Mulvey questions A-League fixture congestion

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Fresh off three games in eight days, and two more to come next week, Central Coast Mariners coach Mike Mulvey has questioned the A-League’s ‘Summer of Football’ scheduling.

It might be a terrific idea on paper, as the ‘Summer of Football’ is being marketed as an opportunity for fans to attend games and watch the league shine nearly every day if they have Foxtel or online streaming services. However, for the players who are putting on these matches, it can be very difficult given the harshness of the Australian summer and the long distances teams have to travel.

As the busy period continues, teams are being plagued by injuries due to the above-mentioned reasons of warm conditions and travel. Add small squad lists to this equation and you can see why some are doubting the effectiveness of this marketing ploy.

“It’s a Herculean effort for all players at the moment because January is a very busy schedule for travelling, playing, recovering, and you’ve got to make your squads count”, said Mulvey.

“We’ve copped an injury tonight through Jake McGing and he’s one of the fittest lads at the club”.

Mariners winger Tommy Oar was left out of the squad to face his former-club Brisbane Roar on Sunday due to hamstring tightness he obtained during his sides 2-1 win over Melbourne City on Wednesday, and Mario Shabow also limped off.

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Mike Mulvey expanded on his questioning of the fixture list by declaring teams don’t have the ability to prepare for the busy period of January.

“It’s difficult to actually get your players ready for that in the six-month pre-season that we have”, Mulvey said.

“You could potentially play three games in eight days to condition them for that, but then it doesn’t happen for another four or five months.

“It’s very very difficult, it is quite harsh, but it makes it exciting for people who read the newspapers or watch it on television doesn’t it? But the players have to battle through it”.

One of the issues, though, is crowd number have been quite poor. The Mariners have managed just over 4,000 fans in attendance for each of their games this past Wednesday and Sunday, and the Wanderers have struggled to attract crowds at ANZ Stadium, too.

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That is partly due to other events happening at the same time as A-League matches in the same city – such as the Big Bash or the Australian Open in Melbourne.

But the other part can be put down to the kick-off times. 7:50pm (which is really closer to 8pm) kick-off mid-week is too late for families to bring the kids to a game even though it is school holidays. The same can be said for those who work early the next morning, too.

Mulvey admitted that most leagues across the world offer similar fixture congestion to what we have in the A-League, but they do it during their winter, so the heat doesn’t have an impact on recovery or injury. Similarly, most of these leagues don’t have as far to travel, either, and have larger squad sizes.

If the FFA wish to continue the ‘Summer of Football’ again next season, it needs some tweaking so fans and clubs alike get the most out of a busy, festive period.

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Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith
Football writer and radio presenter. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).

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