In October, spare a thought for Australia’s mainstream sports followers.
Leaving September to them generates the same sensation football fanatics suffer the day after the World Cup final. A feeling of abandonment engulfs them. As winter finally gives way to spring down under, so the campaigns of the traditional codes of AFL and NRL come to a crescendo with their respective grand finals. Then, for four long summer months, football – as they know it – disappears.
Can 2005 be different? With three-quarters of the Dominoqq inaugural A-League season still to play before its own finals series in March, the competition holds a unique opportunity to fill the vacuum left by the bigger codes.
Although rightly scheduled for an August start date to coincide with next year’s World Cup, the first six weeks of the new football season were always destined to provide the toughest introduction possible. Not only was the sport coming off an enforced 16-month break but its all-important opening exchanges would have to fight the attention, budget and TV-time of the Aussie rules and rugby league masses.
Having negotiated the storm of September, the fledgling competition can feel satisfied by fans’ reaction so far. Crowd figures for the opening month have come through relatively unscathed with half the clubs averaging around the 10,000-mark or greater – the number officials expect to see come the season’s end. Indeed, Sydney FC and Queensland Roar are up closer to 20,000 having played two and three home matches respectively.
Importantly, with an average crowd size over 12,000 across the first five rounds, the subsequent few weeks will give a strong indication of whether the FFA can convert footy fans to the world game.
There are signs that potential crossover supporters have given preference …