Sunday, September 28, 2008

Roar see opportunity in Adelaide pain

The Roar's next home game is 17 Oct against Adelaide. This is 2 days after the Socceroos play Qatar at Lang Park (if that game goes ahead - International court decision due just before it). A day or two later Adelaide have to go to Uzbekistan for the Asian Champions semi.

Adelaide want the date changed. This would be a bad thing for the Roar as the weekend before is the international break, so they would miss 2 weeks in a row - then have to play 2 matches in a week. In any case, Sydney got an easy win from Adelaide in their previous lead-up match.

So, the Roar crowds have been down (as the Broncos have been directly completing for stadium time) and the Roar have been having trouble winning at home. It is particularly hard when a 50,000 seat stadium has only 12,000 in it - empty vessel. The Socceroo game will hit this number lower as the same fans won't want to back up from Wednesday to Friday.

So, here is the deal. Roar goes to Adelaide on 17 October. They play better away anyway. And Adelaide give up their home game against the Roar on 20 December. This is one of the best match dates of the year. If the Roar are in the top 4 by then, I would expect a crowd of 30,000 full of holiday makers. Win win.

Now will Adelaide buy it?

A great weekend. Wellington 2 v Sydney 1, and Victory 0 v Roar 2

Why can't the Roar play like this at home?

And, the A-League evens up again.

If the Roar had strikers who can score they should have got 7. At the other end Reddy only made one save. The Roar were almost completely dominant except for the final kick.I counted at least 5 serious fouls that were play on and they were all in the first half when no cards were given. In the second half there were 5 yellows plus a red.

Firstly, Reinaldo should have won a last man foul just outside the box in the opening minutes and it should have been good night Vargas. Interestingly, Fox don't highlight the ref errors anymore, I guess they are trying to protect the game. Niel recons their was a blatant Roar hand ball in the penalty box (I didn't see this one). I did see the Tiatto - Vargas incident - you really can't obstruct Mr Vargas. I also saw the quick right from Muscat on Van Dijk in the box - but play on.

Van Dijk is getting more of the idea. He is lifting his physical game (maybe he got some lessons from Tiatto who seemed to be boasting about getting sent off in this game). And going down harder in tackles to win free kicks. He had one hit the post, another just wide and a header into the cross-bar. But Van Dijk's secret is now out, he can't kick with his right foot. In the second half he looked done, tripped himself up and he tried to change from his right to his left in front of goal.

The weirdest part of the game was Murdocca getting a head cut, bleeding on his shirt and being refused re-entry to the ground because the Roar didn't have a spare number 8 shirt that didn't blood on it.

Next weirdest was the Hernandez send off. What was the 2nd yellow for?

Next weirdest, Zullo scored in 90+5 in match with 3 minutes of extra time. But what great goals to Minniecon and Zullo. Both showed the other Roar strikers how to score.

The FFA scorecard shows possession 84% to Victory (don't see that often).

Miller missed two open goals. He tried to volley when he had time to shoot.

Reinaldo missed a one-on-one with the keeper, tried to nutmeg when chipping was the go.

The Victory mid-field was completely outplayed, their strikers almost out of the game till late in the 2nd half.

Former Newcastle player Tim Brown stared for Wellington as they turn their home ground into a castle. He got a nasty head cut and a goal.

Smash: Victory 0 v Roar 2

Don't worry I'll be writting more on this one. Domination pays off for Roar. But only after the subs come on. Mini and Zu score, or mini-max and mini-mini. Told you Tahj had the goods. When does he get to start?

Anyone want to make a comment about the quality of the refing? Hernandez perhaps? As Victory go to 10 again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Adelaide 2 v Newcastle 0 - Newcastle's legs collapse

Newcastle dropped their marquee Zora for this match (all the way out). Then lost Adam and Joel Griffiths to hamstring injuries, Joel's looks bad. I don't see why Joel isn't the lone striker. Anyway it is academic as he looks like he'll be out for 4 or so weeks. Disappointing foreign purchase Hakansson was the last subbed - coach looked cheezed. Then Jason Hoffman, the real lone striker, was down for a long time then hobbled off. So Zora's career has been saved and he'll probably have to start next week.

