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The Big Bash: The A-League’s public enemy number one

Being a sports nut and working in the education field, I love summer.

 

The A-League is in full swing, the kids are on holidays and able to stay out later without destroying their mornings and I can enjoy being barefoot for months on end.

 

The garden produces abundant crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce and the remote control works harder than a Liberal party spin doctor.

 

I had always watched the Big Bash in years past. The season just gone was the first time I had failed to follow the competition and I felt no real inclination to switch on.

 

Personally, I feel it is overkill, mighty popular mind you, but essentially stale. In addition, the lack of patience displayed by first-class batsmen all over the world is no doubt due to their increased participation in shortened versions of the game, such as the ‘Bash’.

 

Still, the kids will continue to come in through the gates and well done to the organisers for developing a successful concept and marketing the product well.

 

From a football perspective, many felt it spelled danger for the A-League. There is a line of thinking that suggests the league struggles over the forty days where the codes clash.

 

Free-to-air television and mainstream media certainly appear to embrace the cricket with vigour and perhaps the number of times potential A-League fans think about the round ball game over this period, is indeed less frequent.

 

For these reasons, I stuck a poster on my wall. It was an image of a batsman swinging mightily at a delivery. The contact was magnified by a super-imposed fireball and the flight of the ball traced with a flame that launched into the night sky.

 

All this was set against a backdrop of a jam-packed hill where smiling mums, dads and kids sat with mouths agape, watching the rocket ascend into the stratosphere.

 

I wrote, ‘public enemy No. 1’ in black permanent marker across the poster and began a summer of collating stats and crunching numbers to determine the negative impact that this juvenile dumb-show was about to have on my preferred code.

 

How wrong I was.

 

Supposedly the Big Bash drags young boys and girls away from football. Sure the weather is good and it is a great time of the year to attend sport, yet the million or more people who attended Big Bash matches over the forty days of the tournament, must surely have had an impact on the A-League figures.

 

Surprisingly not. The 2016-17 average attendance for the A-League was 12,650. Poor figures in Wellington and to a lesser extent Central Coast and Newcastle hold that figure back yet this is a patient time for the game.

 

Expansion and participation numbers will take years to establish footholds and navigating the long course with a clear plan and vision is something that the FFA need always remember.

 

However, despite the flat-lining of A-League attendances in general, crowd figures actually rose during the Big Bash period.

 

From December 20th to January 28th, the A-League dragged in 12,857 people per game. Two hundred and twenty people more than the average for the season.

 

Where those people came from I am not sure, perhaps they were the leftovers from the Big Bash sell outs, cricket fans wandering aimlessly with mini-bats and team shirts doomed never to be signed.

 

Or maybe tennis fans in utter shock after learning of the ticket prices for the Australian Open in January. Tennis people must feel completely insulted by a tournament that charges whatever it can whilst rewarding players the most astonishing amounts of money.

 

Affordability in sport is important and Tennis Australia disregards its value in light of the boom that the game currently enjoys. If the inevitable shift in interest does occur in the future, I wonder how many will need to be lured back.

 

In any case, we were happy to have you all at the football. Thanks for coming. All two hundred and twenty of you.

 

Despite the smaller of the two Sydney Derbies being held at Allianz Stadium during the period and only the Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar clash and the second instalment of the Big Blue producing crowds of over twenty thousand, the A-League fared well.

 

Throw in three Wellington Phoenix home games over the five weeks, in which the New Zealand franchise managed to average just 6019 people per game and it is clear that the figures stacked up quite well.

 

There was no distortion caused by a massive number at ANZ Stadium to watch a Sydney Derby. It was simply a case of football supporters continuing to attend games in spite of this rather frantic, cash cow of a big brother, threatening to put a damper on a football season.

 

A season that was starting to build towards the historic events that were yet to unfold.

 

At seasons end, I compiled my numbers, looked at the poster on my wall and smoked the peace pipe with cricket.

 

Despite a lot of people telling me that my local football competition is crap, the players are b grade and that it lives in the summer months to avoid the more Australian games of Union, League and AFL, I was proud of what was consolidated.

 

At the current point in time however, the FFA seems to be overseeing quite a long period of consolidation. Far too long for some.

 

Let’s hope, as the off-season continues, that some big names join our clubs, the exciting free-to-air television announcement comes to fruition and the fans tune up their vocal chords ready to flock to stadiums in full voice, both during the Big Bash period and outside that time.

 

Who knows, I might even go to a game of hit and run next year. I’ll take my Sydney FC scarf and see if I can get a dumb fast bowler to sign it on the boundary.

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