Sunday, November 26, 2006

Football players do the right thing...

It was great to see all the moes for Movember. Yep I joined that. I understand at least as many men die from prostrate cancer as women do from breast cancer. But men do less about it. Beyong blue is also a great cause to support. So thanks all you football moes out their - it reminded me of the 1974 socceroos.

But on a serious note. Do any football players still smoke? A moe isn't enough of a filter if you smoke.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What is the story with the referees?

An interesting point. Most of us think that at home games.

Shouting at the ref doesn't seem to work. But makes us feel better.

I suggested to the FFA that they get marquee refs instead of, or as well as, players. The main problem is that, as I understand it, few if any, A-League ref is full time. This means that they do not get the time to reflect on the last match and prepare for the next. For more on this read the world’s best ref, Pierluigi Collina’s autobiography The Rules of the Game (Pan 2003).

In my view Matthew Breeze is the best ref in the A-League, ahead of Queensland and FIFA World Cup ref Mark Shield. Honestly, some of them just are not up to it. What I like about Matthew is that he is not captured by any player and he shows that he has a firm mind of his own on how the game should be played. He is a professional even if this is a part time job for him. If you watch him closely he actually makes very few mistakes. And he gets the big decisions like penalties and red cards right.

I understand refing is a difficult job. FIFA, because of its politics, just will not allow technology to be used to produce a more perfect game. Rugby league has shown how this can be done without affecting the flow of a game. Without the video ref mistakes are going to happen. It is all going on too fast to see everything. However, what I detest and home fans hate, is the old players of the game interfering with the ref. Talking to him, getting him to question his own mind. Plus some of them may be the refs heroes or they may have known them for years. For some older former NSL players this seems to be their main job now. This must be stopped as it brings the game into disrepute.

Monday, November 13, 2006

So long Miron thanks for all the fish

‘We ground them out… it was a great game to watch’ John Kosmina Or why Miron is the best coach in the A-League

Queensland is the growth market for football. Melbourne and Sydney has dominated football market share (that is viewing audience) in Australia with Adelaide and Perth earning their places through a single team for their segment focus

Roar v Adelaide: John Kosmina said, ‘It was a great game to watch.’ Yeah right. It could have been but if Adelaide had tried to play crowd-pleasing football but then they would have lost 4 or 5 nil. So they are better off sticking to the ‘ground them out’ that suits the hand full of people who will ever watch football in Adelaide rather than die trying to attract the 40,000 plus potential of Brisbane. Last year Ernie Merrick just scrapped home with the germinating seed of entertaining football (thanks Geoff Lord). This year Miron misses out. Well it is hard to buy the exciting players needed attacking football for $1.6m divided by 20. So some teams don’t bother.

Does anyone remember the last few games of last season? When Miron kept believing in the 300 plus shots of Alex Brosque and the developing talents of Michael Baird to get a share of the golden boot and embarrass the $900,000 per year Dwight Yorke and his Sydney champions (2-1)? Then to have both these rising stars decide to leave, and have to start again. And how? 3-0 against Perth and 5-0 against NZ. Could we ask for more? Yes it seems, we could ask for ‘ground out’ football where the action comes from coking your opponent’s stars and missing the plane to defeat in Asia.

Well maybe if you were one of the thirty people at Lang Park supporting Adelaide you would have thought it a great game to watch. Not if you one of the over 14,000 there supporting the Roar. Or the additional 6,000 plus who are not coming any more because they are sick of watching their team dominate matches and then draw or loose one nil. The mood of these people spelt trouble for Australian football and particularly for the possibility of financial success for the A-League.

The A-League is the latest of many iterations of a national football product. The A-League is distinct because of its major sponsorship backing and because of the creation of home crowds of over 10,000. However, given the FFA’s home ground requirements, crowds in the major market segments, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne must be over 20,000 to provide a commercial return. Three factors have ruled this out for Brisbane this year:

1. Too few teams in the league. Seven teams by three games means that all the teams have learnt the others tactics and players and know how to play ‘ground out’ football football. They all know all the referees and know what they can get away with including fouling their opponents.

