Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Football fights back... I can smell the taste of Victory (I'm almost with you)

The winter season can be quiet on the media front. Not this year.

The news from the World Cup has been bad, particularly on corruption at FIFA. However, Ben Buckley and the clubs have followed this up with a truck load of good, OK and other news. So soccer is staying there on the sporting pages, reminding families that it is an entertainment option for next season. And when it is, AFL and NRL will not be on. Only the falling over itself - once great - cricket.

Harry Kewell needs to play in the A-League more than the A-League needs him. Yes we need him - a lot. He will be a massive boon. But how many people in other countries buy shirts because they see an advert with Harry in it? Really, if he can stand out here, Harry should make massive amounts of money without taking the much needed extra gate-take that he will bring. The only benefit in paying him is the encouragement for others that they could make a fortune in Australia.

Marcus Flores was the best player last year, but he has given Adelaide the opportunity to find another this year. More spark. Their management has a great attitude.

Ben Buckley was great at the SBS fan forum. SBS are promoting the game in Australia which is great. Thanks for coming back guys. Craig Foster has written a great book so we can now understand this 'come to play football' stuff. And Les Murray also has another book out.

Archie Thompson has a book - the first for a current player?

Newcastle has been brilliant in their ticket prices, $8.85 for adults!

Heart have Fred. Their coach has bagged the league and says he wants to leave. But that sounded like what it was - an excuse for his own under-whelming performance.

Brisbane got their season tickets out early and well priced.

Who knows what is in stall for the A-League in 2011-12. But given the current environment strategic map options, the best has been made of it.

Now it is up the fans.

Come on Miron, yell a bit louder.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Craig Foster's Fozz on football

I wish I had this book 5 years ago when I started coaching. I would have got 'it' more quickly. It is about having space, which equals time.

His passion comes through. So does Craig's reputation for not pulling punches. He isn't going to count to 10 before saying what thinks, and if he does it isn't going to change anyway.

The over-riding message is that if we play better, football will take its place as the top sport in Australia. This is the over-riding message I get whenever I hear the SBS crew. It is an appealing message. And certainly we won't win the world cup without it. It will help us to get the most out of the players we have. However, I think the issue is more complex. The popularity of a sport is about more than how it looks.

To prove Australia is a great sporting nation we need to play sports the world plays. That is soccer. But the media just paid a squillian for a sport that is not played seriously anywhere else in the world. That is a big vested interest. One that will not be given up just because of the way soccer is played. Just a thought.

Craig Foster's book will help coaches of children and youth, even A-League coaches. I recommend taking time to read it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fan Forum

Did I detect a touch of schadenfreude (call it pretend sympathy) for Ben Buckley facing up to what appeared to be mainly Sydney FC fans?

Ben Buckley did well, gaining recognition from the audience that they were being tough on him. They thought he deserved it.

However. On reflection, I think he would have expected the reception, but didn't deserve it. He is doing what he can to satisfy his multiple and often conflicting stakeholders. As Les Murray pointed out, what are the state football organisations doing in there as directors? I need to do a bit of research as I don't understand how this hierarchy works. Surely Football Queensland and Soccer NSW (or whatever it is now called) reports to FFA, not the other way round? But without these state bodies how would the volunteers, that make the game work each weekend, be coordinated? Not by the parents, they are using weekend sport as a child minding service.

Ben Buckley referred to the FFA's 'strategic plan'. A vital document. I assume it maps out all these stakeholder relationships, their needs and their influence? If it does it will be a wicked and complex document.

But for the A-League, its main game must now be commercial success. The governance structure is less than ideal. But is better than trying to imitate the EPL. The EPL clubs do not make money in a sustainable way. The EPL model is about 5 clubs that can win and others that have generations of loyal fans to sustain them. And primarily it is about the massive financial resources of some men who want to make their mark on world football by buying the best coaches and players. If the A-League tries to emulate that, it will be soon gone.

If the A-League tries to rely on a few rich men, it will also soon be gone. Have a listen to, or read, this ABC radio 'Background Briefing', particularly the last 10 minutes.

The mood of the fan forum was 'why have you not done this'. Yet the right answer in sport is not easy. There is a very high probability that whatever you do will not work out how you planned it. The reality is that the A-League arose from the Socceroos world cup qualification in 2005 and some clubs had, by some measures, peaked before the 2006 world cup. There was a lot of free-to-air coverage before the 2006 world cup, it was a mood of 'our time.'

