Timing is key to the success of A-League Men’s All-Stars return

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After eight years it appears that the A-League Men All-Stars are back, and as long as their reported clash against Barcelona is held after the grand final, it will be greatly beneficial for the league.

It was 2014 when we last saw the All-Stars, as they came up against Juventus in front of over 50,000 people.

Just 12 months prior to that, Manchester United took on the side, selling out Stadium Australia as the away team convincingly won 5-1.

Despite the massive crowds, the format would not be used again with travelling sides instead playing against A-League clubs during the pre-season.

If reports are to be believed this will soon change, with the game supposedly to be played in the lead-up to or just after the A-League Men’s grand final.

This news has received mixed reactions from the footballing community, with some arguing that it would take away from the spectacle of grand final weekend, whilst others are eager to watch their favourite ALM players come up against the likes of Frankie De Jong, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Memphis Depay.

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The return of the All-Stars will be a booming success; as long as the game isn’t played before the grand final.

Put simply, the ALM All-Stars has to include the very best and most notable players from its own competition.

This means the likes of Jamie Maclaren, Florin Berenguer, Alessandro Diamanti and even Daniel Sturridge need to be in the team.

By having these players participate, it will give both current and potential fans a chance to actually see what the league has to offer, and the quality that it truly has.

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For many reasons, too many to name, the A-Leagues has had a fall in viewership over the last few years.

Those who aren’t diehard fans may not know the talent that is entrenched in the league. If they are able to see the talent on display, this is a good opportunity to make them want to continue on and watch next season.

Call it a type of preview for the league.

Rumours have, however, been swirling that the match may be played in the build up to the grand final, with players whose teams are still in contention for the title likely to not be available for selection.

If the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) want to be able to get local fans to truly buy into the contest and concept, you can’t have players missing.

Imagine if Melbourne City make yet another grand final. No Maclaren, no Berenguer, no Mathew Leckie and no Marco Tilio. Some of the best and brightest players in our league would not even be able to play in the fixture.

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This could be solved by simply organising for the game to be played the week after the grand final.

If it is played in the week before, it will ultimately do more harm than good.

Not only will some of the best players in the league not be able to play, but it will overshadow the centrepiece of Australian men’s football, the grand final.

Whilst ideally the match should be played at a time not so close to the conclusion of the season, the reality is that it is Barcelona and their board who will make the decision of when they want to come Down Under and play in the match.

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If played after the grand final the event could conclude a week that showcases the very best that Australian football has to offer.

If it is played the week before, the grand final will become an afterthought to some, the last thing that should be happening.

The game should be a part of the promotion of the league, not overshadowing it.

There cannot ever be a situation where the week leading up to a grand final features a match that is more anticipated, and unfortunately if the All-Star game were to be held before the fixture that would be the case.

Mainstream media attention that could be used to promote the final will instead be used to discuss Barcelona, something that would ultimately be extremely disappointing for the league’s diehard supporters.

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If instead this match is done after the grand final, not only would the best A-League Men’s  talent play in the fixture, but it would also mean that it could be a week celebrating the competition instead of detracting from it.

Ultimately, if it is done in the correct way, the match between the A-League Men All-Stars and Barcelona will only be a good thing for the league.

New and current fans can enjoy a night watching one of the best teams in the world come up against the very best the league has to offer.

However, if it is played before the grand final, it has the opportunity to alienate long-term fans and not encourage potential newcomers to watch more Australian football.

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William Makepeace
William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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