Australian Professional Leagues - They can't be worse than the FFA... can they?

They’ve promised so much and delivered… nothing good… yet.

Obviously, football is a sport that has a long and storied history of not being able to get its shit together, but I think we may be at just about the lowest ebb since the early 2000’s. I’d like to think that this is the floor, but we’ve seen the death of a national league before…

To be honest, I think the APL have done a pretty shit job, so far. I get that there are some mitigating factors (being football is the biggest one). But I’ve seen little to persuade me that they have a plan to get the game even on a path to where we want it to be. Their list of achievements includes:

  • Rebranding the leagues, for what reason I’m still not sure;
  • Giving the telecast rights to someone who doesn’t know football, doesn’t seem interested in putting in the work to grow its exposure or even really provide a quality product;
  • They have, I think pretty unarguably, fucked the draw;
  • They’ve developed an utterly useless online news platform, in KeepUp (it really can’t);
  • Rerolled the salary cap to pave the way for possibly the most inequitable competition yet.

But tbh, I think the thing that puts me off about them the most, is their previous rhetoric of being fan-centric seems to have vanished, the minute they took the reigns. They’re more than happy to try little things like enforced ad breaks - just to see what they can get away with…

So, I thought I’d put together a wish-list, with varying degrees of realism, of things that could be done to try and turn this thing around. I’d love to hear if others had their own wishes.

Get the teams playing in their home grounds again - Sydney FC and Brisbane need to be back in proper stadia. Wellington needs to be back in their own friggin country, Western need to actually FIND a home. At least Perth can play at home now.

Get the footy on the telly - Streaming services aint it. Its niche. I know the one we have is shithouse and there are better examples. You can have a streaming platform as an alternative for penny pinchers and weirdos, sure. But this thing wont break into the mainstream until you can turn on the TV, flick to the channel and the game is on. Even Foxtel is more accessible than this, let alone the quality.

Stop cannibalising your own viewership - There are precious few people who want to watch this league, as it it, and precious little football to watch, so don’t put games on at the same time. Let us watch all the games. We’re the only ones who are going to - at least for now.

Fuck off the VAR - This just seems like such a no brain-er, to me. No one wants it. Get rid of it and the football people will love you for it. You get the short term popularity boost, by making a proactive change and you get a better, more enjoyable games in perpetuity. Fuck it off.

Find an owner for the Jets - tough one. We’ve had some doozies in this league, I get it. And who in their right mind would give money to these blokes, at this point? But there’s got to be football in the Hunter. And we can’t take ourselves seriously as a competition when one of the clubs is owned by the others.

Promotion and relegation - Give the games some stakes, broaden the base of appeal and give people more of a reason to watch the lower leagues. I know we run risk of every team being from Sydney and Melbourne within a few years, but hey… it works for the other sports. I’m pretty much at the point where i feel, it can’t really be worse than this. Start it small. Have a promotion/relegation series, like in Japan. They’ve already figured it out. Just copy them!

What else? There’s got to be more fix up around this shit shack?

Or can anyone talk me out of developing a strong opinion about the APL?


PS I am aware I’ve gone full navel-gazing-Australian football fan here, but sometimes you’ve just got to get it out.


I think the biggest one is to actually get the same amount of funding out of the government that NRL and AFL seem to get, on top of the government support etc. I’m not sure as to why there hasn’t been a shitload more lobbying into Parliament for grants.

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Perhaps some kind of federally funded “institute” where we could develop elite players and coaches from around the country?

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Agree with most of what you’ve said.

The points that stand out to me are firstly getting rid of VAR. Towards the end of the season or in the off-season they MUST do a member wide poll about people’s thoughts about VAR and one option must be a ‘get rid of it’ option. The general sentiment seems to be that everyone is sick of it, maybe it’s time to get ahead of the curve by backtracking and removing it?

Also the home grounds thing is a good point but somewhat out of APL control. I agree Brisbane at Redcliffe seems bad. No atmosphere, no roof, and apparently 1 hour outside of the CBD. Similar to Kogarah the consensus from Brisbane fans seems to be that it was fun at first now most dislike it. That said their crowds are not bad there, they have seemed to average 5-7k.

Coopers stadium will have a roof over the other stand soon, WU stadium training facility has finally been approved, and we will be back at Moore Park next season. And hopefully Wellington and Perth will be back at home for good next season too, so things are looking up here.

Promotion and relegation - I think this is too early, and in fact I think it may never work in a big country like Australia. It’s too costly and risky to implement. It’s something to implement if/when A-League games are selling out stadiums.


Football, or at least the A-League has no identity in Australia… that is the biggest problem. Nothing will fix this anytime soon.

Around the world, in the vast, vast majority of countries where football is the number one sport, it is played by and supported by the working/under classes. I once read that 80%+ of English professional footballers in the EPL are from working class backgrounds… the support base probably reflects a similar %, at a guess.

