Midweek games aren’t the solution for A-League Men’s backlog

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You would have been forgiven for not realising that there were three midweek A-League Men games on last Wednesday night.

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For even the most diehard fan of the ALM, the constant chopping and changing of the fixtures is becoming tiresome.

The impact of coronavirus on playing squads and most recently the flooding in Queensland and New South Wales has seen a multitude of games postponed this season.

To be exact, that number currently stands at 17, not including the radical swapping of teams such as the Melbourne derby fiasco this week.

Because of travel and Covid requirements in Japan, the match was postponed a week. Melbourne City’s game against Western United was brought forward a week, whilst Victory’s game away at Sydney FC next weekend was also postponed.

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For Victory fans who had already bought flights, accommodation and tickets to the match, it was just another slap in the face.

It has become increasingly evident that the sole focus is fitting all games into a tight schedule, with special fixtures (i.e. derbies) taking weekend precedence over ordinary match-ups.

As the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) are stringent on not carrying out the season past the scheduled grand final date of May 28, games are being hastily moved into midweek time slots.

Not only is this reducing the quality on offer, but already low attendance figures have plummeted even further.

The teams and players are not to blame for the poor performances. It is becoming a regular occurrence for teams to have three games in seven days.

More importantly, however, the average crowd figures have once again dropped as a result of the midweek fixtures.

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Over the past two-and-a-half weeks, there have been nine midweek games.

In total, they have attracted just 20,848 fans.

When you break this down even further, this shows an average of 2,316 fans per match.

Regardless of the ongoing circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, these are worrying numbers for fans, clubs and all involved with the A-Leagues.

That figure also includes home matches for both Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers.

For a league that is still trying to claim its footing in the Australian sporting market, refusing to extend the ALM season and pushing for midweek games is not the answer.

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Especially not when some of those games have kick-off times of 5.05pm or 5.25pm.

The average worker doesn’t finish until 5pm, meaning that they have exactly five minutes to get from work to the game. This doesn’t account for those who take their kids or work a fair distance away from the stadium.

We saw an example of this when Western United hosted Sydney FC on February 23, which was a Wednesday. The 5.25pm kick off saw only 1,850 fans attend the game, providing for a relatively dull atmosphere.

This isn’t what is going to make football fans fall in love with the game again.

It is a bad look for the league, and one that presents an easy solution.

Patience.

Keeping games on weekends with occasional midweek games thrown in is a much better solution that having multiple midweek fixtures every Wednesday or Thursday.

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Sure, the AFL and NRL will impact ratings and attendances towards the end of the season, but none more so than it will in two weeks when both seasons begin.

Keeping the games on their original scheduled date makes it easier for fans to commit to attending. The continual change in dates and times does nothing except add barriers to larger attendances.

The message is simple. This needs to stop.

Keep games on the weekend – where they should be – and extend the season a few weeks if that is required.

Fans are the game’s biggest stakeholder, their convenience should be the priority.

Feature image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Dillon Izon
Dillon Izon
Marketing graduate at Monash University. Sports addicted, fan of Manchester United and Melbourne City. My gran “knows” Gareth Bale.

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