Saturday, February 06, 2010

Now for the Roar's biggest test

Brisbane is Australia's 3rd biggest sporting market. Now the harsh reality of the exodus of interest in the A-League from this market will come under the spotlight. The FFA will nervously await the crowd size for vital Socceroos v Indonesia game on March 3. The crowd size and local viewing audience is likely to have a long term impact on the FFA's strategic decision making.

For Brisbane Roar, many of the fans favourites have already left or been forced out. But there is also a chance that the heralded off season re-building is actually a period in which a whole set of other players are snapped by other A-League clubs as well as overseas interests. Likely to leave are Oar, van Dijk and McKay. It has already been indicated that McMaster and Ham may also leave. These changes may lead still more players to reconsider their future, most notably Zullo. Together the impact may be that there is little to attract new players other than those with few other options.

Miron was left pondering this problem after Queensland Roar decided to enter the A-League as probably the lowest spending club. Gold Coast United and the $1m Jason Culina was his response. The quality of players that came with Jason has been amazing.

Unless Brisbane Roar can find a way to make a similar commitment, find a way to tempt players like van Dijk, Oar and McKay to stay - and the snowball effect that would have on other's decisions - there is little point in their playing at Suncorp. And there would be little prospect of suddenly becoming a competitive team - at Suncorp, Ballymore or anywhere else. The A-League top performers have moved on from the position where there is a level playing field.

The fundamental for Brisbane is that they must, as soon as possible, commit $1m a year to a named and known marquee. Then get that information out there to attract a series of star recruits who will swim on the marquee's coattails.

My guess is that a new investor with $20 to $40 million to spend in 2010-11 is the first step.

The crowd sizes this year reflect the Brisbane market's reaction to the club's under performance, and to its reading based on the performances in the preseason and the first game against Gold Coast, that the club was no longer competitive. Unless this perception is reversed, interest in Brisbane will fall again next season. For instance there is strong evidence that many season ticket holders are considering their commitment for next year. This group paid the inflated ticket prices and watched as the club offered discounted and free tickets to all but them.

It will take a phenomenal effort for the club to turn their fortunes around from here.

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