Adelaide played very well for really tired people. Cristiano scored both goals. The second a mistake by Covic who decided to go for a pinpoint pass in the last few minutes. He put the ball ahead of himself - a little too far, Cristiano saw the opportunity and ran at him. Covic miss-queued the ball into a stretching Cristiano (his arm?) who cruised round him.

As predicted Agostino was dropped and not missed.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Maybe we should follow the Youth league? Melbourne 0 v Roar 2

Here. Could be a big attraction.

CCM 4 v Perth 1

Not much. 4-3 would have been fairer which Mark Shields missing 2 penalties to Perth and one send off (Jardinak) against CCM. But that is the way refering seems to go for teams that fail to have dominant physical strength. The Jardinak challenge was a clear cut red, studs straight into a defenders leg after the ball was long gone.

CCM v Perth 5mins in and it looks like Bosnich's comeback is over

Bosnich limped off after a goal kick on 5 minutes. Loooks like he has done his knee.

On 9 minutes Sasha Petrovski gluided through the Perth defence. 1-0 so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adelaide 1 v Antlers 0 - Adelaide go Asian top 4

Adelaide will pick up a $1.6m pay check which will push them to the top of the A-League sustainability stakes. Plus they will now have massive recruiting power for foreign players (happy to accept the lower salary capped pay today for longer term opportunities). Particularly those wanting a shop front into Asia. That they are not in this seasons championship should matter for little.

Look at the Adelaide team structure - all physicality, something the Asians could not match the 2nd time around. Further, Sasa Og's move is totally vindicated, and despite his poor behaviour, he looks the hero. It is a lesson for his former bosses who worried about him picking on the little ones. Can they learn from this?

This club has shown other A-League clubs the power of ruthlessness at all levels. They are very prepared to ditch poor performers, perhaps even before their contracts are up.

There is no sentimentality. No dud hires. Don't be surprised if their under-performing marque Agostino gets a gentle shove. Clearly Adelaide has been building to this achievement from day one. Well from the NSL days - but they did fantastic recruitment for season one and few have caught up.

And of the match, could have been 3-0 but for open goal air-swings from Travis Dodd and Agostino. Took about the only threatening Adelaide play of the 2nd half for Cornthwaith to head in a nice cross from Cristiano on 72 minutes. The Antler keeper escaped a bullet in the last seconds as he handballed - outside his box - out of Christiano's path for only a yellow. No matter.

The real shame is the lack of a substantial fan base for Adelaide. Few Australian youngsters will even have known that this match was on, or what it should mean for football here. Few will hear of it tomorrow. And the result, the cash and the reputation will lockout the growth markets.

As noted before, the A-League set-up favours the small teams and low growth potential markets.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What A-League can learn from gridiron and ... No one ever got fired for passing to Charlie Miller.. or Amaral

The Australian, Ray Gatt, was lamenting the crowd numbers today. Previously he had said they would come back with goals. Now we are waiting for the other codes to finish. But maybe the cause is the FFA's play to leave out extra teams this year. Along the lines of - if the came this year and the Socceroos don't qualify for 2010 next June - then the A-League may need new teams to maintain interest. And if the Socceroos do qualify then you get the kick of that plus new teams.

The issue is what happens to the finances of the teams this year. Clubs with small grounds can cope with small numbers. And Melbourne is under-written by only having one team in a sports mad state. But what happens to the teams with the bigger overheads?

This is where the American models for gridiron and soccer are so much better. In gridiron there is a salary cap and all revenues are pooled and shared. So the NY Giants sell-out, everyone wins. The Greenbay Packers can afford the same players as everyone else. And conversely, if New York tanks, all clubs owners have to kick in. So it is in every one's interest to keep the New York fans happy. Guess what, you don't go to New York to 'grind them out'. You go their to win or lose heroically and entertain the full stadium.

In major league soccer the central administration buys and pays all the players. So no fiddling the books and the talent is shared around, particularly the foreign players. And there are bonuses for fostering local youngsters into your squad.

The A-League has never had so much publicity. A weekly paper. Adelaide going further than any Australian club in any sport has ever gone.

