I've just spent a week in the Sunshine, sorry, the Smart State (gotta check those number plates), and was expecting a bit of excitement and expectation about the Brisbane Roar/Gold Coast derby match. After all, the first game was full of niggle and rivalry as Gold Coast stunned their big brother.
But as I opened up the Sunday paper (pre-Farina-gate by the way), I was more than a little disappointed to find the match relegated the lower half of a page 9 in from the back. Some quotes from Farina on Minnecon, and a picture of Josh McCloughan. Up in the top corner, 3 pars on the Fury.
This after 3 pages on Fevola, 2 on Bathurst, 1 on Ewen McKenzie at the Reds, and 2 on the Broncos/Kanagroos.
Now the A-League is the only footy code doing the rounds, and it's treated with such disdain by media, print media in particular. It was a similar story with the Saturday night TV news up there. After the Bathurst qualfying, more on Fev, Corey Parker taking out the Broncos best and fairest, even the Presidents Cup, there was a 30" piece on the match, with a voiceover and one grab from Farina.
How is this selling the game? Sure, 24 hours later the Roar were lead story as Farina's drink/drive scandal hit, oh and by the way there was a football match played and Gold Coast won. But until that moment, your everyday Joe had probably forgotten about the A-league.
There are many reasons why the crowds and interest are down in certain areas. Brisbane haven't been helped by a horrendous Stadium deal with Suncorp, prohibitive ticketing arrangements, and a very inconsistent team, but if the local media won't support their side, what hope is there?
The attitude of the News Limited papers in particular perplexes me. News own Fox who are stakeholders in Australian football, and are pretty much the A-League's sole cheerleader these days, and yet News Ltd papers treat it with contempt, especially in Sydney, with the refusal to change from "soccer" to "football", and an agenda that encourages sniping at the game from it's big name writers. God knows how it feels to write for them as a football journo.
And I wonder what Fox's long game is with the competition. The viewing figures for the A-League aren't too flash, and the Socceroos are clearly the big selling point in their FFA deal. When negotiation time comes around for the next contract, the Pay-TV provider's position will be telling. The FFA will want some FTA for their competition and I don't think Fox will put up too much of a fight.
As the competition expands, the interest is appearing to contract. Worrying signs for the competition? Or just a natural plateau after an exceptional first few years?