Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bob Malcolm: no thanks

The end of corporatism in sport part 1: EPL

This week's Weekend Australian has published a story from The Wall Street Journal about the impact of the financial crisis on the EPL (I have found the online version with a different title: 'English Soccer's Morning After' by Arron Patrick and Dana Cimilluca).

Among the issues raised were:

- EPL squad sizes may be reduced - unleashing lots of quality players into 2nd and 3rd string markets
- season ticket revenue likely to fall 5%-10% next season
- clubs likely to reduce ticket costs to encourage fans
- season tickets bought at the beginning of this season had masked the impact of the financial crisis on fan support (ie they have already paid so they can't save money by not going)
- Player salaries are likely to drop next season as all football countries are likely to be hit
- UK is to increase the highest tax rate from 40% to 50% (this could give Sepp Blatter and Seri A what they want by forcing mega players to consider other leagues where the rates are lower)
- Clubs are losing major sponsors
- Relegated clubs are going to face a double impact in their struggle to return to the EPL

Note to FFA: watch out this stuff has quite a way to work through the football world (and other industries)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brisbane RFC v Celtic - your chance to see Scott McDonald score in Australia

If it is unlikely to happen in green and gold, so it may happen in green and white. Which I am wearing right now as our local team was given its playing strip by Celtic in a visit to Brisbane in the late 1960s.

Oh and Brisbane RFC could learn a lot from Celtic about developing, winning and keeping grass routes fans. Celtics ops manager is now in Brisbane arranging for his team to train at a club field at the Gap in suburban Brisbane. Imagine if the BR FC did that?

No Dukes

Well Coach Mitchell went over and asked him to play for Glory and Mark Viduka or 'Varduka' as some Newcastle fanzine writer calls him in this months Four Four Two, said no. Why? Well apparently he is worried about ending up like John Aloisi at Sydney. You'd be alright Dukes.

My guess is that he would come home for Victory. But his real home (away from home) is in Croatia. On that score, great to see ex-Roar speedy Dario Vadosic is in the Australian squad for the last of the World Cup qualifiers - and maybe the winner from Dukes staying away - and not following up on playing for Croatia.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Brian Clough: The first modern coach

The Australian Financial Review ran a great story in its Review pages this Friday, 'Pitch black: England and its national game in the 1970s' by Dominic Sandbrook. It was inspired by David Peace's book 'The Damned United' which will be released here in August.

I was very young in 1974 playing for the Redbacks. Red shirts and black shorts. But after a game I would race home to watch Jimmy Hill and the big match, and it was a big day if Leeds United were playing. I was also mesmerized by Brian Clough but I did not know why. Sandbrook explains it here, showmanship and attacking football.

Sandbrook points out that Clough was the first modern manager. They were working class and they wanted to make money. They thought it was fair. Sandbrook also points out that under EPL neither Clough nor Don Revie (for a short time Clough replaced Revie at Leeds United) would be a modern manager. The EPL does not let small teams with limited funds come from nowhere on the back of out of the box coaching brilliance.

I guess that means we are in the post modern ear.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Celtic Fc v Brisbane Roar FC: Part 2 Captain v Captain

The highlight of the July game could be the dual for Scottish Premier League hard men central defenders. Check out Celtic captain Stephen McManus who will pit his brain and brawn against former Ranger Craig Moore.

Scotland captain Colin Hendry described him as "the last of an ancient breed", in the sense that his no-nonsense defending style is hard to come by in modern football. Wikipedia.

The Moose that roared? Gareth Musson Brisbane Strikers

It is great to see young players making their way to their local A-League club. However, Brisbane Roar has a wealth of strikers and you have to be pretty good to score in the A-League these days.

I keep an eye on the off-season Queensland State League to see if any gems are being thrown up. Last year it was Tommy Oar. This year no one is standing out quite as much, at least on paper. But Gareth Musson has scored 10 goals in 9 games for the Brisbane Strikers - so Frank will have noticed the action at his old club.