Perhaps Perth and the Roar are suffering from fabled playmaker syndrome. One player is so much better, with so much more energy than the rest, that everyone wants to give the ball to them. Abrogate their own responsibility, possibly. Miss other opportunities, certainly. On Friday a wide open McKay through his hands up as a teammate passed to a crowded Miller. Late in the game, Van Dijk moved more mid-field and found himself some space. Perhaps his first of the match. But the choice was go parallel and wide right to a nothing move. Meanwhile, Miller burns himself out. Great Protestant work ethic, playing with injury, apologising to the coach for having to come off. But really he was out on his feet 10 minutes before.

What did the Roar have last year that took them almost to the top and then deserted them in the last games? Reinaldo alone and up front? Robbie Kruse? Tahj Minnicon? Does Zullo really have enough strength?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mark Shields gives his notice

Brisbane boy and Australia's best ever ref Mark Shields will end his refereeing career in Round 8 of the current A-League season, in 3 weeks. Last year Mark was named Asia's top ref and he put in a stand out performance in the 2006 World Cup.

Mark said today that he was spending too much time away from his young family. He leaves at the top of his game and reputation.

He will be missed from the game. While he could never ref the Socceroos, he lifted the tone and performance of Asian refereeing.

He is head and shoulders above other A-League refs and the FFA's only full time ref. Matthew Breeze is left as Australia's most senior FIFA ref. Mark and Matthew, who marches to a different drum, have huge credibility as people prepared to call things as they see them - uninfluenced by players nagging in their ears. (no names here Archie).

The FFA now faces a major challenge in finding a credible counter-part to Breeze. Refereeing top games almost requires eyes in the back of your head. Some choices don't seem quite up to the challenge (see my elephants story).

We will miss you Mark and will teams, like the Roar, who sought your council. You helped put Brisbane on the world football map. Thank you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Soul Man: Perth 1 v Wellington 0

I admitt it. I didn't think Perth could win without Amaral. It was a very uncomfortable game to watch, not too much happening. Coach Mitchell had rung changes, even Trinidad sat on the bench, then came on and with pent up energy and skill changed the game. Like how Frank Farina used Marcinho last year.

Dadi had to be the one to score. He knows how to get a penalty (unlike how refs take the Roar, and particularly their foreign players). McKain stuffed his clearance and then dragged him from behind.

Hmm. Where does Wellington go from here? Least they don't have to play to Sunday.

Physicality - all you will ever need (Sydney 3 v Adelaide 0, CCM 2 v Melbourne 2)

Wow. Wow. Melbourne do it again with just 10 men. And an Archie special in the last 4 seconds.

But the real message from this and the Sydney/CCM match was the A-League is now all about speed and strength combined. If you don't have this physicality across the park, you are making up the numbers.

Adelaide have now achieved more than any Australian club - of any football code, ever. Hats off to them for that, holding Japan's top team to 1-1 in the heat and humidity of Japan was amazing. But too much even for their physicality plus team - too much football and traveling. Sydney smashed them. Aloisi's role is now decoy but that is another story. 

CCM v Melbourne underlined what the A-League has become. A physicality arms race. And Matt Simon has been perfectly nurtured (scoring twice). He smashes through defenders - bowls them out of the way - and no free kicks. That is what you need in a striker. Forget the mamby pamby flicks and tricks - the good defenders aren't going to fall for that.

And the game's defining moment? in the 59th, Mr Physicality - Sasha Petrovski goading  Michael Theoklitos into treading on his foot and getting a straight red. How times does this happen unnoticed in a match? This is going to encourage the crowding in the box that Fox says they hate. Well it gets rewarded. 

Melbourne, down to 10 at 1-1 it looked like Central Coast's day, but that was before CCM defence relaxed with 4 seconds to go, and thinking Archie was offside left him to his devises. I say spare a though for the 2 other young Australian keepers that Mark Bosnich is keeping on the sidelines. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Miron steals the show, Game plan (all Socceroos together) ...

Elephants in the room: Roar 0 v Newcastle 1

There are a number of elephants but three are obvious.

