Monday, December 17, 2007
Expansive Thoughts, Part 1
Certainly the issue has come into sharper focus with the realisation that the A-League troops are going to play a crucial role in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. With the youth league supposedly kicking off next season (by no means a definite, as I've heard from a couple of insiders) it's hard to see how the FFA will be able to cope with an expanded A-League as well. In the priority stakes, they appear to have leaned towards the youth competition.
What are the pros and cons of expansion, then? In this instalment, the positives. I'm working on the assumption throughout that two new teams would be added, so as to avoid the awkwardness of a bye.
1. Staking out the market
In the Gold Coast area, there's already talk of gazumping the AFL by rushing in an A-League franchise. The NRL have, of course, gotten there first with the introduction of the Titans this year, and next year they will (if all goes according to plan) be playing out of the spanking new stadium at Robina, which is also intended as the home venue for the mooted A-League team. Venue sharing is a constant pain for the A-League teams, and Con Constantine has publicly grumbled recently about Newcastle's onerous lease agreement. But the financial model for the Gold Coast bid has apparently impressed the FFA enough for this not to be a major concern.
There are other areas ripe for football annexation. Not least the Illawarra, which is now without an NRL side of its own (since the St. George/Illawarra merger), and mostly indifferent to the AFL. The region has a proud football history to boot, and Wollongong boys among the Socceroo ranks, such as Scott Chipperfield and Luke Wilkshire, could add lustre to a future Wollongong A-League side.
It must be said, the fans do not (as some predicted) seem to find it tedious having only seven teams to compete against. But an extra couple would certainly add a sense of novelty, which could draw the fans in. New terrace insults for the newcomers, new nicknames, new lore to be developed...it's all part of the package.
3. Opportunities for the youngsters
A youth league is all very well, but it's at senior professional level that young players are really tested, and an enlarged competition would surely allow more young players to experience the real pressures of professional football.
Here is the key. 21 games is, of course, not nearly enough for a national league of any substance, and if the competition is to be kept to three "rounds", the addition of two new faces brings the number of games to a more respectable 27. There's still the question of how a longer season would fit into the calendar, but that's for Part 2.
Part of that of course is playimg more games.
We should play fourrounds until we can have more vialbe teams.
We cannot expect to go much further in the ACL when we are not playing.
We must be cognizant of the quality of layers ( NSL anyone) and both the salary and expense of players.
no wisdom to offer but we MUST expand.
Quality of play benchmark to be above english first division
If you take out the 6 foreign spots that gets it down to 40. Then lets assume that 10 players return from various overseas levels. Throw in 2 marquee players who arent Australian. Thats still 28 Australian/NZ who are currently playing State League football or Academy of Sport level. I could probably name 5 players in the BPL who i think could make the transition to the A-League, but cobbling together 2 full squads of players from what's available might be too much to ask.
I'd love to see more teams in the A-League, but think there would have to be larger amounts of foreign players allowed.
but there could be another couple of vargas`s/ ognanovski`s (guys who came up from state leagues and have performed pretty well), and there could be a couple more youngsters ready to take their chances ... guys like zullo, kruse, holland, downey, simons came out of nowhere this year ... and guys like topor-stanley and musialak have had good seasons.
i figure any drop in quality would be more than offset by the increase in opportunity.
ps. i think the foreigners that australia can afford are pretty average. we are little fish in a big pond. oz was lucky to see fred and juninho. unless they are much better than a local, i`d rather see a local than an import. i wish the roar had djite or bridge instead of reinaldo!
While there is an argument for the dilution of the 'product',the opportunities for players to prove themselves are still a little thin on the ground.
Take a look for example at Shaun Ontong, one of the AIS' brightest prospects from the last year. Shaun has had a few opportunities but not enough to regularly mark out a place for himself.
There will be players who can make a step to being a regular contributor who are missing out right now. And then of course there will be Michael Ferrante....but you learn these things.
Expand or die.
More teams could offset this .
We are forced to play three rounds because we have only 8 teams. We should play 4 rounds but to be honest only home and away should suffice.
If they got their act together so money was gotten being the the ACL like the ECL then more sponsorship would be forthcoming
It's all good having a compact, viable senior and youth league but this is just artificial strength when kids looking to become professionals realize they don't have much of a chance of doing that in the country.
Expanding the league is good idea. Overseas players should be limited to 2 plus a marquee, and at most 1 returning ex pat per team. Further, the clubs should focus on recruiting talent from their states and regions.
I'm sure that with the competition in Asia to look forward to and with the right sort of guidance and coaching at grass roots levels, the A League would then naturally get stronger.