Here in Australia, we have Rugby League and AFL who play to that demographic, and that is even if Australia has many people left who would even consider themselves in that demographic. The real problem is not really in the governance of the sport, more that we have feed ourselves this mythology that football is a ‘sleeping giant’ when in fact, it is a scattered, dysfunctional group of people who all have different motivations and interests – it is no sleeping giant but rather a comatose Frankenstein’s monster who nobody actually understands and has been basically abandoned by most that proclaim they love it.

The Australian sporting public, by and large, won’t support something that they consider ‘not the best’ in the world. AFL and NRL have this, people believe they are the best in the world at what they do… You can see how interest in teams like the Wallabies, or sports like tennis get these huge surges in coverage and support when (Australians are) doing well – but are abandoned pretty quickly when nobody is feeding this narrative that we are some sort of global sporting super power. Australians competitions that are proper global sports, like the A-League and NBL are doomed to be sidelined as not good enough by a sporting public who doesn’t like backing ‘losers’… heck, we can even see this in play with the way WSW crowds have gone after an initial burst of enthusiasm based on people thinking they had a ‘real football club’

Of course, getting the governance of football up to scratch is an important thing to do … and maybe I have just had a slightly off topic rant – but the real question for the APL and A-League is much more basic…… does anyone actually care about domestic football enough for it to ever be more popular than it currently is… and stop relying on this idea that because it is the global game, that all these ‘fans’ are going to magically appear and want anything – regardless of the stadiums or VAR and especially this unicorn of promotion and relegation that people talk about… that is the biggest lie we tell ourselves, that P&R is going to make any difference.


I know it’s stating the obvious, but we need more people attending games.

Every sport has a core set of fans that follow the sport closely, attend games, read forums etc.; and then another set of potential casual viewers.

It’s cliche, but:

  • People who don’t normally follow motorsport will watch it because they secretly want to see a crash…
  • People who don’t normally follow rugby league will watch it because they like to see big blokes smashing the shit out of each other…

I would suggest that similarly there is a cohort of people who don’t normally follow EPL, but might enjoy the occasional broadcast game simply because of the atmosphere that bleeds through on the TV.

I’m no eurosnob, but pandemic notwithstanding, stadiums for top-flight leagues in Europe are mostly full and loud. Years before I started following football myself, I recall seeing that and thinking “that must be amazing to experience in person”. We need that here.

You, I, and everyone else on this forum might get a tingle in our collective pants when Ninko turns and glides past a defender; but the casual viewer probably won’t even realise that something special just happened, except for the fact that crowd noise rises and commentators start losing their shit.

But when there’s only 1500 people actually at the game, there’s just not enough of a 'spectacle atmosphere` for the casual viewer that flicks on a game to remain interested. What is football’s equivalent of a “fiery car crash”, or two 110kg neanderthals running directly into each other at full speed, that will get someone who might not know football to stop channel surfing?

I would argue it starts with getting more bums on seats at games and making it look & feel more like something worth sticking around for.

The WUN v MCY game on the weekend apparently had WUN giving free tickets to MCY members. The league should be encouraging more thinking like that. If we want a return to big derbys, big blues etc.; why do we accept that away fans who are already paying for memberships have to fork out more money to attend?

Isn’t it in both the league’s & club’s interests to ensure that stadiums are full, and if someone has already paid in some form or another (membership), and all clubs reciprocate; then I can’t see that pissing off members (unlike if clubs were to start giving away tickets to the general public for free to fill stadiums).

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Wasn’t there an analysis done which indicated giving out free tickets doesn’t turn people into long term supporters? It just tells people that there will be free tickets?

I think a big issue is that watching Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga etc is just so ingrained into the Australian psych, that is always going to compete. I mean why watch something that’s obviously worse, when, you can instead watch something better and for the exact same price. What they need to do, is start making people understand that, it’s not about the now, but about the future. I’ve often been asked why I support a team like Sydney FC that’s worse than most Premier League teams, and my response is always “Liverpool was crap when it first started too.”

Extensive research showing that it trains people to see the tickets as having zero value IF it goes on for an extended period. One-offs seem to be OK

During its first 2 seasons Sydney FC gave away thousands of tickets every week, creating a subculture among recipients who only went if it was free. Few resulted in paid members.

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I do agree about KeepUp being useless and that VAR has to go. And yes, Newcastle need to get real owners. We can harp on about football “needing” a club in the Hunter, but ultimately there has to be the willpower and finance for it to do so. Other clubs can’t prop it up forever, especially in the current financial climate.

Pro/rel is being worked on, unless there’s some lapse that I’m not aware of. Playing games on at the same time will be inevitable if the league gets bigger. For now, Welly not being able to play in their own country is providing a real issue for avoiding multiple games at the same time. Not to mention we have six teams in the same time zone (seven outside of daylight savings).