Elephant 1. The ref was not up to it. Here are two incidents:

- on 59 minutes Matt McKay and Elrich end up in a tangle on the Newcastle penalty box. Elrich gets up and grabs McKay by the throat. Ref doesn't see this. Then they push each other. Ref sees this and rushes over. Meanwhile play on. Ref has his back to play talking to Elrich and McKay. Still play on. Meanwhile, Newcastle are on goal at the Roar's penalty box and no-one is refing the game. Newcastle miss. What if they had scored? Then both players get a yellow card. What is McKay's for?

- on 71 minutes Minniecon runs from the middle circle into the Newcastle box. Just before reaching it Jade North rake's out his back foot. Minniecon was away, Should have been a goal. Ref waves play on. Truth is the ref, again, didn't see the play. Plus didn't want to make the mistake he made against Perth giving a penalty for a tackle outside the box. After the game North admits the foul was deliberate.

Elephant 2: Sergio Van Dijk is not up to the A-League. The poor Perth defence flattered him.

Elephant 3: Charlie Miller is carrying the Roar. He came off with a groin injury late in the game. Even after he sustained his injury he was making all the running.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Economic downturn hits sports big boys...

Man U and Hammers shirt sponsor deals are under threat. It will be interesting to see if consumer spending declines hit gate takes. There some brave faces being put on but AIG isn't going to be providing money to Man U anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Goodbye Ney Fab - FFA gives him 8 weeks plus 1 - off you go

Adelaide holding out against Antlers in Japan - Paul Reid missed a three-on-one with the Antler keeper. TV must be Japanese as there are no replays of any Adelaide moves - 3 or 4 of anything the Japanese do.

Japanese teams on the look out for A-League Australians - Umm where are all these players gonna come from?

'The Find Out': Salads Salads... and those Broncos

Had a great laugh as the Roar got fantastic coverage on ABCTV. Apart from the goals, there was a grab of Charlie talking about the Perth fans yelling out 'salads, salads.'

The Broncos have stuffed up the Roar's next home game - well it was the Warriors beating the Storm putting the Storm into Brisbane on Saturday and taking the top off the Roar crowd. The Roar have the mis-fortune to be in the home town of the only rugby league team able to pull crowds over 30,000. However, the Broncos including their captain have - in one night on the town led all their sponsors to reconsider their investment. Watch this space. The Roar and the Broncos already share WOW Sight and Sound and The Coffee Club, maybe this will tempt NRMA over too.

News: I just before I started this Adelaide via Travis Dodd had shocked Japan's top team the Antlers by scoring first. But now I see its 1-1...

What we found out last week:

Find out 1 - the Roar: Sergio V-D is a great number 10, a play-maker, against a defence that does not muscle him off the ball. He creates space off the ball through timely movement and on the ball via tricks and flicks. I am still not convinced of his ability to shoot, win balls in the air and win games for the Roar against the top end of the table. The Roar defence had some hiccups against Perth but kept a clean sheet.

Find out 2 - Glory: Perth Glory are in real trouble. Their defence is not up to the A-League. Worse than that, the player their team revolves around, 35 year old Amaral, has done a hamstring and will be out for 3 weeks.

Scans today revealed Amaral strained his right hamstring late in Sunday’s match and is now only expected to be sidelined between two or three weeks. It was feared that the Brazilian playmaker could be out of action for six weeks after being carried off in the 73rd minute.
And on Glory's U23s, exciting prospect Nikita Rukavytsya looked like he had had enough by mid way through the 2nd half against the Roar.

Find out 3 - Wellington: They certainly play better at home and their draw to Central Coast, makes the Roar's performance against them look better.

Find out 4 - Central Coast: Well not actually the CCM, just Mark Bosnich. Bosnich put in a good game apparently. But I still think there is a young player out there whose spot he is taking.

The other find outs: Sydney isn't the best team in the league and Aloisi looks at sea (demonstrated by their 0-0 with Newcastle). And Melbourne are now firm favourites to take the title - Yep.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Roar answer call up 3 nil at half time

Moore, McKay and Miller (new record 4 in 4). Sep ups by Van Dijk and Reinaldo.

Some poor defence from Roar - good keeping Reddy.

Newcastle 0 V Sydney FC 0 plus 'This is find out day'

Well you could say find out week. But today is the really critical day for the Roar, Wellington and the Glory.

