Written by guest columnist, SDP
The Hyundai A-League has been condemned by the general public, the media and other forms of sport.
85% of sporting fans around the world recognise one sport as “The World Game”. A large part of the remainder can be seen sitting at a mate’s place with the barbecue turned up high, the cricket or “footy” on television, and a VB in one hand. Football (incorrectly referred to as “soccer”) is believed, by the Victorian general public, to be a failure. It is criticised more than any sport, or art form anywhere else in the world. The Victorian common media (The Herald Sun, The Age, and various television channels) do not help the game, but hinder it, as to make out like it is the devil’s game, having a go at supporter groups, and players alike.
Kicking off in late 2005, the Hyundai A-League was very well publicised through franchises such as Hyundai (main sponsor), Fox Sports (‘Foxtel’ channel), and (in Victoria) SEN 1116 AM radio, which claims to be “Melbourne’s home of sport”.
The first season was a miraculous success to those who followed, drawing out crowds in all cities that football had never seen before. Sure, in comparison to Australia’s AFL (averaging around 35000 people per game) the A-League’s crowds look relatively small, but on a global scale, and in reality they are actually very, very big.
A jubilant Melbourne Victory team after drubbing Adelaide United 6-0in the 2006/07 Grand Final at Telstra Dome (credit: Herald Sun)
In the 2006/2007 A-League Season, Melbourne Victory averaged 32,691 fans per game. In comparison to Spain’s Premier Division “La Liga” which averaged 29,029, and Italy’s famous “Serie A” which averaged only 23,180. These are 2 of the biggest 4 leagues, in the world, compared with a football team that has only been running for 4 years. Sure, this is one team faced against that of an entire league, but even so, these figures are quite remarkable considering the perception of domestic football in Australia.
The Victorian media have shown themselves to be completely biased against the A-League. This is showcased by statistics on crowd violence.
The Melbourne Victory average 0.8 crowd evictions per game, due to drunken, dangerous or offensive behaviour. The Australian One Day International Cricket matches (ODI) and Twenty20 matches average just over 92 evictions per match.
On January 11th, 2007, Melbourne Victory played at home to the Queensland Roar. The outcome of the game was 2-1 to the Victory. On the same day, Australia lose an ODI cricket match to England at the MCG. What is the headline on the back page of the Sunday Age the next morning? “Soccer Fans Wreak Havoc”
The article explained that a total of six people were evicted from the Telstra Dome during the nights entertainment, and that the behavioural display was less than disheartening. Was there a mention of the 128 strong evicted from the MCG on the same night? Of course not. The media jump on any chance they get to denigrate football.
It is no secret that football is the world’s most loved sport. Because of this, it should not come as a shock that Australia host 200,000 more footballers than cricketers, and over half a million more footballers than Australian Rules players. Clearly, football is the most played sport in the country, and it is unbelievable that the general public and media manage to criticise the game the way that they do.
A large percentage of the Victorian general public view football as a “soft sport” or a “sport for girls”, when all this does is reflect the narrow minds and failure to recognise and appreciate real skill. The Victorian public have the view that football is a “soft” sport because they compare it with only the testosterone bashing sports that the country has to offer, such as AFL, and the two codes of rugby, which, in my opinion seem to be a decent reason to take drugs and hit people. Is football soft in comparison to basketball? How about hockey?
The lack of intelligence towards sport that the Victorian general public show is horrific, and quite realistically, they are living in a world of their own. Their perceptions and sense of reality is a total disgrace compared to the way that the rest of the world look at football. The intellectual level that Australians sit at is comparable to that of the United States of America, and that’s embarrassing.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics
Jesse Hogan, The Age, January 12 2007
Australian Grass Roots Statistics, 2008