Gareth Musson and Central Coast Mariners up and comer Shane Huke made their way to England from Brisbane via a coaching clinic - Premier Soccer Academy. This group had links to Peterborough and Ipswich Town. Huke got Peterborough and Musson Ipswich. Both seem to have discovered how hard 'making it' is from the ground up in lower league English football. Both travelled from piller to post.

Musson (22) played Ipswich Town, before a quick transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Dorchester before returning to Mitchelton and sitting out most of 2008 with a hamstring injury.

Huke (23) played for Rochdale Rovers, before travelling to England to play for Peterborough (29 games and 1 goal), King's Lynn, Bedford, Heybridge, Cambridge City, bench time for Hornchurch, and in 2007 Dagenham & Redbridge. He joined Central Coast for the champions league.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Glasgow Celtic v Brisbane Roar part 1

Brisbane Roar members will get exclusive access to tickets. But only if you confirm you 2009/10 Roar membership by 5pm 29 May.

The Brisbane Roar members’ pre-sale will run from 9am, May 27 to 5pm, May 31.

Members will receive an email from the club on May 26 with instructions on how to access the pre-sale. Members without email access are advised to call Emma Hamilton-Smith (3123 7107) on this date to receive their instructions.

Members are only permitted one ticket per Roar membership. Members who try to purchase more than they are entitled to during the pre-sale will have their tickets to the Celtic match cancelled.

Please note that access to section 332 is still only available if you have membership with the Orange Army and is subject to approval.

The match will kick off at 3pm on Sunday, 12 July.

I sourced this information here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brisbane Roar

New strip out today, made local ABC TV - Sergio and Reinaldo as models. Orange home shirt with maroon shoulder tops. OK, where do I get one.

Lots of interest in the Celtic game. Expect a sell out.

And on that Miron is saying why isn't State Govt paying for Fulham game. Old spinner Miron is missing the point. Which is that the Roar Against Racism is against racism and part of the recognition that Brisbane has to play and fund such a huge stadium. Gold Coast has a ready made cheapy and Gold Coast the region is getting $100m for an AFL stadium. Will Fulham come anyway as Fulham look likely to make Europe?

Rugby Union are looking to have a Gold Coast team in the super 15 - what a joke, there aren't decent Australian union players for 4 teams let alone 5. And why would the Gold Coast support Rugby league, A-League, AFL, basketball and union - is anyone thinking what will happen next?

Ulsan 0 v Magnificant Jets 1: Newcastle top to bottom

Newcastle - from bottom of A-League to top 16 in Asia.

Very close game. Lots of heading chances for Ulsan but they could not score. Newcastle also had 4-5 other chances.

Fabio was subbed at half time. And no Doony De Groot. And Ljubo subbed in the opening minutes.
While Fabio set up the goal with a great cross, Newcastle looked like an A-League team - rather than a team of ring ins.

And the stars were Matt Thompson and in goal Ben Kennedy (not missing Covic at all).

And of the disgusting performance we saw last night from the Chinese to fake injury and waste time.

FFA backs down on Roar seat prices

In the Courier Mail. I have nothing from the club yet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Central Coast v Divers 1

Thanks a lot. Do this in your own country please, not here we are trying to build a sport.

The man handling of ref would have been red in A-League. Plus pitch invasion by Chinese official should be a life ban.

Is this the best they can do?

By the way, CCM plan mass exit of players. Replacements? Are MacAllister and Simon going after all?

Lawry McKinna looked like he was holding a lot back. Should we read something into that?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Close to the money?

Reading the online Courier Mail today it seems my thoughts on the FFA and Brisbane Roar may be close to the money.

'Roar directors admit they are concerned about supporter backlash following the club's decision to almost double the price of season tickets.

As reported in The Courier-Mail on Thursday, a season ticket holder in the Orange Army section of seating at Suncorp Stadium will have to pay $345 for 14 matches compared with $176 for 10 games last season.

Board member Claude Baradel said the club's directors would discuss the matter.

