Derbies to the rescue for the A-League Men

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Players and fans especially love a classic derby. However, the A-League Men may be grasping to these derbies as viewing and attendance numbers begin to drop.

Derbies have been around the competition since the A-League Men’s introduction and have grown over time. It’s what gets players and fans excited the most and can often determine the fate of a team’s season.

Notable derbies include the F3 Derby, Sydney Derby and Melbourne Derby. The level of intensity these derbies bring is close to unmatched around Australian sport.

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The Melbourne Derby on December 18 showed just how passionate these games are. The defending premiers Melbourne City were out to consolidate their position as a top league side, while Melbourne Victory were out for their counterpart’s blood in the first of three matches between the pair this season.

Several more factors combined to add more fuel as 19,640 fans packed AAMI Park to witness one of the best spectacles seen in recent years. Countless swings in momentum from both sides leading to a chaotic ending showed its value to the league.

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Round one saw the F3 Derby kick-off between Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets in treacherous conditions. Pouring rain and gale-force winds added more unpredictability which saw Central Coast run out eventual 2-0 winners.

Both sides lived rent free in one another’s heads leading to some fiery tussles.

The contest drew a commanding 6,424 fans to McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, an incredible feat in such poor conditions.

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Compare that to other seasonal matches and the comparisons are barely close. A day after the exhilarating Melbourne Derby, just 2,691 fans ventured to Campbelltown Stadium to see then ladder-leaders Macarthur FC pull off a remarkable effort to defeat Newcastle Jets with only 10 men.

That’s half the supporters who attended the F3 Derby. The contest in Campbelltown was also played in far better conditions than in Newcastle.

The night before the Melbourne Derby, only 2,353 supporters rocked up to cheer on Western United as they defeated Adelaide United thanks to a 44th-minute goal to Connor Pain.

The match was held in the same stadium as the Melbourne Derby.

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The A-Leagues’ new media deal with Network 10 and Paramount Plus has proved a scheme to attract more viewers. The recent COVID outbreak means fans may refrain from attending matches in person and places more emphasis on these networks.

The Sydney Derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers attracted 146,000 viewers nationally. Although lower compared to other recent sporting events, the derby achieved the highest ratings for a non-finals A-League Men’s match.

The comparisons surrounding derbies consolidate how valuable the A-Leagues, Paramount Plus and Network 10 can be. That is with strong support and involvement from fans and viewers.

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Only time will tell how far the A-League Men’s competition will grow but for now these derbies are at the centre of everyone’s attention.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City

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Mitchell Roese
Sports enthuse currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney. Covering the Central Coast Mariners 2021/22 A-League Season

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