#ALeague season 2017-18. The view from a salad sandwich brigade member.

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Yes, I was happy that my team won the A League Championship.

But somehow I don’t get that sense of elation that I can hear or read with other fans. Perhaps it is because at the end, I am more a fan of football being successful as a whole in Australia than any particular team.  I have to confess that I got as much pleasure as seeing a city like Newcastle embracing the game as it did than my team winning the title.

For me following Melbourne Victory since it started was more of a statement in supporting a team that represented football in my city than supporting a team in itself.  And this was the same motivation when I was following Carlton SC in the NSL days.

This A-league season was exhuasting

That is why I feel quite exhausted, considering that overall this A-League season was not exactly the roaring success that those that want the code to succeed would have liked.  On twitter every low rating tweet from ‘Media Week’ was commented from a wide variety of people who are anti A League for a variety of reasons. From just plainly good ol’ soccerphobes that for some reason feel that the presence of a national football competition is somehow an affront to the national culture, to the eurosnobs that greeted each low rating as a confirmation of their superiority, sophistication and intelligence in not following such an inferior competition.  Then to those that field aggrieved that their team is not in the A-League and believe that the competition is racist and xenophobic and following it is like following a sporting version of the Hitler youth and should be destroyed.

Finally those who gloated at the low ratings were the promotion/relegation advocates.  To this last group I have to say they have some reason to believe that a promotion/relegation system may get more interest as the bottom teams would not ‘kill time’ until the end of the season but would be engaged in relegation battles.  And I can also see that having new team promoted refreshes the competition and fans would have the opportunity to see new teams in the top competition every year. Whether this would translate into higher ratings remains to be seen.  While certainly there are plenty of good reasons why promotion relegation should be at least tried, I don’t think substantial higher ratings would be one of the outcomes.

All I want to to sit and watch some football

Believe or not going to AAMI Park or Etihad and watch football is a serene experience.  I have a reserved ticket and people that I know follow Melbourne Victory like to sit/stand somewhere else (mainly either in the north or south ends) so I am quietly there on my own and I cheer when we score.

And this year I got some small notoriety of sorts when during a match in late December I took a fuzzy picture of some English cricket fans that were here for the cricket and were told to take their banner down.

This was picked up by some media twitterati.  I was quite chuffed but really later I realised they had to take the banner down because they were obstructing a publicity sign.

I enjoyed the matches.  I enjoy going to see a sport that is part of my family and part of my family for generations it makes me feel connected. I enjoy sitting with people that  also believe in the sport and in some way the fact that it is Melbourne Victory is not the main thing.

Many good articles have been written about what’s happening to football in the future.  I have been critical of Simon Hill for his disparaging of other football codes, but he wrote a great article that really sums up what many football supporters are feeling and thinking. 

The main focus of Hill’s argument, and where I agree wholeheartedly is this:

In my opinion, we have spent too long trying to pander to the demographic which has little interest in our game — by doing so, we have watered down our core product; the very things that make football special, and made millions of us fall in love with it…..

Football fans just want a competition they can engage with, on terms they are familiar with, with clubs and players they can identify with. We should never be embarrassed by our points of difference — we should celebrate, and promote them.

To make a great example of the “he demographic which has little interest in our game” watch this clip from ‘Sport Sunday’ where a Rugby Union, Rugby League, Swimming, and AFL people discuss the A-League. You can see that they have little knowledge and interest in it, and some of their suggestions are impracticable or just can’t happen. These are ex-players or sportspeople, but I think they do reflect the opinion of those not interested in football at large. They are not the cohort we should be following.

Another great article was from Micheal Lynch.

It is a measure of the underlying strength and support for the game that despite all the problems it has faced this year there are anything between eight and a dozen or more consortia interested in bankrolling a new club.
When you consider the kicking soccer has got – mainly from its own followers – over the stagnation of the A-League, the boring nature of a 10-team competition lacking promotion and relegation and the rollercoaster ride the Socceroos had in getting to the World Cup, that’s not a bad achievement….

Soccer in Australia has often been referred to as the sleeping giant.
Given the last year the game has had – rescued only by a stunning finals series, perhaps the best ever – perhaps it should be thought more of as a super bug or a cockroach: the game that its opponents and enemies simply cannot kill.

Lynch advocates that the number of bids should allow for a second division and a system of promotion and relegation.  This is an idea that initially I was against but now I support.  I won’t go into the benefits or not of promotion and relegation in Australia, as others have done this much more extensively than me already. 

So what next.  We have a world cup (which I hope we do well, but I anticipate there will be more gnashing of teeth) and I think the Matildas are not going to be playing a major tournament until the World Cup next year.  There are NPL matches as well, although I haven’t been able to settle on a team to follow as yet.  A friend of mine invites me to join him at South Melbourne matches at Lakeside Stadium once in a while and I do enjoy that.

And I will be waiting for Melbourne Victory to send me a membership form in the next few months.  And then will be on again.

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