Saturday, January 10, 2009

Counting the football crowds: manic or depressive?

Besides the action on the park, watching the crowd figures and the response to them can be a sport in itself. This is not just for the round ball game but all the codes. However, due to football’s colourful past with crowds in Australia the response by fans and the media to most crowds stories are usually manic or depressive.

The beginning of this year’s A-League has seen smaller crowds compared to last year’s average. It’s five rounds in: some clubs are “worried”; the FFA are seeking “explanations”; TV commentators are “disappointed”; and in the back of fans’ mind the question may be lingering - has the novelty worn off?

Here comes the depression.

Some people are blaming the “credit crunch” - like Mr Shareholder has had a look at his portfolio and has decided not “buy up” shares in A-League this week.

Some say the Olympics or the NRL and AFL finals are to blame. The FFA has said don’t blame us - we can’t advertise during the Olympics or footy finals, it’s just too expensive stupid and it’s not like we can control the weather.

I have even read some smart spark say that “it is the correction we had to have”.
Sydney will come out and support its team but to drag Sydney people away from the beaches, the cafes, the restaurants, the pubs and nightclubs - well it can’t be just any game.

Sydney is the night of the one-night stand. It is waiting to be seduced and ready to sneak out once the next big thing comes along.

Think the qualifier against Uruguay, the very first Sydney FC A-League game vs Melbourne, the first Grand Final vs Central Coast, the Beckham Game, the last game of the season against Melbourne that decided the Premiers.

This leads to the Manic.

Suddenly everyone starts thinking we can fill stadiums every week. That we can compete with the AFL and NRL and that football will be the number one code in Australia.
At the beginning of the A-League, Frank Lowy was literally begging for people to come and was hoping for a 10,000 average. At the end of last season, the average excluding finals was 14,613.

How quickly people forget the last few years of the NSL, the ethnic tension that existed in the grounds and the small and ageing support.

I think as a football supporter it’s now time where we can stop fussing and stressing about crowd figures and just enjoy the game. Yeah Right…

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