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‘Ashes’ football is on its way

You would probably have had to be living on Mars to have missed the fall-out from Liverpool FC’s visit to our shores.

 

The fiasco of the ABC’s coverage and their failure to read the public’s expectations and present a respectful and professional presentation that captured the occasion in the appropriate tone, has been utterly embarrassing.

 

Being at the game meant that I was oblivious to what was unfolding until later that evening and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t bunker down for the night and subsequently turn it off in disgust. Watching it the next day was cringeworthy.

 

The loose and unfocussed coverage reflected a broadcaster seeking to find some certainty around an event that lacked direction. The coverage appeared lost and rudderless and the only thing that could be said in their defence, is that the game itself was somewhat similar.

 

I had similar feelings watching Tottenham and Chelsea at the same venue a few years back and the upcoming Arsenal matches will probably take on the same vibe.

 

As a sport obsessed person – someone who will watch just about anything, someone who finds beauty in any contest that pits humans against humans, where the victor must find something deep within themselves in order to conquer the other – I struggle with friendlies.

 

Clearly, I am not the only one. The inane paper aeroplane obsession reflects either a growing boredom in meaningless friendlies where, once the international stars are spotted, the curiosity ends, or a mighty lot of people with far too much money, needing bragging rights of having been to the ‘event’.

 

Either way, it’s off putting. I attended, in support of my local team. I thought it might be nice to be present and see them play for the first time as champions. Foolishly, I thought the cove would give them a rousing reception, however the financial considerations around the game appear to have killed off any significant presence of home supporters.

 

Jurgen Klopp

 

Can Jurgen Klopp take Liverpool back to the glory days of old? (AP Photo/Jon Super)

 

This is perhaps the first flaw in the planning. What chance is there of the game taking on the appearance of anything other than a Liverpool fundraiser and a smile and wave tour, when the home opposition supporters are essentially non-existent.

 

Even at their biggest numbers, the Sydney FC fans would be around a fifth of the total, yet at least the game might resemble something more like the contest that it should be.

 

The impressive sea of red looked great and I enjoyed seeing people engage with and embrace their team, a team that many will never ever see in the flesh again. Yet the meaninglessness of the actual contest takes so much away.

 

I have a plan to bring something meaningful to these matches. A plan that needs to be hatched by those in the southern hemisphere, as we are the participant that stands to gain the most from visits by major international teams stocked with stars.

 

The FFA needs to enter into negotiations with the EPL and set up a permanent arrangement.

 

Teams wishing to take the journey through our part of the world at seasons end, whether it be via China or the Middle East or a stand-alone game in Australia would become part of an ‘ashes’ like contest and play an A-League Club.

A ladder of sorts could be developed, a long standing record of how the A-League squads competes against the EPL giants.

 

The English teams represent the mother country and the wild colonial boys from Oz get a chance to ruffle their feathers. Make it a contest, worth something. Even if it’s for pride and bragging rights alone. If more than one Club wishes to tour, so be it.

 

As it stands now, under my system, the hypothetical table looks a little dismal for the locals.

 

The EPL sit atop with three points and a plus three goal difference, however, next year, after the newly crowned A-League Champions, Central Coast Mariners scrape a 1-1 result with EPL top five team West Ham United, the interest will have been sparked.

 

There are conditions on each match. The local team has their supporter base catered for with two bays behind the goals and the FFA would need to sensibly negotiate ticket prices to make local support realistic.

 

While a big venue will obviously be a drawing card for the visitors accountants, ANZ need not necessarily be the only venue. Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne have the potential to host games, particularly if two matches were agreed upon.

 

If the A-League champs, Adelaide United were to play Manchester City at the Adelaide Oval and the visitors back up the following week against the second place Wanderers at ANZ, the financial windfall would be significant enough to validate the trip for the Blues.

 

Potentially, some years would see one match played, other years, two or three. Irrespective, the ladder keeps building and when the first local team knock of the ‘big boys’, say Newcastle United topple Man U at ANZ on a Saturday night in June, the seeds will have germinated.

 

On the back of my article a week or two back where I called for some blue sky thinking around planning long term for the A-League of 2075, there might be some who see this idea as fanciful and the musings of some sort of hippie, hunger striking, dreamer without even a tenuous grasp on financial and logistical reality.

 

In my defence, I truly believe, that with appropriate and measured negotiations and good will, this could actually work.

 

State of Origin seemed a quirky concept at the state of the eighties and had many critics.

 

They won’t play hard they said. Mate against mate won’t work they said. The concept has since become one of the biggest events on the national sporting calendar.

 

Whether it be Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham, the standard they bring will obviously be impressive and gauging Australian team’s performances against a fit, eager and motivated team would actually entertain the crowd and provide a better yardstick for our local teams.

 

Most importantly, it would actually mean something. The Australians would potentially have even more to play for than the English teams. The chips will be out on the shoulders and the media would love an upset.

 

The anticipation and enthusiasm for the games would be superior to the level currently experienced and perhaps, just perhaps, there would be less paper plane throwing.

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