"We've got to look after our fans - that's the important part," Baradel said. "We're looking at it now."

But Football Federation Australia, which ensured the Roar's future by buying a 51 per cent share in the cash-strapped club, is not likely to budge.

It is understood the FFA felt Roar fans were not being charged enough to watch their team play in the first four seasons of the A-League. online Courier Mail 17 May 2009.
OK. So if it is the FFA driving this price hike surely it isn't because 'the FFA felt Roar fans were not being charged enough to watch their team play in the first four seasons of the A-League.'

How much to other A-League teams charge? Gold Coast is already poaching Roar fans by pointing out they are cheaper. How much do you pay to watch a team that was not competitive for 2 years and has the worst home (and best away) record in the league?

Or do the FFA think it is fair to penalise fans because of the cost of the stadium? After all it was the FFA that determined that the Brisbane team would play at Suncorp - the traditional Brisbane representative team - the one with a fan base to start with - Brisbane Strikers, I understand, were not offering Suncorp as a home and therefore were rejected.

Is the FFA prepared to ignore economic conditions?

What will the FFA do if crowd numbers fall so far that Suncorp is still not economic?

Do they have a plan B?

FFA, do you know what you are doing?

In the medium term, let's call it 2 years, no fans, no 4-3-3.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brisbane Roar Update

This week it is all about ticket that look set to rocket up by 40% in a global recession.

Why would a club do this? I think it is because they are doing what they are told to by the FFA.

I believe that a guy with a spreadsheet in Sydney is basically telling the Roar what to do. The press implied the FFA 51% acquisition of the Roar as bringing new quality management. Unfortunately for the Roar and its fans this does not appear to be the FFA mindset. The priority is that the Roar does not generate a negative cash flow for the FFA.

So, I believe they will manage cash flow into breakeven by increasing prices.

I believe the guy in Sydney with the spreadsheet may have worked out that if ticket prices go up 40% then they can breakeven at 10,000 rather that 15,000 fans per game. This means that they don't have to worry too much about fans 'price elasticity' - the extent that fans stop coming if the price increases. Further, they know that the Roar has a, relative to other A-League clubs, small base of season ticket holders. And that is has a high percentage of fans that infrequently walk up to the game and therefore people won't notice the relative price of tickets.

The real shame is that in targeting 10,000 rather than 15,000, Suncorp is going to sound empty and will reduce the appeal of the night out.

What the FFA needs is a different mindset. They wasted $1 million on an Auckland audience that was not interested in their product. Now they should invest in a local city with massive sporting interest - the Broncos are getting 20,000 to 40,000 to Suncorp in the FFA's offseason.

What they need to do is hire some sports marketing expertise and either look for a big investor to buy 100% of the Roar and take the club where it needs to go, or re-structure the Roar for members as owners. Like the English 'myfootabllclub' concept, the members would vote for board members. then you could ask the members to pay a premium.

Unfortunately the route the FFA is taking with the Roar is not maximising its value to a new 'big investor.'

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm a Carpetbagger baby, I'm coming to your town, I'm going to treat you fine, going to rob you blind, smiling all the time oh yeah...

Football calls them Agents.

Still it's good to see Mark Milligan is happy at last. Staring in the Chinese Super League. Having Pim fly in to watch him and English and other European clubs watching.

Far cry from leaving Sydney FC for a near miss at Arsenal, then being bounced from Euro club to club before coming back to Newcastle then off again. Dangling on a string.

Steal the nose right from under your eyes.

Now the Chinese know us - Joel and other Griffiths, Matt McKay....

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Newcastle 2 v Beijing 1: Magnificent

Magnificent. Well no. But a great game.

Newcastle dominated the first half. An under-strength Beijing came back in the second half - and the other brother, Ryan scored against the run of play. Adam Griffith played his last game for Newcastle as a yellow card will keep him out of the last match of this group. And the 3rd brother and new dad Joel watched from the side line. He doesn't look like he will be back in Newcastle soon. But Ryan could be.

