Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Winter of Our Discontent
What do these two players have in common, besides their Slavic ancestry?
Answer: they both played in the NSW state league this winter, and have only stepped up to the A-League this season. Ditto Luka Glavas of Perth Glory, Adam d’Apuzzo of Newcastle and Nikolai Topor-Stanley of Sydney FC.
Add that to the number of A-Leaguers “wintering” in the state league – Mark Milligan, Mark Bridge and Paul Kohler among them – and it’s clear that there are some quite decent footballers taking the park during the state league season. And, I can assure you, some quite decent football being played.
It is assuredly the same story in the Victorian state league, with Roddy Vargas stepping straight out of Green Gully to become one of the best defenders of the 2006/07 A-League season.
It’s a pity, then, that more “neutrals” do not turn out to see some of the football on show in the state leagues. A pity, too, that the two competitions do not coincide, thanks to the FFA’s decision to make the A-League a summer competition.
Should it be so?
A few years ago, Les Murray published an opinion piece on the World Game website (unfortunately, it has lapsed from the site’s archive), in which he essentially argued that a return to winter for the national league would be sheer lunacy. Although he made one or two salient points, there are plenty of arguments to the contrary, one of the strongest of which is that aligning the state leagues with the premier national competition would engender many benefits.
The lack for possibilities for young players, about which Murray and his ilk make so much fuss, could be alleviated via a strategic alliance with a state league club, such as Terry Butcher hinted at here. However, such an arrangement would surely only work if the two seasons were aligned.
Then there is the question of the Asian Champions’ League.
Its group stage runs during the A-League off-season, and the lack of serious match time in between the ACL ties will put A-League sides at a considerable disadvantage, in my opinion.
The competition with the rugby codes for spectators, and the damage done to shared surfaces by rugby fixtures, continue to be important concerns in the timing of the A-League. But in the long-term, a switch to winter just might prove beneficial.
I'm a bit old-fashioned, I guess, I just feel that football is essentially a winter sport and that, particularly in Australian conditions, the more it's played in winter, the better.
Someone (think it might have been the phantom Well-Informed Covite) made the good point on SFCU that if the state leagues were moved to summer, you'd effectively have to play on grounds with floodlights (which makes things logistically difficult), because regularly starting games in Dec./Jan./Feb. in the middle of the day would be horrendous. Perth v. NZK this weekend was bad enough - by all accounts, Przydacz's decision to go for drinks at the quarter mark was actually pretty sensible.
Do not forget that a summer league also coincides with the European leagues which I think is a large benefit (however the FFA needs to put in the FIFA international dates for stopping the A-league).
Surely there is also a benefit in having a year round football competition where the younger players can get more experience during the substantial A-League off-season?
I did not think that Topor-Stanley had came from the state leagues. I think that explains his early performances. To my mind lack of immediate playing practice plays a big factor in how you might play in a professional league. That is why I think some state league players are fairly impressive on debut - they have been playing regularly for the entire 2006.
Now can someone tell the FFA that the state leagues should be moved to summer???
Care to give an outline for the uniformed (myself included) of the drawbacks of moving state-leagues to summer? Heat obviously is a factor, part-time players need their Chrissie break away? Dry pitches everywhere? Annoy the fans far too much?
Anyone that has seen the northern touchline at Lambert Park knows the problems of winter football.
Anyone that saw a couple of late finishing games at Jubilee in Olympic's first year back in the Premier League understands the importance of lighting.
But for me, there are two fundamental reasons for moving to winter.
1) Alignment with the ACL. It takes away the farcical need to have two teams get into next years ACL from last seasons results. Think about it. Adelaide and Sydney will be playing in the ACL based on a season that has been superceded by an entire other season. It's silly.
2) Kids. Kids, kids, kids and the dreams of kids. They play football in the winter. It would be logisitcally impossible to move all junior competition to summer. When they are playing is when they are most likely to engage with football outside of their own participation. What do they play in summer? Most likely cricket and their focus will understandably be on cricket.
I perfectly understand why we play in summer, but does it need a rethink?
Interesting. First I'd heard of that.
I suppose in some ways it would make sense, in that Europe doesn't have the sort of climate we do. And it would bring the major leagues into line with the smaller Euro leagues in areas like Scandinavia, where they break during the winter for obvious reasons.
Interesting that Blatter says the major clubs support him on this, I would've thought they'd be against it if anything (then again, maybe a move to summer would enhance crowd numbers). They would certainly be against him on the foreigner limit...I think he's fighting a losing battle on that one, even if I sympathise with his aims.
So then, Sepp, what's happening with yer mate Jack? Suggested that he should step aside yet? ;-)