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It’s time for the FFA to dream, build a dam – and forget the numbers

I passed Mathematics at school. Not with flying colours, but competently enough. It has served me well through life.

 

I’m pretty canny in Coles and after reading the per unit prices printed in very small font on the lower regions of the labels, I can spot a bargain a mile away.

 

Watching my own kids battle away with homework, learning the basic concepts and applying formulae and rules to problems and equations has also reinforced the value of numbers in our world.

 

However, just as the concept of trickle-down economics fails to produce the theoretical effect, numbers can lie. Not too much of the billions being bandied about at the top of the financial tree has been trickling down my way lately.

 

Not that I expected it too or wish to be seen as complaining, however, the reliance and faith on numbers alone appears deceitful and a sure path to destruction.

 

As it is with Australian football. As the game stands at the next frontier, hoping to point the bow of the ship in the right direction before launching into the unknown, numbers are often used as reasoning for the course that should be chosen.

 

I’m a little sick of hearing about numbers frankly. I know the southern region of Sydney has massive youth participation numbers, I know the Greek community would rally behind the re-emergence of South Melbourne in the top flight of football and appreciate the logic of a second team in Queensland, creating a derby and potential growth.

 

In fact, these arguments all seem logical and promising, yet as football participation numbers have now surpassed all other sports in the country, a dilemma still exists.

 

Going purely by the numbers somewhat misses the point.

 

Expansion bids reference participation rates as being vital, yet we all know that the chasm between people playing the game and becoming avid A-League fans is vast. We also know that an existing stadium is a decided advantage as delving deeply into pockets to design and build a purpose built football ground is not going to be high on government or investor agendas.

 

Taking a more altruistic stance, I would like to see some decisions made, based purely on what is right for the long term. Perhaps a financial loss in the short term, perhaps a seemingly odd decision in the medium term, but just as governments and town planners seem hamstrung by financial constraints, re-election and narrow mindedness, football cannot do the same.

 

A few years back, a talkback caller on ABC radio spoke of her grandfather, a State Minister, calling for a plan to deal with potential problems with water supply in Sydney’s future. He was laughed at and his concerns ignored.

 

In my neck of the woods, northern Sydney, the M2 is the epitome of short sighted thinking and a lack of vision. The road sits in a state of chaos amidst its second upgrade and my fourteen kilometre trip to work takes me the best part of an hour.

 

Whether it be a need for an eight-lane motorway, a bigger dam or any other piece of underperforming infrastructure requiring modernisation, they all symbolise a distinct lack of vision.

 

The FFA need to make some progressive, brave and bold decisions. They need to build that dam and that eight lane motorway, always picturing the A-League of 2075, when most of the people reading this will be long gone.

 

There are opportunities in the market on which to pounce, opportunities which will plant seeds that may take fifty years to germinate, yet if we call ourselves true lovers, believers and supporters of Australian football, they are opportunities we need to take.

 

Not one winter code has truly invested in Tasmania. The AFL pays it lip service with numerous games, yet there is a space for the FFA to fill.

 

How many of the 13,000 registered players will turn up and support the Tasmanian Tigers playing out of University of Tasmania Stadium in 2018-19 is a mystery.

 

My point being, it doesn’t matter. Four or five thousand will do to start, I’m more interested in 2075, after a fistful of championships and premier’s plates, when 15,000 pack into a ripper little boutique stadium and other codes regret their procrastination.

 

After wonderful support from Hyundai and Foxtel in the A-League’s infancy, it is also time to adjust scheduling.

Playing midweek matches seems logical. Scheduling week to week on a seven-day rotation can be tweaked. The A-League could work off a six-day week, with teams guaranteed a four to six day break between matches.

 

Team A might play on a Sunday, followed by Saturday of the next week and the third match would fall on the following Thursday or Friday.

 

This schedule saves a day per week and the first fifteen rounds could be played in ninety days rather than the usual one hundred and five.

 

Using those saved days as a buffer later in the season to cater for Champions League commitments could work. The Club plays the Champions League clash, the A-League match is postponed to one of the spare days late in the season.

 

Festive football’s success over the Christmas period suggests this method could work. Having matches most nights with only around forty days of serious competition from a Mickey Mouse cricket league, is worth pursuing.

 

As the finals approach, the game reverts back to more of a weekend format.

 

Collision codes can’t have players involved in three games in eighteen days, yet football can. Now is the time to see the long term future.

 

American baseball and basketball style rolling schedules are custom made for pay television, and could be more attractive for free-to-air channels as the midweek games throughout summer will face little competition.

 

Keeping massive derbies on Friday or Saturdays is a must, as is smart scheduling that sees midweek matches played at venues where fans can make the games without suffering horrific transport issues.

 

A Wednesday night game at Allianz might not work, but a 7.00pm kick-off at Central Coast Stadium just might.

 

If the youth are indeed the future of football, early kick-offs are vital. Get the games on at 7.00pm, despite the commercial considerations that appear to make this impossible.

 

Taking kids to a game that finishes around ten o’clock is ridiculous on any day of the week. Football could promote itself as the one game that is truly family friendly. Make a statement, tell everyone what you are trying to do and stick with it.

 

These sorts of ideas may cause a dip in numbers in some areas, yet a little short term pain could lead to something far greater when I am pushing up daisies.

 

Number crunches might suggest this is all fancy and idealistic and perhaps they are right. Call me an old hippie, a dreamer or whatever you like but while waiting for growth is fine, proactivity is far more valuable.

 

Risk, endeavour and vision right now, will benefit the game in the long term.

 

Life is about parlaying lessons learned from failures into successes and achievements.

 

Those achievements come from daring to do something different, to see things in a new way and to take chances that might seem unwise in the short term.

 

No doubt, someone will throw numbers at me, attempting to derail my argument and that’s okay.

 

But this isn’t about numbers, it’s about a vision for the long term future of the game. The beautiful game.

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