Football in Australia returned for the 17th season back in November of 2021. After 11 matches, Western United is on the top of the table followed by Melbourne city.
The season is in its full flow, but before the start of the season, a new television deal was done by the A-League.
a five-year agreement with commercial channel Network Ten that takes it within the umbrella of the ViacomCBS media group and has the ability to reach more viewers with better coverage than ever before.
From a branding standpoint, the league will now be called the A-League Men, marking the first time that a nation has granted the top male and female sports parity.
There’s a new logo and an app that aims to centralize all digital football information for fans to access.
With the last two seasons suffering due to the pandemic situation, this new deal could rekindle the hope in Australian football.
However, there are underlying issues that must be addressed, before Australia can take its soccer to the next level.
Competition from other sports
Soccer is not even close to being the most popular sport in Australia. It is highly overshadowed by the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL).
Then there is cricket of course.
Now the problem is, all these sports have existed for a much longer time than soccer has. The A-League came into existence only 17 years ago, so it is still amateur and has a long way to go, before competing with the giants like AFL or NRL.
Better alternatives in Europe
The threat from Europe is the key issue for the A-League and many other small-scale football leagues looking to expand their footprint.
The finest football is unquestionably played in Europe’s top five leagues. The best teams, the best players, and the football is sumptuous in that part of the world.
Now, even an average football fan from Australia won’t deny the fact that football in Europe is much better. This exact sentiment drives Australian fans to invest their time in the Premier League or La Liga rather than the A-league.
90 thousand Melburnians can sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ when Liverpool are in town, but will not replicate the same in terms of numbers and atmosphere when the local team is playing.
The competition from Europe hinders the growth of the A-League.
Lack of football culture
Football in Europe has been going on since the late 19th century. It has had enough time for generations and generations of fans to witness it. Which has created a strong culture of football within society. Something that gets passed down from ancestors.
In Australia, there is no such thing as a football culture. With the A-League being only 17 years old, there is a need to increase football enthusiasm.
Without a strong football culture based on going to a stadium, you’re competing with the other more established football codes, plus cricket, plus the beach and the cinema and everything else.
On the positive side, many fans enjoy playing football and don’t mind watching PSG play Real Madrid but will not watch Melbourne play Sydney on a Saturday.
It is the task of the A-League to convert these fans into A-League fans.
The A-League needs to identify its target audience and provide them with all the elements they need to lure them into watching the games.
Once they find their USP and get the audiences hooked in, there can be no bigger asset than that. Vibrant fan culture is also its own advertisement for the league in so many ways.
The new TV contract, with stronger and more widespread coverage, and the new app, with much greater direct marketing possibilities through data collecting and retention, could now be the catalyst that propels the A-League to success. All that remains is for it to pick what it will sell and to whom it will sell it.