Last Sunday’s A-League Grand Final between powerhouse clubs Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory got lost amongst a stack load of other sport that was played over that weekend. Even with the NRL having representation footy only, the A-League Grand Final took a back seat and seemed like an afterthought for anyone but the diehards.
There are some who argue that having a finals series in the A-League is a waste of time and that the title should be awarded to the team that finishes top after the minor round. I tend to agree. The A-League season drags on forever and by the time the finals series arrives, it has lost all momentum as the winter codes come into full force.
This idea of not having a finals series was never more appropriate than this year where Sydney FC finished with a huge lead over any rival at the top of the table. It would have been a strange look had they not gone onto win the Grand Final as well. It appears A-League bosses have mixed feelings about the current system, because when you look into it, the finals system is half-baked and lacks thought.
If football wants to be a sustained success in this country and a finals series is the way that they want to go, more needs to be done to ensure that the whole country is sitting down and watching the feature piece that is a Grand Final. In the build up to a NRL or AFL Grand Final, the whole country is talking about it. People gather for barbecues and get-togethers and it is one of the biggest television days of the year. Melbourne even has a public holiday on the day before the AFL finale!
The A-League Grand Final did good numbers on television, but would have done even more had the game been shown live on free to air. You simply cannot have a television deal that has your major game shown on delay on free to air television.
From all reports, there was a lukewarm response from free to air television networks in the new TV deal, with the ABC now the most likely to come to the party showing a game a week from next season. That has to be a worry for the sport.
One idea that has been discussed is moving the A-League Grand Final to a mid-week time slot. Say a Wednesday night. NRL’s State of Origin has been a very successful product in that space with large attendances both at the venue and on television. A Wednesday removes the game from clashing with Australia’s other major codes, which tend to be gripping the nation during May. Sunday Night at this time of the year tends to be a graveyard for sport and certainly not a place for a Grand Final of a sport that is still trying to establish a regular audience.
Football is Australia’s most popular played sport, yet it fails to attract headlines for an extended period of time. This is a clear indication that more thought on scheduling and marketing must be placed on this competition. The reality is that people live very busy lives in this day and age and will make choices when it comes to spending time and money on things more than ever before. The A-League must try to re-promote itself and think outside the box or it will become a very stale and non-relevant competition on the sporting landscape.
Picture – Fox Sports