The controversies... Petrovski was offside to score. The Refs didn't know what they were doing, particularly on offside. Luijb is a borderline guy. I think more fights at training. Plus he deliberately kicked one of the Chinese players behind play, do FIFA or Asia pick that up? And he had a barge through to set up the last seconds winner for super sub Rooney - what a cracking goal first time from outside the box. Hoffman was everywhere. Pafta looked great. De Goot did not.

And Newcastle only have to draw their last group match and they will be through to the final 16. Whoohoo.

And the game. Fast. End to end. Long balls and keeper kicks everywhere.

Brisbane Roar - and season tickets from Monday

I hope, really hope, that being under FFA management will mean some more commercial marketing. Man, Brisbane is a big city with sophisticated sports fans. To be honest the efforts over the last 4 years need to be surpassed if they are going to link up with fans they have lost - more than any club - and new fans.

I haven't seen the effort yet. Which is a shame.

I hope the FFA drops its poor one-size-fits-all approach and that song pitched at one segment. It must broaden its approach. Show it understands its - very different - market segments. Brisbane is a family town - post punk doesn't work. Post punk on old people's radio never works. Just a hint guys.

OK one more thing. The idea that they are going to reduce the maroon and increase the orange is just plain SILLY. Has any of these people looked at what the Brisbane Broncos and the Brisbane Lions play in? Maroon by the way. A lot of fans don't like the orange.

Donelison 3 v Kwasnik 2 (Pohang Steelers v CCM - ACL)

Pity these games get so little coverage. CCM played well and the Koreans were very mediocre at home.

The omens were bad. Foxtel lost transmission in the opening minutes and only came back as Donelison smashed home a penalty in the opening minutes. The Korean team's Brazilian was the difference between the two teams - on the scoreboard and in terms of overall performance. Today's Adelaide or Melbourne Victory would have smashed this team.

The amazing story was Kwasnik and why he was subbed after putting the Mariners ahead at around the 60 minute mark. After looking listless for Wellington last season, something that could have reflected the Nik's give the ball to Shane Smeltz approach, Kwasnik showed his ability to carve up a very poor defence. His second goal - a curling free kick from the left touch line - went in because everyone - including Ponhang's very poor keeper miss judged it. MacAlister, on the other hand, looked all at sea in behind Kwasnik and Matt Simon. After MacAlister had his shoulder smashed, Nick Risso came on for a bit of a whizzy run - an effort to extend his contract beyond the ACL.

Oh, and Matt Simon says he is staying for the A-League - one more time.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Only connect

Having spoken to a few people at FFA I can partly see their problem:
  1. FFA has a lot to do with limited resources (compare them with AFL that has mega dollars but no where near as many kids playing across as many kms).
  2. Some states run their leagues as a closed shop (Robbie Slater complained about this on Tuesday in Fox Sports FC - even implied young players were buying spots in rep teams in NSW before Andy Harper kicked him under the table).
  3. Many staff at FFA are there because of their football expertise. Which is understandable and creates career paths, passes on knowledge etc. But it leaves the FFA well short on other skills like strategic thinking on how to handle young players and how to sell A-League tickets, handling the state agencies and building the marketing franchise.
The major hurdle that the FFA has not been able to achieve for the A-League is connecting with the youngsters, their families and friends and getting them to go to games. That is the only technical challenge that the A-League most pass. They are no near bridging it yet.

It is starting to look like the A-League is limited while Foxtel has exclusive rights to the live games. And while SBS plays this cry baby role pointing out how technically deficient the game is.

Anyway, there is still a lot that can be done now with the franchise that the FFA has and can easily connect with. And yet FFA appear unable to work out how to.

Technical director and skills team? How about Marketing Strategist, Chief Market Researcher, Junior Member Development Manager, New Product Development Manager and A-League Ticket Sales Manager. Opps that would require a chance in governance structure, say more like the AFL where the centre tells the clubs what to do....

The AFL found that financial success led to technical success. Not the other way around.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The right to be Dutch, even if you are not.