Find out 1 - the Roar: Was the off-season purchasing in tune with the challenges of version 4 of the A-League? Key find out: is Sergio V-D a quality striker and is Craig Moore in good enough shape to handle the A-League?

Find out 2 - Glory: Can the talents of Dadi and Amaral turn them into winners? Or will Glory merely be a source of under 23s for the national squad and other teams when their talents are proved?

Find out 3 - Wellington: Can they convert the incredible interest they have created in NZ, their 2nd in the pre-season, a team packed with all white players, the talents of Kwasnik, Durante and McKain?

Find out 4 - Central Coast: Well not actually the CCM, just Mark Bosnich.

The other find outs: Sydney isn't the best team in the league and Aloisi looks at sea. Gary V-E is the A-League's best coach - able to take whatever is thrown at him in terms of 'player for entertainment purchasing' (a mask anyone?) and create a class team. And Melbourne are now firm favourites to take the title.

Newcastle v Sydney

It was redemption for Newcastle in front of their home crowd. Song and Joel Griffiths were outstanding, plus a new look defence - without North in the starting line-up - held and showed how easily an effective defence can be built. The crowd of only 11,000 will be of concern to management.

Sydney is the team that Australian A-League players seem to want to play for, but who knows why. It can't be the money as the salary cap limits that, nor the crowds because at home they are disappointing.

Melbourne, on the hand, is the team that up-and-coming foreigners want to play for - much more effective.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Melbourne 1 v Adelaide 0: One for the true believers

Here are 2 names the A-League can do without:

Ney Fabiarno - for violent conduct (which he got away with) and spitting (which he will get around 5 weeks for)

Cristiano - for diving

Adelaide played their game, which is demonstrate physical dominance across the park. They were doing a fair bit of diving up front, particularly Reid but also Cristiano. Just before half time Cristiano went for gold going down after running the ball into the penalty box. Breeze did well not to give the penalty, but given that, must have considered a card for simulation. As Socceroo fans know, simulation is about as bad as fouls get. Unfortunately, Adelaide are unlikely to sanction Cristiano as every bit of their small squad is needed for the peak cross-over in Asian Champions league and A-League.

Melbourne played better after Ney Fabiano was carded. In this case don't be surprised if the Brazilian now disappears. Once he has served what is likely to be a grade 2 or 3 red (could be any number of weeks), I expect Melbourne to be ruthless with him. He will be surplus up front and the opportunity to save money by cutting him should be too great, opening the squad to an opportunity for another young defender or mid-fielder.

Melbourne showed clubs how to play Adelaide, match them pound for pound, body blow for body blow and let the ref worry about who did what. Light-weight players or those on the referees watch list are carded, experienced hard nuts can make it look like an accident or fair play.

Oh and the goal came half way through the 2nd half. Archie showed us Roar fans how to win a penalty against the hard-heads. Shield the ball and keep going - even away from goal. Sooner or later someone will hold onto you. In this case our old friend Sasa. Do we have anyone with the strength to do that?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Uzbekistan 0 v Socceroos 1 - plus launch of Australian Football Weekly

The back story to this game was the illness that swept through the Socceroos before the game leaving quite a depleted squad. But they were up to the task, playing a nice short passing game.

The next talking point will be who the Socceroos play next. Strangely, FIFA allowed the 2-0 win by Qatar playing Iraq with an unregistered player to stand. Unless something weird happens the International Court of Sport Arbitration will reverse this and find against Qatar. Meaning that Iraq would be promoted to the next round and the Uzbeks would get a new chance. Or would Qatar drop out making our group just 4 playing for 2.25 spots? Then again a decision in favour of Qatar wouldn't be that weird, no just unfair to the Iraqis. Anyway, nationalising players so your small but rich country qualifies for the world cup is one thing, but playing them before the paperwork is finished is another. FIFA say they want to stop these 'buying player' practices, but of course at the moment Qatar - with its quasi-South American team - looks like getting through. Players who missed the Socceroo games - don't forget it was the points that the Socceroos won against Qatar helped us get through to this round - are now ft and available. And the unregistered Emmison is long gone.

