Australian football is in crisis: no point denying it

Australian football is running the risk of destroying itself once and for all if each member of its family fails to accept that we have a huge crisis on our hands and start a salvage operation to save what's left of our game.


Empty seats are a common sight in Brisbane Source: AAP

There are no two ways about it. Our game has become a basket case and we are doing bugger all to fix it.

And as the custodians of the sport Football Federation Australia must take most of the blame for the precarious state of our game that looked so promising four or five years ago.

If the game succumbs to the multiple fiascos that have distanced it from the people who matter most - the fans - there will be no one else to blame but FFA who have shown that they are incapable of running Australian sport's sleeping giant.

The football family at large has no confidence left in the game's governing body.

Too many non-football people are making decisions that show their lack of knowledge of and feeling for the game. Our game needs football plans and strategies not ones that are based exclusively on economics.

Sure, we have made progress in the last dozen years but things could have been so much better and smoother with greater common sense and lesser greed on the part of Whitlam Square and most A-League clubs who failed miserably to connect with their community.

It was looking so promising in 2015 when Australian football ruled Asia at national team and club level and crowds and viewers supported the A-League with a passion.

But then our innate ability to self-destruct came to the fore: we are world champions at this.

We should be talking about the inspiring football from Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory, the breath-taking goals we invariably see every weekend, the prospects of the Socceroos in their fourth straight World Cup or the emergence of the Matildas who are making people sit up and take notice due to the quality of their football.

Unfortunately our attention is forced to be cast elsewhere.

Constant squabbling between FFA and the clubs that forced the intervention of FIFA, expensive tickets and merchandise for national and club matches, the virtual disappearance of the fan experience that made the A-League such a unique competition in Australia, the VAR fiasco that was such a huge turn-off, poor scheduling that does not take into account the fans' needs, the boredom of too many repetitive fixtures in a 10-team league and the poor form of the current Socceroos have left their mark on the game.

There is no point apportioning blame for these negative factors that blight our game. We are all at fault for the current state of affairs.

Yet one thing is crystal clear and stands out like a beacon: the game is in big trouble and the livelihood of so many people involved in the football industry is beginning to look at risk.
Watching A-League games on television played in near-empty stadiums is not a pretty sight and it makes you wonder how long will Fox continue to fork out millions of dollars for the privilege of showing distinctly unappealing games even though the standard of play generally is not bad at all.

Fox cannot keep throwing money at a sport that does not rate. Personnel within the organisation must be worried ... and so they should be.

There are many talented people involved in the Australian game, from administrators, coaches, players, agents, groundsmen, volunteers and print and electronic media.

They too would be entitled to be nervous.

Unless we get our act together pretty quickly essentially by working alongside each other not against each other the game we all love will continue to deteriorate.

And if the worse comes to the worst we would have no game to argue about any more.

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4 min read
Published 30 December 2017 at 10:11am
By Philip Micallef