Sunday, January 21, 2007
Qld Roar v Sydney: the search for Shangri La
One all draw and Queensland are out. But it was so much more than that. A win - and perhaps even the great performance that we saw from the Roar - and football is made in Queensland. A poor performance and, well, it could be back to Ballymore and teams almost as big as crowds.
The FFA would have understood the problem. Sydney have been the big disappointment this year from an entertainment perspective. So the focus has been criticism. Of their defensive play. Of the agro coach. Of fights between players. Of Sasho and Alex, perhaps two of the A-League's best players, sitting on the bench. Of injuries. But most of all of big away games, particularly against Melbourne, and very small home crowds. And of course of the most draws in the A-League (8). Dare I say it - Bore FC. There is some merit to this. Coach Terry Butcher played from Ipswich in Suffork and Suffork's motto is a bore.
From version one I am still washing away the bitter taste of the A-League's main sponsor Hyundia being persuaded to bias the league towards Sydney by paying for half of Dwight Yorke (a reported $900,000 in total). I concede he was good for publicity and Sydney crowds. But I think this season reality hit home. It was realised that, for the game to grow, it could not be all about Sydney. Yet Sydney have gone down the opposite path this year and have cruelled the game at their home ground. By measures of gate-take to ground size and gate-take to catchment population, Sydney have gone backwards in version 2. Of course it would be very disappointing if a team has to win every year to get the crowds in. The Melbourne and Newcastle cases may how important winning - particularly at home - is to attendance.
Yet Queensland is the growth market for football in Australia.
Maximum, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and Central Coast, because of ground sizes and local catchment sizes may be able to draw say 5,000 more each per match. But it is hard to see a scenario in which they all did it in every game for a whole season. Queensland could get 10,000 to 15,000 plus more per game all season if it sustained a team considered capable of regularly winning the A-League. If it retains access to Lang Park. At Lang Park 1,000,000 (Brisbane) and up-to 2,500,000 (south-east Queensland, have good access and transport included ticketing.
Melbourne have showed dramatic and sustained crowd growth can happen. And the football bug has a cultural place in one-team Victoria. In Brisbane, the Broncos get these crowds at Lang Park to rugby league, even in their none winning years. Finals football would have brought this bug to football in Queensland. And perhaps two more A-League teams - Gold Coast and from the far north - would have been likely.
Despite the start, and Remo Buess slipping over and allowing Alex Brosque to score in 13 minutes and 32,000 people thinking they would go home unhappy, last night may have been enough. From 20 minutes, despite what looked like Reinaldo being fouled out of the game by Rudan, the game was all Queensland. And Sydney looked dull.
At least enough for regret about how fantastically this team has played sometimes this season and last and yet has only managed to win 4 home games in two seasons from 21 opportunities.