Version 2: Gate-take grows 18% over version 1
Melbourne Victory showed that winning attracts crowds. Even if their away performance was slightly better than their home results, fans stuck with last year’s 7th placed team. Melbourne’s 115% crowd growth almost covered the overall net A-League growth of 18%.
After taking out second place in last year’s finals, Central Coast were able to grow their crowd by an impressive 37%. Damian Mori’s short term contract can be cited as a critical factor in buoying CCM’s home crowd mid-season. And if they’d had him as a permanent signing, given the missed opportunities once he’d had to move on, CCM probably would have made the finals. I’d say at the expense of Sydney.
And Sydney FC was the crowd disappointment this year. I’ve heard the Dwight Yorke marque argument. But it seems unfair to fans across Australia if one team is going to be singled out for $450,000 in extra money from Hyundia each year - as the press reported they were in version one. And even then they apparently went over the salary cap with David Zdrilic. It is a problem if Sydney-siders are only going to come and watch if Sydney win. But I think the problem is more fundamental. I don’t think it is about all the other sport on - look at Melbourne’s performance. I think it is about the level of entertainment and poorly chosen promotion. On the entertainment issue former socceroo and scorer of over 100 National Soccer League goals, Francis Awaritefe, agrees. Awaritefe writes in ‘Are we selling sport or entertainment? A-League teams have an obligation to play attractive football’ in Soccer International Volume 15 No 1 January 2007 on page 18:
‘For the A-League to remain viable and sustainable into the future, playing for results alone, where results is paramount, brings with it negative tactics, with the inevitable consequence that fans will vote with their feet and spend their hard-earned readies elsewhere… ‘
and he goes on..
‘I believe that football is in the entertainment business, where the consumer pays to see skilful, creative and exciting football….
And specifically on Sydney FC, Awaritefe writes:
‘.. Sydney FC has undergone a revival in terms of its results, however finds that its home crowd is falling.’
Awaritefe cites Mark Rudan’s comments about getting results being a priority over entertainment, he denies that the lack of a marque is the issue, and points to the crowd growth for the exciting teams.
The Version 2 season gate-take supports Awaritefe’s views and my own (as expressed in earlier blogs). Take last night. Sydney are in the finals and playing to defend their title. And yet they can only attract a crowd of 21,000. Imagine if that game was at Lang Park and the Roar was in the finals. Last week the Roar got 32,000.
And that brings us to the Roar. The unfortunate timing of home games meant their 2nd last home game was played in early December and the last on 20 January. Fortunately, the Roar’s great away game performances, beating the two top teams Melbourne and Adelaide, set-up a cracker for the final game. And the crowd for the last game meant the Roar grew their home crowd by 1%. Unfortunately, I am guessing it cost something like $500,000 net to keep Land Park as the home ground. On the current deal they probably need a season crowd of around 200,000 and only managed 165,000. Still, this is second to Melbourne’s 305,000. And much better than Sydney FC’s 18% fall in crowd to 150,000.
Newcastle showed what winning will do for gate-take. In the first half of the season where they played exciting football but failed to win they attracted 36,000 to 5 home games, for the second half of the season they attracted 78,000 fans.
Overall, the A-League struggled to match season one in the first half. The opening match numbers were down 21%. Then, leaving out Melbourne and its growth, overall crowds fell until the last three home games. I think a big factor in this was the small number of teams in the A-League (8) - infrequent fans have seen it all before - and then that almost any team could make the finals by the last three home games (a very good thing and new fans were won over to see if the home team could make it). Pity teams still don't have great home win records, this would keep the fans happier.