Is it too early to start worrying about the Asian Cup?

by Teo Pellizzeri on Feb 14, 2012

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The recently-completed, always dramatic African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea might have a few ideas Australia’s own Asian Cup can poach.

Selling the Socceroos out at the Asian Cup in 2015 should not be a huge problem.

Although the success of the Big Bash League this summer (ran December 16 to January 28) suggests it will still be around in 2015 as a direct and aggressive competitor to the Asian Cup (slated for January 4 to 26).

Can we really say with a straight face that a game not involving Australia at the Asian Cup deserves to use the Sydney Olympic Stadium more than the Sydney Thunder?

Maybe leave that argument for a date closer to the tournament.

Back to comparisons with the recent AFCON.

The major problem with the tournament was ticket pricing. Blamed, hand-in-hand with the absence of traditional African football powerhouses, for some embarrassingly low crowds.

Eventual champion Zambia played its quarter final against Sudan in front of a crowd officially quoted as 200 in a 37,500 seater stadium.

While the 2000 Olympics was a stunning success for neutral football games in Australia (at least crowds wise if not football wise), the Asian Cup is going to be a far harder sell.

Even with double-headers at the same venue, selling a majority of the teams that will qualify for 2015 at a premium ‘‘international football’’ price is going to be difficult.

We know high-drawing Japan and South Korea are already qualified and Australia can hope at least some of the nations with large ex-pat and integrated populations will qualify, even though that is no guarantee that the price barrier won’t be an issue.

While playing on the Eastern seaboard makes sense, it really does appear to be tempting fate that Perth and Adelaide will not be part of the 2015 tournament.

If Cricket Australia are smart they’ll ensure a splurge of Big Bash League accompanies the annual Tests in both cities (India touring that summer) in order to completely dis-engage both markets from the Asian Cup.

Hopefully Gold Coast’s only involvement in the tournament will be as a training camp for teams prior to their matches in Brisbane.

Big Bash in Adelaide and Test match in Perth vs Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan on the Gold Coast? I’ll write the negative headlines now. You can warm them up in three years.

It’s a miracle Adelaide and Perth have not tried to secede from under FFA control after being snubbed for the A-League’s anti-fan capital.

And if you think cricket as a competitor to football has been over-stated as a bit in this blog, then remember this: The 2015 Cricket World Cup starts in mid-February barely three weeks after the Asian Cup ends.

If you think that the summer of 2014/15 won’t be some sort of cricket v football armageddon, think again.

Even if you don’t like the comparison to this year’s AFCON, next year’s in South Africa might be a better fit for what will happen in Australia.

Bigger stadia, bigger cities, fatigue from a recent World Cup and just 12 months on from the last AFCON.

We’ll find out if CAF learnt its lesson about over-pricing in 12 months time. Maybe we’ll learn a thing or two for how to organise our Asian Cup.