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A-League needs a spark

Jason Ganter - 28th October, 2015

Whilst the football itself continues to improve each season the impact the A-League makes in terms of crowd numbers and television viewers seems to have plateaued. There is no question that the A-League is here to stay but how does the league continue to add to the solid core of fans already engaged in our domestic competition?

No other game has the ability to create theatre like football, the existence of plots and sub plots that seem to engulf any given match - especially in the big leagues around the world. In the A-League, outside of the two derbies of Melbourne and Sydney where the fans arguably drive the intensity more so then the players themselves, there is very little in terms of spice to ignite a spark in the public to turn up or tune in.

Due to the struggle football in Australia has experienced for so long in getting a foothold in mainstream interest the game has lacked stability. Australian players who survived that era have more a mutual respect for each other to still be playing through that instability over any rivalry built up over the years.

Recently, the move of Besart Berisha from Brisbane Roar to Melbourne Victory before the start of the 2014/15 season promised to produce some fire. That, coupled with a number of other player and staff transfers between arguably the two most successful clubs in the league over the years - however that fire seemed to extinguish very quickly.

As the league gets older and new clubs are introduced and current ones are kept, these sub plots will start to appear over time as rivalries build. However, in the meantime the league needs a little help in fueling that spark. One way is to inject the league with a number of well known foreign talents. It was only a few seasons ago when the league was given a huge shot in the arm when Alesandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey signed for Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets respectively.

Football Federation Australia has perhaps recognized this more after relaxing the marquee restrictions on A-League clubs from one visa player marquee and one Australian marquee to opening the option that both marquee players can be visa players. Funding this foreign influx though is the issue.

This is where the FFA can make a significant change for the clubs and relax restrictions on sponsorships, as this has provided clubs with hurdles which at times they don't manage to clear.

In the early days of the league North Queensland Fury had an opportunity to partner with Fly Emirates however as QANTAS had an exclusive deal with the FFA they were unable to sign with the airline giants. Since then QANTAS has left Australian Football and the Fury have left the A-League - ironically their licence was stripped due to a shortfall in funding.

Looking at the most watched league in the world, the English Premier League, it enjoys the biggest combined shirt sponsorship in the world. The likes of Manchester United reportedly earn around $112 Million (AUD) per season with their partnership with AIA Group and Mansion Group the operator of mansion online casino in Australia who have partnered with both Crystal Palace and AFC Bournemouth for reportedly $10.5 Million (AUD) and $2.8 Million (AUD) respectively.

Now, understanding that the EPL is a world away from the A-League, it's popularity can be argued was built on foreign talent providing the diversity and romance that built it's connection with fans across the world. However the sponsors above have shown the diversity of where that income can be drawn from. Chevrolet the giant American car manufacterer, AIA and insurance group based in China but with a presence all over the world including Australia, and Mansion an online casino and poker machine gambling company.

By giving A-League clubs the opportunity to open their doors to less restrictive sponsorship options the FFA will then allow those same clubs to reach a lot more fans interested in seeing big name foreign players along side those previously undiscovered gems and our own Australian talents.

Posted by Jason Ganter on 28th October, 2015.
Follow Jason on Twitter (@Jargernaut)

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