There has been plenty of gnashing of teeth regarding the A-League attendances this year. Many anti-football people are already sharpening their knifes and mentioning the word ‘basketball’ while football fans are worried whether we are falling back to the insignificance of the old NSL.
I must admit that I don’t like these type of articles because they can give some credit to the argument from the Rebecca Wilsons of this world that the A-League is like basketball and inevitably it will fail and become an NSL v.2.
They also give fuel to the annoying ‘old soccer’ rump that was mightily pissed off that their NSL teams were not included in the A-League and greet any poor attendance with schadenfreude. Not to mention the ‘euro-snobs’ that state that this is proof that the A-League is rubbish, no one should watch it and should concentrate on the EPL and Champions League on Foxtel instead.
However if attendances fall we have to face reality. So I went and did a bit of number crunching.
This is a graph of how attendances have gone this year so far.
It is true that the numbers haven’t been as big as previous years. But this has to been seen in context of a number of factors. The A-League has started in August when the more popular codes of Australian Football and Rugby League were in full swing. The Global Financial Crisis may have made some people wary about committing to something that can be seen as a ‘luxury’ (and in some cases, notably Brisbane the tickets are way too expensive). And of course the fact is that some may have been attracted by the ‘new thing’ and now are getting their thrills somewhere else. But also for some reason the FFA has decided not to publicise the competition in a big way as it has done in previous seasons.
But statistics don’t tell the whole story. Let’s look at the following graph.
Melbourne again is the leader of the pack with the highest most consistant support. Just to give an idea of how well they are supported the average attendance so far in the midst of the later stages of the AFL and finals is 17,575. While for Melbourne Storm, which belongs to a very well publicised Murdoch backed competition for this season has been 11,764.
Adelaide and Sydney are not doing too badly either. And Wellington is a surprise considering they have been the least successful team in the A-League so far and perhaps New Zealand hasn’t had the benefit of a large post-war football loving European immigration.
But there are teams which have been consistently below expectation. One is new team Gold Coast, that being new on the scene, with regular Socceroo Culina and having done well at the start of the season you would expect could have done better. Maybe the Gold Coast is mainly inhabited by Rugby League fans and expatriate Victorians that love Aussie Rules after all. Brisbane has also been a bit of a disappointment. There are a number of reasons for this that have been well outlined by Fiona Crawford in her blog (but the very expensive tickets are a major issue).
Newcastle is also a worry, considering it is traditionally a football region and have won the A-League just a couple of years ago. Speculation is that the way the team has been controlled by Con Constantine could be a factor.
Having said that we also have to consider that having 13,000 average is great. The smaller clubs are always going to fluxuate from mid teens when successful to 5-6000 when doing terrible.
So now we will see what happens now that the AFL season is over and the NRL finishes next week. I would hope that the FFA would crank up the publicity machine and say to people that there are matches to be seen.
No need to panic, as yet.