This year my son's team is getting back to the fundamentals. I have been lucky enough to be introduced to one player's uncle who used to play for Ajax. His first move was to get the kids to go round cones to the right taking the ball with the outside of their right boot, and then to the left with the outside of their left boot. Then he introduced the '2,4,3' skill. You only have to see it once. The 'Cruyff turn'. Within one game it has lifted their performance.

Another impact on their game came from me. 'Go wide. No wider. Drop back. Go wider. Don't go through the middle.' We got to 8 before we ran out of petrol. And let three in. The wide play is Dutch ... before that it was Stanley Matthews.

In the distant past... I remember playing on open space at the back before primary school and calling my team 'Ajax Amsterdam'. It was little more than a name, but these new ideas about 'total football' were inspiring and exciting. Not that I understood them nor knew more names than Cruyff.

Now FFA is banking on the generation after Cruyff for its coaching staff. It isn't that clear why they initially made this choice. Other than things went so well with Guus that following his recommendations seemed like a good idea.

Now the Dutch idea is pervasive across the A-League. While some of the Dutch traces have been bled out of the Roar, the Orange will remain. And Frank Farina has proven to be both a quick learner and under rated as a coach, implementing both wide wing play and appointing Sergio van Dijk in the middle.

Now Perth Glory has also hitched its future to Dutchness. They have released 10 of their 2008/9 23 player squad. This has included Armaral (who I thought looked great when fit), the notorious Trinidad, the regularly injured Foxe, the exciting Nick Risso (to CCM), and James Robinson (ex Melbourne and now headed for Fury).

In heading Dutch former FFA coach Mitchell has retained Vitor Sikora and are now said to be chasing Marc Overmars. A 36 year old, former Dutch international, Overmars is known as 'the Roadrunner'. He had 5 years with Ajak, 3 years with Arsenal, and 4 with Barcelona before his career was ended by injury. Scored 76 goals 1992 to 2004 in 332 games. OK. Then he didn't play for 4 years. In the last year he has played 21 games in the Dutch second division without scoring (at Sikora's club). Hmm.

And on Fox Sports, at last some sense from our Dutch coach, Jan Versleijen, of the U19 team. Only go overseas if a quality foreign team comes looking for you. Otherwise stay with the A-League and its youth teams. Don't let agents hock you around Asia or Europe - or guess what - even if you get a contract the club will not be loyal to you. You will be fodder they can park for a year or so, or let get injured and ignor.

Not sure how coach Pim's comments about the A-League help anyone. Other than Pim of course - if the A-League based team loses, well he is already on the record saying they are no good.

So there you are. We are Dutch. Even if we are not. Or was that Italian? But that may be another story.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Gold Coast Cannibals

I suspect that the FFA may be getting a little tied of the Gold Coast's behaviour. But its 51% ownership of the Roar and its gratitude at having another of Australia's mega rich funding a team puts the FFA in a poor position to effectively respond.

The problem is that sections of the Gold Coast club appear to be on a mission to promote their club at the Roar's expense. This began with the club gasumping the original 'Galaxy' bid in 2007, then to support their bid they pinched 5 Roar managers including all ticket sales expertise right at ticket selling time for 2008-9,  since then we have been hearing outrageous statements (that are embarrassing their players) about how they are going to win the A-League without losing a game, and about how mean the Roar were to Miron. Then they complained about not getting the first home game of the 2009-10 season against the Roar. 

Now, in a move that highlights how poor the A-League governance is, they have poached one of the Roar's key sponsors - Waeco. The Courier Mail reports today that Waeco have provided $500,000 over 4 years to the Roar. Now they will be supporting Gold Coast. 

This is just plain wrong.

New clubs must bring new sponsors to the A-League not cannibalise existing funding. Particularly when considering how important the Brisbane market is to the existence of the A-League. 

The FFA should have been able to prevent the Gold Coast from stealing Roar expertise and sponsors. The fact that it cannot now raises serious questions.