Notyalcsdrawkcab’s Weblog

October 18, 2009

Crowd numbers matter …

Filed under: Football — notyalcsdrawkcab @ 7:27 am

because …

I think that underneath the discussions about A-league crowds are a set of deeper, unstated beliefs that are not being aired.

The main unstated belief is that the A-league will become one of Australia`s mainstream spectator professional leagues, with similar support as the NRL and the AFL.  The flipside to this belief is that not becoming as big a professional league as the NRL or the AFL would be a bad thing.  A disaster.

I don`t think that not becoming as big as those other spectator leagues would be a disaster.

The continued growth of the A-league is not pre-ordained.  Things may stay pretty much as is – a couple of teams with nice plus 15,000, while the rest of the league flirts with 8,000 to 10,000 crowds.  As long as the teams are well run and stable.

Now that the national setup is all Dutch, it is instructive to think about the Dutch league.  Their best players don`t play at home.  The Eredivisie is in the 2nd tier of Euro leagues.

So perhaps our professional league has a more humble future in store.  Our best will continue going to Europe when they are young.  Less talented pros will get a chance to make a living in the Euro 2nd and Asia.  The A-league will be like the Brazillian or Portuguese leagues – small crowds – young players, old players and those who never quite had it.  Perhaps. Its not that bad, is it?



  1. Interesting thoughts Clayton
    The other viewpoint is:

    – with current crowds 7 or 8 teams are losing a futune
    – sponsorship is key – at current levels all crowd and TV viewers (down 20% this year) sponsors are re-thinking their business cases
    – with less money from gatetake and sponsors teams will have to re-think salaries and club officials
    – some teams – Sydney – would take the loss and pay up – others who have no choice but to downside and the A-League would be one sided. Without the tribal/culture of support you get in other countries viewer interest would fall further

    Also, poor crowds will impact World Cup 2018/22 decision making

    Overall, investment in the sport will decline. Quality coaches will be lost (eg it has been suggested that an Adelaide AFL club can pay Merrick more as an assistant coach than as the Victory head coach). The on-the-park performance will decline and more potential stars will go to AFL.

    Comment by john — November 7, 2009 @ 5:55 am

    • Some of the issues – related to crowds are self – inflicted, and hopefully lessons were learned. Getting the pricing right, making fans feel welcome and involved, getting sufficient free to air presence … they aren`t mission impossible.

      So much is going right now – play is improving (imho), serious NT games through the year, every year, participating in a second consecutive World Cup, better club governance (the players get paid on time nowadays, usually), ACL participation, more Aussies playing in Asia (paydays and life experiences that AFL players can only dream of), kids coming through the ranks and doing well in the A-league, guys like Culina and Sterjovski in the A-league …

      ps. With guys like Jack Warner and Sepp Blatter running FIFA – Bad men … god knows how the 2018/2022 decision will be made. It probably won`t have much to do with having the best bid or being the most logical choice.

      Comment by notyalcsdrawkcab — November 8, 2009 @ 12:42 am

  2. I think reducing prices mid season is dangerous strategy. Ever brought a car or a suit to see it on sale the next week? That is how season ticket holders will feel. Plus ‘post purchase rationalisation’ becomes a big factor – get something for less than you expected to pay – particularly for free – and you brain rationalises why the price was lower – ie it determines that the value you got was lower than you originally intended. In football this is often reinforced by a loss.

    Pricing is a poor lever to pull. Other levers are much more effective but take time. Much of the last 5 years has been wasted by ‘build it and they will come.’

    Comment by john — November 8, 2009 @ 1:18 am

  3. Agreed – reducing ticket prices mid – season without doing something for those who paid full price generates bad will. But a change was coming, whether it was mid – season or the start of the next. The owners are learning on the job – hope it doesn`t bite them.

    Sorry, but I am not quite getting the bit about “build it and they will come”. Tell me more about that.

    Our experiences are so different – you`ve been at Lang to watch a self-imploding team “perform” in front of 6000 people – while I have been watching whatever A-league game fits my weekend schedule on a slightly fuzzy internet connection.

    Comment by notyalcsdrawkcab — November 8, 2009 @ 4:52 am

  4. “build it and they will come” – from the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams in which the wind tells him to build a baseball diamond and dead heroes will come. Now a marketing term – about the folly of engineering a product before consumer testing – see also Levitt’s Marketing Myopia from the late 1960s (I think).

    So the A-League was built before it was really understood what consumers wanted to keep them coming over years. eg most people believe that grass routes development will lead to growth in crowd numbers for the A-League – but where is the evidence. My hypothesis is that people get their kids to play soccer for very different reasons / need fulfillment to their decision making on following a sport.

    The Crawford report said the sport needed quality stadiums. Well that worked for a while. But the Roar have lost money every season with the best stadium in the league. Interestingly, I believe the Roar have the least effective grass routes program for any A-L team – they simply run out of money paying for the stadium before they can do more than visit a few schools each season.

    Comment by john — November 8, 2009 @ 11:27 am

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