I think a lot of Aussie football fans need a reality check. We’re absolutely not going to be pulling in average crowds of 25k+ over here across all the A-League clubs in such a sports-saturated country. We really need to stop dreaming about that because outside of a derby or a Big Blue, it’s not going to happen.

Marketing is no doubt revolving around bringing new fans into the game. Why? They by themselves are not going to contribute to the kind of atmosphere that makes football unique. Ensure the rusted-on fans are going to as many games as they can. The rusted-on fans will create a better atmosphere, and with a better atmosphere, I think you’re more likely to attract people who want to be a part of it, or even just to soak it up. Either way, they’re bums on seats.

We talk about “real” stadiums. Do you mean SFS and Suncorp, where the home teams will be lucky to pull more than 25% of capacity outside of their big games? A real solution for A-League clubs would be to have a 5-15k stadium for the “regular” matches, and use the bigger grounds only for hosting finals, derbies or the Big Blue. Dinamo Kiev manage to do that just fine. Why not for us? Obviously, funding is a big obstacle to that happening, but if it were possible I think it would look a lot better for the league.

Oh, and before I forget, last season is surely instructional for clubs. The games were very watchable, and the clubs played more young players than I could remember previously. We fucked off the Taylor Regans, the Nick Fitzgeralds, and so on. Now they’re back. Nobody wants to watch them trot around from club to club and be as shit as they always were. They are more excited to see what stars of tomorrow we might be able to see. Developing youngsters will more likely make clubs money in the long run. THAT is a no-brainer.


I think it is. We’re basically down to the die-hards, at this point.

I know this because we’ve been better than this in recent years. Victory can be better than they are. Wanderers… ought to be better than they have been for the last 6 or so years…

Wasn’t so long ago we’d get 18-20k to a game, on the reg. More for big games. Off the back of Del Piero, maybe, but it was sustained after he left.

Is it ever going to wipe out NRL and AFL and take our place as a middle power on the global stage? No, of course not. That’s the power fantasy that some quarters have when they talk about the sleeping giant.

No its not.

You can avoid it by having them on at different times.

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That’s right - we are down to the die-hards and in the last 15 years, we haven’t generated enough interest in the league for the die-hards to ‘take a day off’ and still get good crowds.

I have no idea how the math would work, but if you want 15k+ every game, you must need at least 10x that of casual fans who go to a few games a year to offset the regulars not turning up every game. That is what has not been built. An army of reserve supporters to fill the empty seats when the die-hard’s can’t go.

I will add that nowhere near as many people were likely to ‘casually’ go to a game where they could get COVID and have to isolate for 2 weeks and put other people at risk, or are already isolating because one of their kids friends at school had it etc. COVID has basically ruined the past 2 seasons and that is undeniable.

NRL opening round crowds were ok but nothing great, and this is obviously way after the worst of COVID.

I would like a full season without fixtures getting cancelled/changed days/hours before KO and where COVID is less of an issue to assess where we’re at.

This thread is obviously about more than crowds though, but crowds are indicative of interest and basically the end goal of all these talking points.


This is an interesting point. If anyone is relying on die-hards to prop up viewer numbers heavily on games not involving their teams, then there’s a real problem.

KeepUp is unfortunately exhibit A in terms of the APL talking a great game and then failing to deliver. When Danny talked about having a central platform for world game “content” (which iirc did include paying for digital rights) I naively / stupidly assumed this would include clips that would then get eyeballs galore coming to it for their sole source of information and viewing, and that the AL would then benefit from being showcased on the same platform potentially used by Eurosnobs.

Now I have no idea of the logistical & commercial hurdles to this, but that’s sure what it sounded like it was going to be to me (and although we have about 800 different streaming platforms most goals / highlights are currently available to be viewed for nought through YouTube, so it didn’t seem too outlandish if they were actually going to be ponying up for digital rights).

Unfortunately what it actually is is a steaming pile of shit, way too busy, near impossible to navigate through, and filled with generic nothing articles.

EDIT: :rofl: after writing this I went into the app and for the first time actually saw last weeks UCL highlights (don’t have Stan so hadn’t seen Lautaro’s goal at Anfield before) and saw some of the overnight EPL highlights. I use the app almost daily for AL fixtures and had never before seen any of that stuff, either I’m verging on technologically illiterate or that’s all the proof you need about how badly it’s been marketed and how difficult it is to navigate and find anything.

What? No. That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying the same as me, above. Football fans are getting dudded out of a game of football every week, because they’re playing games simultaneously.

You want those die-hards. As many as possible.

If. If. IF. IF!

If is not a declaration that someone is definitely or definitely not doing something. Get it?

They have paid for and have access to a shit-ton of euro league highlight packages that they simply do not use.

Don’t stress guys, the nft are coming soon.