The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) and the A-League clubs themselves
have been so intent on talking up the exciting new era in domestic soccer, that it’s only
now that some serious flaws in their game plan are starting to become
public.

With eight teams and a deliberate scorched earth policy to finally
rid the domestic game of ethnic allegiances, it was always going to be
a massive task to attract decent-sized crowds. So far, pre-season
crowds have been disappointing to the point of real concern.

Worse is the
knowledge that Melbourne Victory is struggling to find the $5 million basic investment required to underpin
its licence as required by FFA regulations. But it’s not alone, with
the Central Coast Mariners also still holding out the begging bowl for
finance.

But added to
that is the news revealed by The Daily Telegraph’sDavid Lewis yesterday, that not only are the clubs getting very nervous about a whole
range of major issues, but only three of the clubs have paid the second $500,000 instalment of a $1 million participation
levy. The range and complexity of
these issues is massively troubling just weeks away from the season launch.

Clubs are also waking up to the grim reality that their ticket
pricing mechanisms could spell box office disaster and
Melbourne Victory boss Geoff Lord is lamenting the turn out for his team’s 1-0 win against Perth
Glory at the weekend. He observed the crowd was “largely an Anglo-Saxon mix. There were no Greeks, no Italians.”

Admitting their absence was
terrible. Lord is clearly a worried man who must be wondering how you talk up a
club’s investment potential when many of its most likely customers were
alienated by the way in which their own NSL teams were treated in the transition
from the old competition to the new A-League.

It’s not that the Federation
was wrong to embark on a form of ethnic cleansing, but the ham-fisted way it
went about it showed a careless arrogance. For
the sake of the local game everyone needs to come up with some answers as to how to make the A-League viable.

Peter Fray

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