The Australian football community is continuing to rage over the A-League’s decision to sell the grand final to Sydney for the next three years.
Just weeks after the Australian community united behind the Socceroos’ World Cup campaign, the consensus seems to be that the Australian Professional Leagues, who administer the A-League competitions, have “sold their soul” for a quick buck.
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Following the Socceroos’ World Cup campaign the football fans wanted the Aussie game to capitalise on the national team’s success.
Fans were quick to point to high registration costs as a way to make the game more accessible to the masses.
So when it was announced the A-League grand finals were set to be played in Sydney rather than be earned by the highest ranked grand finalist, it was hardly what the fans were looking for.
Straight away, the game had Socceroo and Adelaide United star Craig Goodwin distance himself despite being in the announcement video.
“I wanted to clear things up publicly. I may be in the video for the @aleaguemen choice to host Grand Finals in Sydney, but I do not support it. I am a player, but I am also a fan,” he tweeted.
“The fans are the most valuable thing in football and as we have seen from the support throughout the country for the Socceroos at the World Cup, they are the ones that create the atmosphere and culture, and what makes the game great.
“Like many fans around the country … I too am disappointed in this decision.”
Former SBS football host Lucy Zelic unloaded on the call on SEN, saying she didn’t see anything positive about the decision.
“They (the A-League) sold their soul,” Zelic said on The Run Home.
“There is nothing great about this decision.
“The A-Leagues can dress this pig up as much as they like and they can call this turd whatever they want, it’s still a turd.
“It’s disgusting, it’s despicable, it’s disgraceful and it’s a slap in the face to football fans who have genuinely stood by their teams in this competition for all these years.
“We (as a sporting code) have absolutely ridden these fans through the ringer.
“Let’s say for example that Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City are in the final; you are going to force fans to find accommodation and flights.
“Who’s going to fork out $800 to go up north and back with your family? The cost of living is through the roof.
“Do you think a bunch of Sydneysiders will watch two Melbourne teams duke it out? They aren’t going to give a crap.”
Zelic said she wanted the game’s bosses to be honest about why the decision was made.
“I’ve got nothing against Danny, he’s a great guy, but on this one I have to say it’s a disgrace,” Zelic continued.
“I would’ve much preferred if Danny came out and said that as a league economically, we continue to struggle.
“We are not getting the ratings we would’ve liked with our new broadcast partnership.
“Crowd attendance is also quite low.
“You can line up your pockets which definitely need to be filled but with how many fans you are going to piss off, you’re going to need that money.
“If you’re going to make the cash grab for the reported eight-figure sum, tell us.
“Say that you’ve done this in the short-term and had to do it for financial reasons.
“As a sport, we need to be better.”
The decision has been labelled “a debacle”, “a total disaster” and as having “immediately pissed off football fans all over the country”.
APL CEO Danny Townsend said the decision was not about the money, although CODE Sports reported the deal was “eight figures”.
He said it was more about establishing a tradition.
“[We are] not doing it purely out of commercial motivation,” he said.
“This is about giving football fans a reason to come together on a date they all know and celebrate the game. We’ve seen all around the country with the World Cup how football fans love being in live event mode.
“Having them pegged to a city like Sydney that loves sport is something we think is the right thing.”
But while the NRL traditionally plays its grand final in Sydney and the AFL in Melbourne, it’s played at those locations due to the overwhelming number of teams in those cities.
In the NRL nine of the 17 clubs are Sydney-based (10 if you extend to NSW-based clubs), while 10 of the 18 club in the AFL play out of Victoria.
In the A-League, there are three clubs — Macarthur FC, Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers — based in Sydney and another two — Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets — based in NSW in the 12-team competition.
Last season, no NSW teams made the finals and it was an all Melbourne grand final as Western United defeated Melbourne City.
Townsend also said he expected a harsh initial backlash after consulting with fans and stakeholders before the decision was made.
But in a sign the A-League isn’t going to bandwagon off the back of the Socceroos success, AAP’s George Clarke pointed out that the average crowds were only 5,998 in the first round after the World Cup break.
While he admits there were some failings including no game in Melbourne and Wellington Vs Western Sydney in Wollongong, as well the late World Cup in Qatar meaning it’s round seven rather than round one, it’s telling when attendances the first round after the 2010 (10,809), 2014 (18003) and 2018 (16,952) World Cups were substantially higher.
Story Credit: news.com.au