Australian Football Weekly was launched today. At $5 an easy buy even against the $8 for the monthly Four Four Two. Football news just becomes old hat too quickly - which is why 442 went to the net with constant updates. Anyway, AFW is the match day Full 90 expanded. In season one I bought Full 90 at every home game, but realised I would only ever get half the issues (no away weeks) - so my collecting bug was dissatisfied. And there wasn't enough new news to keep buying it. This year it has been re-launched with - I think - a new publisher. It will be interesting to see sales and story quality. Good idea people, maybe a few seasons too late.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Running, running running...

Craig Moore for the Socceroos? I think not. Nice idea but they will just have to live without him. He came back to Australian after playing a minimal number of games in a last season for Newcastle. He just is not fit and strong enough for international football. And the Roar are finding that they cannot rely on him being available for most games in the short A-League season. Each game it is touch and go, will he - won't he. With world cup qualification at stake you just can not risk someone at this level of fitness.

So why does this story just keep running?

One last comment on Craig Moore. I don't quite understand the talk of Liam Reddy's mistakes against Central Coast. Anyone there could see that the Roar were out-played, albeit by a long ball game. The Roar were out-muscled in echos of season 1, and the centre forward was outclassed by the opposition defence - hopefully by his wisdom teeth.

The emerging economic conditions will challenge crowds this season. Without the compelling viewing of a new team in the mix, and with unhelpful international breaks - that the non-fox audience will not understand - it will be interesting to see if a momentum is built up by the time of the peak seat sales - December and January. The Socceroo crowd of 15 October at Lang Park will be a lead indicator. A large part of the non-Fox audience may not even know that world cup qualifiers are on - after all the first the broad public knew of the 2006 qualifiers was the final two matches...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Holland 1 v Socceroos 2: Meanwhile in the results that do matter...

The Eurpoean Socceroos looked good in nice cool conditions. They were a goal down early but still in the game. As we know the Dutch are a million miles away from their 1970s total domination, Total Football days, now they play the long balls to the speedy wingers just like the Roar...

The Socceroos were probably lucky to win the penalty, but it highlights how protected Mark Bosnich is given (see last weeks Roar v CCM) their goalie was given a red in a friendly - and Kennedy had already missed the ball. Anyway, Kennedy played a great game up front.

But the matches that really matter for Socceroos were the qualifiers played in the Asian heat ...

Bahrain 2 v Japan 3 (Fox called it a thriller but Japan was up 0-3 by the 85th), and Qatar 3 v Uzbekistan 0.

These results make the Socceroos v Uzbekistan a must win on Wednesday morning. They need a top 2 finish to ensure qualification for Africa 2010 (the 3rd place team from our group plays 3rd place from group B, the winner playing New Zealand for the last Asian spot).

Saturday, September 06, 2008

10,000 visits

This site has just reached 10,000 visits since its counter was started. It averages 35 visits per day. Thanks for your interest. So far this week 243 people have visited the site.

AFL v A-League: Trade Practices Act anyone?

The AFL is Australia's most successful and commercial sport. It has been steadily grinding other sports into the dust over the last 30 years. The next 20 years will see whether rugby league and rugby union can survive the onslaught.

The battles have been played out in the union and league heartlands of Sydney and Brisbane. And in the school yards where AFL's Aus Kick program has used schools to seed primary school children and direct them away from the traditional soccer, union and, particularly, league interests.

League reacted first, synthesising and combining the Queensland and NSW competitions to produce NRL and cement Brisbane as a one team city. The Broncos have long since been the best supported NRL team, the team with the best winning record in the last decade and therefore able to compete head-to-head with the Brisbane Lions. The later introduction of the Lions, following on from the more checkered establishment of the Sydney Swans, was subsidised financially and with player talent by the Victorian club heartland of AFL. The result was three premierships in a row and around a decade without a Victorian club victory. No other sport would tolerate such a price for traditional clubs, but tight central control and the prize of dominating the Australian sporting dollar helped the Victorian clubs take the pain despite some erosion of local support.

Union also reacted, fighting like league against a number of enemies including commercial invaders, forming the international 'super' competition. This move killed off crowd interest in its local clubs. Recent expansion into Western Australia, following wealthy former private school boys and ex-pat South Africans, then over-stretched the Australian talent pool, which killed off Australian clubs as serious contenders. The reaction to this has been to target the rugby league talent pool with mixed results. The route cause is the drain of school boy interest over to AFL.

