Monday, September 13, 2010

A-League Needs New Clothes

An Emperor who cares for nothing but football hires two executives who promise him the finest of football leagues from a group of clubs invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "just hopelessly stupid". The Emperor cannot see the players  or clubs himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position or stupid; his work colleagues do the same.

When the executives report that the league is complete, they dress the new clubs up in different colours and the Emperor and the new teams march in procession before his subjects. A child in the crowd calls out that the Emperor and new clubs are not wearing new colours at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but holds himself up proudly and continues the procession.

This tale with a few characters switched is the children’s story The Emperor's New Clothes by a Danish dude called Hans Christian Andersen. I’m sure you have worked out the analogy, metaphor or whatever clever literary concept I have used to parallel the A League with the Hans Christian Andersen’s tale.

Frank Lowy is the Emperor, the two executives are John O’Neil and Ben Buckley and the new clothes are the A league clubs. The kid shouting that the Emperor is not wearing new colours/ clothes are old, new and bandwagon footballs fans.

I probably read this book as a kid as I remember having a hard back cover of Hans Christian Andersen tales, but I must have forgotten I had read it. Recently I have been hearing the phrase Emperor’s New Clothes everywhere. What finally made me fire off a Google search of Emperor’s New clothes was the song "Ready to Start" by The Arcade Fire.  The lyric in the song "All the kids have always known, that the Emperor wears no clothes / but they bow down to him anyway, 'cause it's better than being alone” struck a massive chord in me.

That is how I look at the A-League.  Six years ago an invisible cloth was put on top of the NSL and it was called the A-League. Five seasons in fans are starting see that the old problems of the NSL are being revisited. But this time the problems seem bigger. The Crawford report which gave instructions on how to fix football's problems is starting to rear its ugly head again because none of those problems were really fixed to begin with.

The Arcade Fire lyric just sums it all up for me. At the beginning of the A-League we could see that there were problems but like the song says we bow down to it because it’s better than being alone(having no football)

I am possibly drawing a long bow with my analogy but I like the story and Jack Zipes who wrote Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller, says that seeing is presented in the tale as the courage of one's convictions; Zipes believe this is the reason the story is popular with children. Sight becomes insight, which, in turn, prompts action.

Another interpretation by Maria Tatar who wrote The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen (2008), indicates the invisible cloth as "a successful enchantment"

So the A- League was a successful enchantment for close to five seasons now the clubs are going broke, some are reportedly close to death. Never has the spotlight been held on the governors of the game since “new football” started hopefully they get some insight from the fans, players, coaches and commentators about what needs to be done.  An invisible cloth is not going to work anymore; everyone knows that the A- League needs new clothes.

click to read Emperor's New Clothes Original story

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