I know that Football Australia are probably keen to suggest that the A-League is going from strength to strength but is it? Yesterday the Brisbane Roar downed Perth glory 1-0 after a truly horrid moment of refereeing. It's the sort of thing which should go down in the legend and the annals of the game in this country, but who actually knew about it?
Not actually being on free-to-air television the final (as indeed the whole A-League) was only broadcast on Foxtel. I'm not a subscriber myself and so I was forced to listen to the match on ABC Grandstand Digital (thank you Aunty). For a casual fan, or perhaps someone who only has a passing interest in the game, they will have had zero access to it, unless they had Foxtel and been subscribed to a sports package.
Today's newspapers fared not much better. You'd think a national football final would be splashed all over the back pages of at least one newspaper but it wasn't. The Daily Telegraph had it buried six pages inwards and the Sydney Morning Herald had their coverage eight pages from the back. It's hardly the sort of thing to sell football as a brand or product now is it?
Clearly the way I've seen it, both Fairfax and News Ltd who control the print media have turned their backs on football. Sure they're perfectly happy to sing the praises of the national team when there's a World Cup on but during the regular season, they're more than happy to label the fans with everything they can possibly think of and even jeer when billionaires carry on like a pork chop. Unless Clive Palmer or Nathan Tinkler make noises, the print media almost virtually refused to acknowledge even the existence of football in Australia. Do they hate it for some reason?
The thing is that I can understand in an age where playing players, hiring grounds and organising air time is all big business but you'd think that for the final at least, someone could have brokered a deal to stick it on free-to-air telly?
It seems that Foxtel and indeed Football Australia itself are perfectly content to wring the necks of the existing fans base for cash in pursuit of maximising every dollar but to chase new fans is altogether too hard.
I look to the FA Cup Final in England coming up on the 5th of May. It has been moved from its traditional date of the third Saturday in May to allow for space for the European Championships in June. The FA Cup Final is proof that if you put something on telly, people will watch it. The Cup Final in England not only draws the casual fans in England but also around the world.
The last Saturday in September is the date for the Australian Rules Grand Final. Apart from the Bathurst 1000 it is the largest annual television audience and has been since 1961.
The point is that if the A-League Final had been out on telly, there would have been more interest in it and perhaps the sport. If Football Australia was actually serious about growing the pie, then they would have made arrangements with either the ABC or SBS to show it on telly.
The only conclusion I can draw is that Football Australia like the rest of the Australian media, hates football. It seems to me that the only way forward for the game is to just completely sell-out and look to people who don't have green passports to run the game. If the Central Coast Mariners and the Newcastle Jets are any indication, within five years people from Qatar or Bahrain will own the clubs anyway.