Proposed fixture change will lose A-League’s greatest asset

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The A-League is shooting itself in the foot by proposing a permanent fixture change.

Football Australia want to push the A-League into winter going forward in order to synchronise it with other leagues, such as the National Premier league, other Asian leagues and grass-root leagues.

After a compromised season last year, the change to play well into 2021 was born for practicality. However, it now appears to be destined for future seasons as well, and that circles us back to a certain problem. A problem many want swept under the rug, however one that will only become exacerbated by the change.

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The A-League simply does not have the legions of fans to compete with the winter league’s AFL and NRL. Big fans of the game, along with FA, appear to reject this statement and pull cotton wool over their eyes, yet it does the league no good.

The A-League has the worst attendance rates of those three sports, and as one might expect off that, the lowest TV ratings of the group, which is where the big money comes from.

Over the last decade, in pre- COVID-19 times, the average A-League game pulled in a little over 10,000 spectators, the NRL slightly over 15,000 and the AFL the clear winner around 35,000.

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For a variety of reasons, the A-League does not reverberate around the country in the way the other codes do.

Not that this is a shot at FA, it’s just how the world works.

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The A-League can adapt and overcome, as it has for the last 17 years.

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However, trying to break into a market that already has two huge competitors is not the way to go about it.

Many viewers and supporters of the A-League are also the same of the AFL or NRL. The different seasons allow fans to be involved in both, however an A-League season that goes through winter will force them to choose one or the other.

Our society is too time poor these days to maintain a strong interest in multiple codes simultaneously, which is why you will not see many who are supporters of both the AFL and the NRL. It has to be one or the other.

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As the A-League moves to winter, it will join the same boat. Fans will have to choose between the three.

The great part of the A-League is that it occurs during summer. People have to choose between it and the Big Bash League. It also provides a different atmosphere to others, one where spectators can go and not expect to freeze for a couple of hours.

Although, group it with two other powerhouse sports and it’s only a matter of time for remaining fans to desert the league.

The worst part is, the finals are the most important time. Does the league really want their pinnacle to be their least watched part of the season?

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Last year’s grand final already showed us the way it’s likely to trend, with Foxtel viewership down 14 per cent from the 2019 Grand Final.

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The A-League’s best asset is that is has one major sport competitor, the BBL. The fans like it that way, and it’s in the games longevity interests to keep it that way.

Feature image credit: Jaime Castaneda

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Seb Mottram
Seb Mottram
Sports nut studying Media comms and Marketing at Monash.

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