Blogs

Media not obilgated to beat A-League drum

by Sebastian Hassett on Sep 26, 2011

0 comments | | print

Well this is a nice change, isn't it? Instead of reading about all the things going wrong with the A-League, we've finally had a pre-season worth getting excited about.

People often ask me why the media isn't more positive about football, especially the local competition. Unfortunately the brutal truth is that it is not the media's job to promote the league. That's the job of Football Federation Australia and the clubs.

All we can do is try to report what is happening - our job is get stories that are interesting and attractive to all readers [or at least try to], not just football aficionados. That goes for journalists covering all sports.

As a football lover, it's not always easy to report on, say, problems within the game, especially when you want to see it grow and become as powerful as the other major codes. But that's just the way it is. Hopefully, you can use it to at least highlight something that might trigger a chain reaction and change for the better.

Clearly the clubs, and the FFA, have been paying a bit more attention to the critics this past six months. A whole list of things still need to be changed and improved [I won't bore you on all of them] but one which seems to have be noted is that the A-League will no longer be given a free ride with publicity.

Back when the competition began, every signing - and I mean every single player who joined a club, even on those short-term contracts - drew a story and created interest. In fact, for the first two years this often generated significant column inches.

However, as the sheen of the new competition and its clubs wore off, so too did the interest in certain stories. Whereas an average player signing on once yielded a headline and a photo, today that might be merely a brief [and before anyone asks, editors make this call, not journalists] or a small story near the classifieds.

Recently, this has frustrated clubs and the governing body, who both feel they deserve a better go in the media. However, they appear to have grappled with the situation and appreciate that in order to spark public interest, they're going to have to work for it.

The acquisition of Harry Kewell at Melbourne Victory and Brett Emerton at Sydney FC is the perfect example of this. Both clubs have suffered an alarming drop in the amount of media coverage in the past two years - particularly the Sky Blues. Now the pair are starting to claw back some lost ground, and leading up to their season-opening clash, I'm expecting a tsunami of media interest.

Fabulous.

Yes, we do want clubs who are community-focused and who foster connections with the grassroots of their region. This is important and must always be a goal of every A-League club. But let's not forget that in order for the competition to survive and thrive, we need to get the public excited. That takes more than an ad campaign or a quirky slogan. To elicit interest in this uber-competitive market, we need to inspire fans and engage with their senses.

The A-League is still far too young to have fostered generational loyalty in the mainstream, and while that will come with time — of this I have no doubt — we still need to be entertainers. Going to watch your club still needs to be a exciting day or night out — as entertainment — as much as it is about being with your team through thick and thin.

Get the public excited about the competition and you'll find they're much more receptive to coming along in person, just to 'see what all the fuss is about'. That's been hard to do in the past two or three years, especially with non-football people.

However, the standard of the competition has improved markedly since then, and with the arrival of Kewell and Emerton, the return of Fred, the sight of the all-conquering Brisbane Roar and a last glimpse of Mustafa Amini on offer, most teams finally have something positive to crow about. It's been great to see that buzz return to the competition.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and we're still some way from kickoff. But I feel like the message has been headed and things are taking a turn for the better. Let's hope it proves to be true.