I find it hard to fathom that professional business men can get it so wrong. Its not like they didn't know what costs to expect, with eight clubs before them going through the exercise recently virtually all of the start up costs would be known. I can only assume that both club vastly underestimated the revenue they would generate.

There is no doubt that both clubs have struggled to attract the crowds that they initially forecasted but this alone does not account for the vast losses both experienced. I suspect attracting the corporate dollar is where both clubs have struggled. Every professional football club relies a lot on the sponsorship dollar and it is the area that clubs can get so very wrong.

This is why the broader ownership model that the FFA so desperately wants for their clubs is so important. It allows a much greater chance of tapping into the business community of the club's region and puts money directly into the clubs coffers.

Although I would hate to see the club fold (as I feel it important in the long term for the A-League to have a team on the Gold Coast) I would not be upset to see the end of Clive's involvement. I get the impression that his one man show has actually held back the broader community within the Gold Coast from investing in the club and no club can sustain this for the long term.

I just don't see Clive as the type of person who inspires people build a relationship with the club. The Club at the moment is a difficult beast to love. A change in leadership would be the best thing for it, at the very least a radically different vibe from the club is needed for it to survive.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Congratulations Sydney

Although this year has seen crowd levels drop off from their stellar highs of the previous years I must say I cannot remember a more exciting race for the Premier Plate in the A-leagues short history.

Congratulations must be extended to Sydney for taking out what became a three horse race late in the year when Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney all showed that they are a class above the rest of the competition. Sunday’s match was a fitting conclusion to a wonderful season and we could do worse than have such a close race for the premiership every year.

Although Melbourne were without three of their key players in Kevin Muscat, Matthew Kemp and Archie Thompson I found it fascinating to watch how this game of the season played out. It was no surprise that Ernie Merrick sent a very attacking team out onto the park as Melbourne’s defence has been suspect all season and Victory were not about to change their “just score more than the opposition” approach.

The match itself didn’t quite live up to the hype but what was interesting was how Vitezslav Lavicka tackled the match. I thought he out coached Merrick by closing the space down in the midfield, effectively strangling the service into the Victory strikers. Neither Kruse nor Mrdja seemed to have the foot speed to make an impact in the space behind the high line that Sydney played and in the end this is where Melbourne lost the match.

Lavicka does have the Sydney team playing a brand of football that causes Melbourne issues and I must admit I was surprised to see Ernie Merrick receiving the coach of the year award ahead of him. They do not allow Carlos Hernandez and Marvin Angulo the space and time to showcase their wonderful passing skills and as a result Melbourne appears a little toothless.

This is not to say that Melbourne did not have their chances. I do find it amusing that the media today seem to have written off the Melbourne after the lost but they seem to have forgotten that Victory opened up Sydney on several occasions and Mrdja hit the post in the second half. If only one of those chances had of fallen Melbourne’s way we may have seen a very different result.

I am looking forward to the next two matches that these two teams will play out over the finals campaign. With Kevin Muscat back but Kruse out, I suspect Ernie Merrick will stack the midfield and play Mrdja one out up front. With Sydney full of confidence however it will be a big ask for Melbourne to turn around the current sky blue dominance.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where Did It Go So Horribly Wrong

I was genuinely excited when the FFA announced that one of the new clubs to join the A-league this year was to be Gold Coast United. Here was a team to be based in the fastest growing area of Australia, was backed by one of Australia’s richest men and would have one of the more interesting (if slightly insane) characters of the game here in Australia guiding them in Miron Beilberg.

Follow that up with some great recruiting and excellent performances in preseason, every indication was that this was a club that was going to hit the ground running. And they did, well they did on the field anyway.

Fast forward to today and the question must be asked however where did it all go horribly wrong. Somehow Gold Coast have managed to destroy any goodwill towards themselves within 12 rounds and now even have their most loyal of supporters questioning their direction.

