A-League Men fixture chaos continues following APL’s bold move

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As COVID wreaked havoc over the A-Leagues and its fixtures this season, it was the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) who ultimately made the call on rescheduling decisions or in this case creating a pile of fixture clusters.

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The consequences of postponements perhaps would not have been given a second thought during the moment, but many sides have now been faced with the challenging reality of a regular two-fixture week.

With the increase in fixture turnarounds, comes the increase in player demands and of course, an increase of injuries. A case in point for this exact situation at the moment is Perth Glory, with half of their original squad wiped out to injury due to their turnarounds between games.

While on the other side of the ditch, Wellington fans have been neglected of home games along with the pains of time difference; an example is during the eastern states hub era, Perth played an earlier game only for Wellington to follow with a later kick off – at the same stadium. If the two had been switched around, it would have accommodated both time zones to benefit fans and engagement on both parts.

It has been topic of issue to fans with outrage only increasing as the season continues.

Many of the catch-up fixtures have been played midweek and fans have not taken well to it – particularly membership holders. Unable to make their way to a home ground on Tuesday or Wednesday night as the plastic card of commitment stand by to collect dust.

Clubs have had to issue statements to urge fans to continue showing support despite the ongoing setbacks, as the fixture reschedule is a matter beyond their control.

But if majority of teams are undergoing the same circumstances, there are only so many hours in a day, how does everyone get adequate exposure of games? They do not.

The lack of coverage throughout Australian media is a separate issue entirely, but the APL have had a reoccurring theme of scheduling games during the same times on the same day. An audience who may usually divide their time to engage in back-to-back fixtures are now having to pick between one or the other. The APL has, by this theory, slashed its viewership in half.

The resolution to these issues would have been to extend the season, or not play the rescheduled fixtures. The APL saw fit that they did neither; play as many games possible in the shortest possible timeframe.

That rush to finalise the season has been felt among fans. If an extension to the season was not viable, the least the APL could have done was to create a structure seeing games played on the same day do not kick-off at the same time.

But the APL continue to do itself no favours within the A-Leagues community, announcing Spanish giants Barcelona will play the A-League Men All Stars in Sydney, during the week of the ALM grand final.

The coordination of this game essentially summarises the fixture scheduling in a nutshell.

The announcement of the international clash may have been intended to entice a wider viewership to watch and or attend the grand final, howeve,  fans online are predicting it will do the opposite.

One area of concern is the line-up of the All Stars are unlikely to include top talent from the two best teams this season.

Technically, it is not all the stars – merely an inclusion of players outside of the best performing teams. While those good enough to be considered stars will have focus elsewhere; on the championship.

Whatever small amount of hype and exposure remained around the grand final will be overlooked even further. Considering it’s the biggest game of the ALM season, it is beyond a rookie mistake to place a game which will attract enough attention as is, just days before the big dance.

For a season which has required fans to embrace fixture changes, games behind closed doors, lack of or no home games, to name a few, it is rather odd that the head of Australia’s game would call on a wider scale fanbase to gauge some interest in A-League Men players but not the game itself.

Feature Image credit: APL Homepage

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Ash Ramos
Ash Ramos
Journalism student at Curtin University covering Perth Glory for the 2021/22 A-leagues season. Siuuu

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