Exploring controversial topics in the A-Leagues

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No sport is complete without controversial moments. The cause and effect gets people talking, creating more publicity surrounding such issues.

Certain moments in the A-Leagues cause commotion like no others. Observing some may ignite more debate backed by historical evidence and a real understanding of the surrounding circumstances.

Double-headers for the A-Leagues growth

The concept of double-headers have always been controversial due to its surrounding nature. A simple objective: schedule a women’s match right before a men’s. Therefore the former can feed off the crowds attending the latter.

The theory means women’s matches gain more exposure and broadcasting networks become financially content. Though with this comes the notion women’s football holds less value than their counterparts. To hold value means to stand as a singular entity.

International football has no problems attracting fans: The Matildas’ two matches against the USA in 2021 drew 56,604 across both matches. The average attendance for the 2020/21 ALW season was about 1000. This acknowledges supporters of the national sides aren’t regulars to ALW fixtures.

The A-Leagues has attempted to maximise exposure by scheduling almost half the ALW’s regular season matches as double-headers. The short gap between matches means little dead time where spectators may become bored waiting for the next.

Attitudes are changing and for the sake of women’s football in Australia, the priority must be to lure as much exposure possible ahead of the Women’s World Cup in 2023.

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Berisha’s roaring dive

No decision to award a penalty is more debated than Jarred Gillett’s in the 2012 decider between Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory. A challenge from Glory’s Liam Miller on Roar’s Besart Berisha constituted a spot-kick for Brisbane to capture the win in the dying minutes.

Before the challenge, however, there are claims to this day Berisha was offside before the ensuing penalty.

The incident sparked immense debate and broke the record for the most comments published on a foxsports.com.au story with 682. Around 60 per cent of fans believed Glory were robbed at the time of the decision.

Players diving is something fans don’t want to see, especially in a manner which decides the match. Debate remains to whether it was or not a dive, and it depends on what side you’re coming from. It’s part of the game and always will show the ugly side of a beautiful game.

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Vukovic strikes

Central Coast Mariners’ season crumbled in the decider of the 2007/08 season. Behind 1-0 against Newcastle Jets in the dying minutes, a blatant handball by Newcastle’s James Holland from a corner went unnoticed by referee Mark Shield.

Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic was given a red after striking Shield. The offence earned a 15-month ban with six of those suspended. Vukovic’s sentence was later downgraded to nine months with three suspended following two appeals.

The ban resulted in a $10,000 fine, meaning Vukovic missed the 2008 Olympics with the Olyroos side he captain during qualifying.

Nevertheless, Vukovic still lost his temper and the ‘high-five’ became the longest suspension in A-Leagues history.

But was the punishment too harsh?

Former Sydney FC player Tiago Calvano reinstated Vukovic’s incident by striking the referee via a ‘bad call’ in 2013. Calvano served an eight-game suspension.

With Vukovic absent from Olyroos duties, who knows how the Australians and Vukovic may have faired in the 2008 Olympics.

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VAR crashes Newcastle’s party

The VAR system continuously finds itself in hot water, none more so than in the 2017/18 ALM final. A fiery contest between Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory ignited more following a ninth-minute goal from Kosta Barbarouses.

Replays showed Victory defender Jamie Donachie and two others offside at the free-kick before he headed the ball across goal for Barbrouses. The goal stood as VAR crashed 30 seconds prior.

The contentious goal was the difference and needed head of the A-Leagues Greg O’ Rourke to speak out.

“We are extremely disappointed at this failure of the VAR technology,” he said.

“VAR was introduced here and in other parts of the world as a technology based solution to correct the human errors that inevitably are made from time to time when officials are making judgements in split seconds.”

“On this occasion the technology itself failed and the broadcast angles required were unavailable.”

If this incident never happened the result could have been different. Although Newcastle dominated nearly every statistic in the books playing catch-up is never easy.

Technology’s reliance in the A-Leagues is too strong for such to occur and is why VAR will always be a tabled discussion.

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Feature Image Credit: Brett Hemmings

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Mitchell Roese
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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