There was limited free-to-air coverage of the qualification rounds for the 2010 cup. Those that don't have Foxtel probably didn't feel part of it. And Australia's coach was a disaster for the game, getting massive airplay for the message that that the local league was of a poor standard. The reality was that because of his coaching ability he needed the best players he could to qualify and he was then found out on the world stage. The perceived poor performance at the world cup came back and hit the A-League further - despite the lack of local participants.

There is a lot of talk about the grass roots. But the reality is that parents choose soccer as a development activity, then then go and watch another code for entertainment. They tried the A-League and some stuck. But their interest in sport as development has a product lifecycle linked to the age of their children. And their interest in it as entertainment is also likely to be linked to their children's interest. Meanwhile, those with a culture of attending sport as entertainment, generation after generation, are likely to revert to their original code passion or the sport that is being promoted on free-to-air TV. The mega dollars being thrown around by a centralised AFL body with an annual net profit of over $150 million and no national or state teams to worry about funding, is hard to compete with if you have no money.

Cricket has found how damaging the brand of a national team playing a high volume of local games is on the domestic league. Managing the local Socceroo exposure is complex - how do you use it to boost the sport if there are only 1 or 2 players from the local league?

On the other hand, allowing free-to-air coverage of A-League games or Socceroo games could totally devalue the coverage contracts.

What is needed is some way to get the next wave of families to watch the A-League, without reducing the net revenue of the sport.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Couple of days in Melbourne - Santo, Srebre Delovski, Johnny Warren, Archie Thompson but no Serbia

Of course Santo was right. I had had just bought a copy of Archie Thompson's 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Santo Caruso, owner of Australia's best specialist football bookshop 'Melbourne Sports Books', reckoned that Archie Thompson was playing in a couple of hours for the Socceroos against Serbia. 'No way' I had said, 'He's way out of contention.' How wrong I was.

Still, I was pleased to get a copy of Archie's book. To be honest I didn't know he had written one and I think he is the first current A-League player to do so. More on that later.

Amazingly, I also got an as new copy of Johnny Warren and Andrew Dettre's 1974 classic 'Soccer in Australia' for just $10.

Earlier in the day at Victoria Markets, I walked past a very recognisable face among a group of men in track suits. Oh FIFA track suits. 'I know that guy.' Hey its Srebre Delovski. 'FIFA must have some training or event on.' (I think the Ref for the Socceroo game is there in the photo too).

By the time I got to Melbourne Sports Books I realised that the Serbia game I had set to record was actually in Melbourne. Later, as we made our to the sky bus we mingled with many very tall men in red, some carrying flags. Very different to Brisbane. Where were the yellow scarfs and flags, and the kids? Later still I watched the game on a TV set into the back of the seat in front of me. Archie was there. He didn't get much of a look in though.

Oh and we got some of Australia's best Italian cakes at Dolcetti on Victoria street - yum

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Up the hill backwards, you'll be OK

I am missing the A-League more this off season than any other. I watched the European Cup final because I wanted to see something like our A-League. And there was Barcelona, with their over privileged squad copying Brisbane. And Manchester United copying Perth Glory, with less effect.

Soccer, basketball and union have paid a high price for helping Foxtel, via access to unique content, to become a commercially viable alternative TV source. And now Foxtel has joined the AFL revolution. It was also very disappointed to see the speed with which Foxtel dropped the A-League within minutes of the Final's penalty kickout. Imagine watching the FA Cup Final without the trophy lifting? I think there was a weird IPL match on or something.

But I am ready to watch Brisbane Roar again. Even without the Fury, the A-League is a technical success. You want that hot preparation ground for young socceroos and A-League Socceroos as preparation for Asian climates. And we should be looking to give Asia's hot and cold climate teams challenges with our vastness - Cairns, Townsville, Darwin, Canberra and Hobart.

It was amazing to hear Lyall Gorman stated that crowds would improve this year. I hope he is right as there will be no hiding if he isn't. I assume he has a massive campaign planned.

One more thought, isn't it amazing that the smart people at FFA actually believed that they could win the right to host the World Cup? Or is there more to it?