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.