Put on your safety suits and head to the bomb shelter folks because it’s the end of the world as we know it.
The A-League is apparently in an uncontrollable spiral of destruction which will have cataclysmic results for the Australian footballing universe. Abandon all hope. But is it really that bad? Not from the observatory I sit in.
There’s been plenty of grandstanding by former officials and media pundits over the past few weeks as to the dire state of our national league.
Most of it, but not all, came after Newcastle Jets’ admission that they hadn’t paid their players in a month.
What is essentially one club’s money trouble has turned into a public stoning of the FFA administration for their management incompetence.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are problems with the A-League. After attending some recent games I might need an increase in my credit limit to attend another one.
However, while the A-League has its issues and the FFA could do with a kick in the backside every now and then, rest assured we are not, as some suggest, repeating history. The FFA is not Soccer Australia and the A-League is not the NSL.
The state of the game in this country is at its highest ever point. The mere fact that the A-League and the FFA have copped such a barrage of press over its flaws highlights the current interest in the game. There are more people interested in football and more importantly, football succeeding, than ever before.
While you may say the crowds are no better than the NSL (and this is to a large extent is true) and the standard of the football is the same or worse, the fact is the A-League generates a genuine footballing product that can be watched by the masses.
We have national TV exposure for all games (yes its pay TV but if you want to watch any football in this country you need pay TV) and teams from regions previously untouched by the old regime – Gold Coast, Central Coast, North Queensland. That can only be good for the game and increasing the number of people playing and talking about it.
We have games played on top-class pitches (Etihad excluded) at major stadiums.
We have an abundance of foreign imports (some good, most overrated) in the league and a truly national youth league to develop young players (yes I know there used to be one, but it was hardly a national league. All we did was play South Melbourne, Carlton and Melbourne Knights).
The old regime did not provide any of this.
Further, the A-League is a professional league where clubs are accountable to an independent body for budgets and revenue streams. The fact the Newcastle Jets have been publicly shamed for not paying their players is a great sign for the game.
Ask anyone who played in the old NSL and they will tell you that match payments were far from guaranteed, particularly for those squad/fringe players who were not darlings of the fans or the president.
All of these benefits of the A-League did not exist 7 years ago. So let’s take a moment to remember how far we’ve come before we decide that its only a short fall back to oblivion.