While school-boy soccer has long been Australia's largest participation sport alongside hockey, soccer's (now football) lack of attraction as a local entertainment sport had kept it off the AFL's radar. Until now.

Now the A-League and AFL have both marked out the Gold Coast as a strategic headland for their sport. Interestingly, both sports missed the first mover advantage as rugby league established the Gold Coast Titans to some considerable success. This time the traditional Victorian AFL clubs had resisted the call of one last sacrifice, as the Kangaroos knocked back offers of major subsidy to make the move and now face oblivion. The wasted time has allowed rugby league to consolidate and the A-League to attracted massive financial support from local billionaire Clive Palmer (how much and how long for will be interesting to see).

The original A-League proposal, to field a team in the current 2008-9 season, was to be known as the Gold Coast Galaxy FC. It was to have, unspecified, links to David Beckham's American MLS team LA Galaxy. I must say I liked this idea a lot. The machinations behind the veto of this franchise bid for the late proposal from Clive Palmer have not been disclosed.

The targeting of the 300,000 population of the Gold Coast by so many sports has been interesting to watch, especially considering the number of potential and unloved fans in Sydney's west. The area has bling. But the lack of crowd success of Sydney FC highlights the problems converting big ideas into full seats. The big plus for the A-League and rugby league is the optimum size of the stadium at 25,000, much more viable than the 50,000 seat Lang Park.

The delays to the AFL package and the opt-out of the Kangaroos, has allowed, or forced, the AFL to play a tactical rather than a strategic strike on the A-League. It has announced that its club will be called the 'Gold Coast Football Club'. The A-League will have 'Gold Coast United Football Club'. Clearly, the AFL intends to trade off GCUFC's bling factor.

Ironically, it may be A-League clubs' ability to survive on $10m per year, as opposed to AFL clubs' requirements for $30m to $40m that could see football victorious in the longer term.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A week in the A-League

FFA investigations

Spitting in rugby league is worth 3 weeks. In football, a minimum of 12 months unless the FFA decides to downgrade to a lessor charge.Lucky Dino Djulbic. Perth could not afford to end the career of one of its outstanding performers from last year.

At the same time, the FFA decided not to charge Mark Bosnich for his un-carded professional foul on Massimo Murdocca. Central Coast need the publicity a strange character like Bosnich brings. Sadly for him he appears like a boxer who has fought one too many fights.

Danny Tiatto is a marked man. And as we saw in the last round last season against Adelaide and last week against CCM, he is going to be targeted by the A-League's bully boys - itching to provoke him into retaliation and get him sent off. The surprise was from 22 year old Matt Simon - taking pieces out of Tiatto and Liam Reddy. This may seem like a good idea now - when officials assume that a young socceroo is on the angelic side - even winning a free kick from a foul on Tiatto, but later in his career it may come home to roost.

Go West Roar

Perth and the Roar will throw everything at their next match. Neither can afford the impact of a loss, and even a draw will be negative outcome for both teams as they slip further down the ladder. The season four blues could pressure on both clubs.

New Clubs

It made me smile when I saw Paul Okon's plea for the FFA to allow Gold Coast United to approach other clubs' players coming off contract in June 2009 in November 2008. If the clubs allow the FFA to do this they have rocks in their heads. Okon misses the point, new clubs are supposed to be easy beats, that is why the financial hurdles are so high. Gold Coast and North Queensland need to be able to survive coming last for a few seasons to give fans of other clubs respite.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Where would you rather be?

In 2008, Australian sport has undergone turmoil. Basketball hit the wall with at least 3 teams disappearing. Women's basketball struggled against the rise of trans-tasman netball. CEO John O'Neil declared rugby union financial dead and 'boring'. Rugby league has 'grabbed the table' in its 100th year, with fans and players deserting on mass, and government redirecting money away. Even cricket has started to look doggy as fans desert one day and most test games and freelance Indian companies behind 20-20 buy up to 50% of national squads away from the country v country game (anything other than national cricket lost crowd interest years ago). Even a highly successful Olympic games was criticised for Australia not punching far enough beyond its weight. Only AFL has thrived.

Then we have football. Where would you rather be?