Sports fans will recall that despite being a massive soccer football fan for the last fifteen years, and having been sledged as a “wog” more than once for it, I’ve got no love for the new Australian national competition. For the last year we’ve had the same debate again and again - why South Melbourne should have been in it, why they shouldn’t have been etc.. Now on the verge of the new Victorian Premier League season, and our attractive clashes against world class sides like Richmond and Sunshine George Cross, the arguments have come up again. I’d like to say I’m over it, but sadly that would be a complete lie.
I think we’d be slightly less paranoid about it if the New Zealand and Central Coast teams weren’t in it. Everyone knows the NSL was a farce, and even if we don’t say it openly most of us will admit that the major markets needed a “broadbased” team to get people interested. The problem is that there’s only five major markets in Australia - and you can’t have a competition that’s just Melbourne vs Sydney vs Perth vs Adelaide vs Brisbane every week. So they forced a few experimental sides in there and are being rewarded with pathetic crowds for those teams. Relatively speaking the “big five” are doing well in crowd numbers (despite drops in Adelaide and Perth they’re still thrashing most of the NSL averages) but what are they going to do for the other three? Hang in and hope that some miracle is going to occur and suddenly all of New Zealand are going to start following their team? Their last gate was 1500. And what else can you do in a city like Newcastle? Either these people are going to go for it or they’re not. And at the moment they’re seriously lukewarm about the process. They pulled off 10k for a top of the table clash last night, but their crowd has been hovering around 5k all season.
The Brisbane Strikers of the NSL weren’t even close to an ‘ethnic’ team, and by the last days of the competition they found themselves with a thousand fans and rapidly losing money. All that says to me is that there was nothing you could do for the game in this country without decent coverage and media attention. Replace the Strikers with “Queensland Roar” this year and suddenly they’ve got 15000 fans from nowhere. Maybe South/Knights/Sydney Olympic/Marconi etc.. wouldn’t have grown to be the huge powerhouse clubs of a properly marketed and run competition but we sure as fuck would have contributed to it’s overall strength.
Personally I think that by pissing off Parramatta, Northern Spirit, Auckland, Brisbane, Wollongong and one of Marconi/Olympic/Syd U and introducing Victory, Sydney FC and Qld Roar it would have created a perfect balance. 3 teams in Sydney, 3 in Melbourne, one in the next three biggest markets and a relatively well established country side for a ten team competition. The people with a hard-on for “mainstream” teams get their wish, and the established “ethnic” clubs survive to play in a league where there’s no danger of any of the violence that everyone is so scared of.
But instead we get to watch a team from Gosford (current population, lest we forget, of 154,654) run around a stadium owned by a board member of the FFA in front of a couple of thousand people and are somehow expected to stand up and applaud this new leap forward? Fuck that for a joke. It’s painful to see it. To paraphrase the Timmy O’Toole charity song from the Simpsons
Well there’s a hole in my heart
As deep as a well
For another summer with no NSL
We can’t get in the A-League
So we’ll do the next best thing
Go on the net and WHINGE! WHINGE! WHINGE!
Still.. I’d rather stand with 750 people watching a club that I love than 10000 in front of a heartless corporate machine chanting “[team name] CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!” for 90 minutes.