I caught part of Offsiders on the weekend and they were talking about A-league and expansion as well as the results of the new competition for sports fans that is facing Soccer. Waleed Aly said "...you have a league that was built on the consolidation of communities so you wouldn't have a league that was just riven by old rivalries and just fell apart and was of no interest to anyone who didn't buy into those old frequently ethnic rivalries". He also spoke of the need to convert fans of fforeign leagues (euro-snobs) in Australia to A-League
I agree that A-League has to convert the Euro-snobs but A-league is a series of poor decisions and failures that it is too late to fix and that expansion wont help.
Recently the AFL introduced AFLW and this is now getting more eye-balls than A-League. The W-League final was completely ignored and was even shown on a 3 hour delay into Perth and when we talk about expanding the league you don't need more teams if your current teams are not getting eyeballs. If AFLW can get so many eye-balls why is A-League getting none?
The power of a competition comes down to eye-balls. You need spectators to get more sponsorship and gain new players. AFLW and Netball did this by giving the product away for free. AFLW is free entry into all games this season. Netball gave their broadcasting away for free until they built up such a huge following that they could sell it (to 9) . Even BBL and WBBL rights were sold off cheap when the product was first developed. They will not go so cheap in the next Broadcast rights agreement which is being negotiated... now.
A-league and W-league has been too concerned with how much they are getting for broadcasting, but not looking at getting eyeballs. Whereas AFLW, Netball, BBL and WBBL all ensured they had a big Free to air TV footprint, the FFA is happy to keep most of A-League and W-League on Foxtel, a service that has only 2.9million subscribers. This already hugely limits the amount of eyeballs they can get.
The FFA sold the rights to A-League and W-League for about $57million per year, though they hope to get more selling the 1 FTA game per week plus international rights should get another $20million. SBS will traditionally buy the one game a week but should they? maybe they should hold out for the NBL rights which will be coming up next year and try and get a whole competition cheap rather than just one low rating game.
The clubs want a greater slice of the TV rights money, but they also want to expand the league. This is not Mexican food, you cannot have both. If there are more clubs then clubs get less money. What does expanding the league achieve anyway other than more games for Foxtel to show earning them more money.
Yes, expanding into the right areas increases the cut-through of the competition and Western Sydney Wanderers showed that, but WSW also brought back the fanatical fans that the A-League alienated in its establishment (or the conversion from NSL). It brought back all the dings, spicks and diegos. The Wogs left NSL/A-league in droves when their teams were removed. Maybe that's why they want to expand with local clubs. Local clubs are often connected with ethnic communities and many the A-league has finally learned that they need multi-ethnic fans.
Not all the dings, spicks and diegos left A-league after the naughties change from NSL. Nick Tana was still connected to Glory despite lamenting for years that there is no money in soccer and that it costs money. He sold out as soon as he could but many other owners have complained similarly. Two Queensland teams (Fury and Gold Coast United) ended in bankruptcy and have since been replaced with Melbourne Heart (City) and WSW.
The appeal of expansion is Derbies. The WSW and Sydney FC derbies are very popular and the City/Victory derbies are equally so. The teams want more local teams to compete against so they can have more derbies, but NRL and AFL show that clashes between cross town rivals every week get a bit ho-hum. The current derbies are great because they are rare. There are not enough eyeballs across the country for more teams.
So AFLW and BBL are more recent injuries to A-League, but soccer in Australia has always had an identity problem. We don't identify with out clubs. On the evening news EPL is spoken about more than A-League. EPL is cannibalising from A-league the same way BBL has cannibalised the international summer of Cricket. The A-league could have changed that by giving a cheap deal to (particularly) 7 or 9. If they have broadcast rights hey would feel compelled to show more A-League on the evening news to cross-promote their product. This was a massive opportunity missed. They game could have grown in value so much that the next rights agreement would have made up for what they lost in this one. The A-league insists on shooting itself in the foot though and pursues the immediate money rather than the long term gain. The premium product that is the Soccerroos (and to a lesser extent the Matildas) have failed to grow the A-league, but the FFS continues to rely upon them while squeezing A-league club owners dry.
The Only advantage to expanding the league is to bring back ethnic rivalries from communities that don't automatically see EPL as the premium product of soccer. In Perth an extra team will bring back a few wogs, cannibalise the Glory fans and pick up the disenfranchised former glory fans still pissed about the salary cap breaches. This is one of the few advantages at this point in time. I don't think expansion would really be right though until a better broadcast agreement is set up and the A-league has won more eyeballs. Without the eyeballs there is not enough money in sponsorship, and the broadcast rights money will only go so far. An expended competition will only dig into the pool of money more possibly causing more bankruptcies and potentially disenfranchising more fans rather than winning them. There is more to lose from expansion than win. Rather than thinning their troops the A-League needs to fight the battles they have against AFLW, BBL and WBBL by consolidating. But when has soccer in Australia done anything right.
(Please note that I delliberately used the word "Soccer" through this piece beause I know it pisses off fans of that game that they call football... Soccer...)