2. ‘Grounding out’ football is boring but it suits a win at all costs mentality. And it is very viable if you only have to attract 10,000 home fans per game.

3. Because of the strange way the home-away season has been commissioned Queensland’s home season is almost over this year.

4. Poor reefing. Andy Packer breaks through - and it’s a hand ball - yeah right ref. Dario is through - no he is barged from behind by Travis Dodd and it’s a red - no wait a yellow thanks ref. (at this point the match ref was lecturing Miron who, with the home fans, were in apoplexy. But then again, as John said ‘we ground them out.. it was a great game to watch.’

5. Experienced players taking the ref out. I have sat at Lang park and watched first Lazaridis, then Mori and this time Aloisi walk around the field talking to the ref. At times the refs stop watching the game to continue these conversations. So interesting eh?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Knights. Should I stay or should I go? If I stay there will be trouble. If I go it will be double...

This is the problem for Swiss Roar defender Remo Buess. He has had the call from the NZ Knights Paul Nevin and Miron has told him he is free to go if he wishes. But wish he does not. As he said on ABC radio this week, he will listen to what the Knights have to say but the Roar have the chance of being a championship winning side and he wants to be there for that.

His problem is not getting game time, and, perhaps as a result, looking out of form when he does. But with only 20 spots in a squad and the Roar only up to 19 so far, and with 21 games injuries and suspensions can change the face of opportunities. Ask Sydney FC. And Remo seems to be holding out for his chance to win back his spot. Miron says he can stay if he wants but perhaps should take the opportunity for game time and to impress the Roar and other clubs - ouch what a compliment.

Chad Gibson seems to have also been called by Nevin. But Miron wasn’t listening to that call. Chad, a one time finalist with Sydney United and now captain of the Roar, is to be found a place. Where we are not sure. But Miron sees the A-League as an entertainment arena and Chad is a key piece of the Roar media image and well known as a public figure.

Anyway. The real issue is the problems of the Knights. Frank Farina wants them to go (Courier Mail 3 November), in my view the Foxtel commentators have hinted that it is getting hard to talk them up. And in round 10 showed their game against Melbourne (the most popular team in the league) on replay at 10:30pm.

Paul Nevin has said he wants to get more Australians to play for him. Frank Farina says there is a rift between the Knights and the NZ FA and indicated that NZ stars have been warned against playing for the team. Why did rising star Brockie leave to sit on the bench for Sydney FC? In any case, the FFA is publicly backing the Knights and expecting them to fill another 2 seasons of their 4-year franchise. But at 2,000 fans per game who will finance that? One idea is that the Knights becomes an under 23 Australian side. But why would it be located in NZ?

The other side of the story is that the FFA has said that the bids from Wollongong and North Queensland can not expect to kick an A-League ball until the 2008-2009 season. Oh no. This too far out. The reason given is that the financial viability of the current clubs is the FFA number one priority. Well this season could be a peak for FFA funds given the FIFA world cup payments that FFA has passed onto clubs to pay this year’s salary cap.

To promote the A-League to none football fans the repeat games just come around too fast to hold interest. I have done my best at work to convert NRL fans via footy tipping but they are starting to complain about the lack of variance each week. Particularly as they are hardly likely to watch any of the games on pay tv, they miss the subtleties of developments and tactics of the given small number of teams. We need new teams I new territories next year.

Clearly, Victoria is a market that needs to be tapped with a new team. After all this seems to be state league where the exciting new Australian players are being found. Is further stretching the Sydney market the answer? Clearly, the far north of Australia is untapped, particularly the indigenous athletes that currently live and breathe Aussie rules from up there will one day provide Australia with a new inspiration and competitive advantage. But will there be big enough home crowds to sustain the required stadiums? And what about the summer heat - even at night must southerners will find these conditions unbearable.

Real challenges but we need answers to sustain our sport. Leaving it at 8 for next season isn’t going to work. Come on FFA let’s get to 10 and quickly to 12. How about a Korean, Chinese or Malaysian team? Or at least regular season round robins. And Foxtel - how about televising the young Socceroos - after all Burns and Dario are among the A-Leagues most exiting players. Perhaps we see some youth from other Asian countries to recruit here?