Jason Culina last week wrote in his blog that he did not understand why the club and team weren’t receiving more respect for what they had achieved. Its funny how demands for respect can come back to haunt you and Jason should look no further than the insipid display he and his team mates trotted on the weekend and then cast a critical eye over the measures the club have imposed over the last couple of days and he will have his answer.

Positioning themselves as the club that everyone loves to hate is one thing but this ridiculous 5000 crowd cap and forced movement of fans to one stand is a monumental mistake and in my opinion will result in the death of the club within two seasons. Fans will abandon the club in their hundreds and already I would expect a significant drop off at their next home game.

What fan would want to go along and a support a club that actually wants to reduce the atmosphere at the ground. What fan would really hand over their hard earned to support a side that has such little ambition that they give up growing membership and support within 12 rounds of their first season.

The club needs to act now and act quickly to turn some of this around. There has been some talk that the 5000 cap has been touted to enable Clive some leverage in renegotiating the stadium deal with the Queensland government. If true then he needs to wrap those talks up quickly or there will be nothing left of this club. The team needs to reconnect with their community. They need to flood the market with free tickets, get as many people along as possible to the games. Especially the kids aged 10-18, these are the fans that will turn to members in the longer term.

Finally both Clive and Miron need to pull their heads in. Its time for Gold Coast to eat humble pie and do it without the arrogance that has been so obvious to date. It’s time to turn this circus into a real club before it is too late.


Monday, October 26, 2009

A New Start

One of the points in Frank Lowry’s speech I failed to touch on in my last blog was the idea of moving the start time of the A-League Season to the first week in October.

After a honeymoon that was the first three seasons it has become blindingly obvious in the last two that the A-League struggles to make any impact in the mass media in the August/September period. With the AFL and NRL ramping up to finals mode it seems every spare inch of newspaper space and every second of TV coverage is devoted to the two sports.

Crowds have been disappointing nearly across the board in this period and something has to be done to either raise the profile of the A-League start or to avoid the issue altogether and move the kickoff of the season. It seems the FFA has waved the white flag and chosen the latter.

But is this really going to solve all the issues or are we just moving problem to the other end of the season. If the FFA had of started the League on Thursday 08th of October rather than the 06th of August, we would have to add a total of 9 rounds to the end of the current season. This means that the regular season would have finished on the 24th of April and we would be looking forward to a final been played on 22nd May.

Up to now the FFA has taken the approach that it was better to schedule the backend of the season in the best time slot (ie no AFL and NRL) to promote the finals series as much as possible. This new approach however will see the last five rounds of the regular season and the finals going head to head with the two codes.

I agree with the FFA that this is worth trying for a few reasons.

There is a argument that the A-league will have a much better chance of securing media time/space in the business end of the season and that crowds will “stick” better during the run to and through the finals. It will also allow our players a competition that keeps them playing right up to world competitions that are generally held in June. It even works better in regards to current timing of the Asian Champions League where our teams would be fully match fit heading into the initial group stage matches. Though the early knockout rounds could see us very underdone.

The October start also fits nicely with the January transfer window, which currently falls at a crazy time (ie The lead into our finals) and causes so many problems in terms of players joining for practically just the finals. Finally by moving the start to October it may allow some room for a cup style competition to slot nicely into the August/September period. The FFA need a cup of some sort and I am in total agreement with Adrian Musolino that the cup competition should be the focus of the FFA rather than a second division.

There is a significant risk though in changing the timing of the season. Teams that are not playing well and have little to no chance of making finals may see their crowds suddenly evaporate come the start of the AFL/NRL seasons. If the FFA cannot convince media to come on board or afford to saturate the airways with the promotion it hands the competing codes an opportunity to smother the A-League at its most critical time.

The October start also limits the A-League to 26-27 game season. Anything longer than that and the FFA would be again forced to bring the start date forward defeating the purpose. Personally I don’t see this as a bad thing. A 14 team league, 26 game season is in my opinion the right size for Australia. There is also of course the question how to fit a Cup Style competition fits into this timing (midweek vs preseason).

The move to October to the right decision. Whether it will be a successful one however will remain to be seen.