Fans boycotting games. Attendances causing concern. Television ratings falling. Numerous clubs failing to earn any money. Few big-name marquee players and no overseas superstars.
No wonder Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro struck the alarm bell as loud and as hard as he could last week when he addressed a Victory in Business lunch.
Di Pietro could not have been blunter in a withering attack on the FFA, the game’s governing body, declaring that his club had had it up to here with the indecision and lack of dynamism being shown at the organisation’s Sydney head office.
“The A-League is the central pillar of Australian football. The A-League must strive for excellence and market leadership. The A-League cannot be content anymore with mediocrity. We are sick of it here,” the Victory boss declared.
Those sort of sentiments should send a shiver down the spine of the men in charge in Sydney.
Victory is the league’s powerhouse. It has the biggest crowds – an average of over 25,000 – the biggest supporter base and, with three championships, is one of the most successful.
For the Victory chairman to use such a public forum to highlight the shortcomings of the administration as far as the A-League is concerned is a very big message.
For without Victory, the A-League would look a much sorrier place.
Di Pietro is not alone in his unhappiness at the way the competition is being run. Many of the chairmen, owners and executives at other clubs are far from enamoured about the lack of growth and direction they believe is holding back the league but lack the chutzpah or confidence to speak as publicly as the Victory chairman did.
But more and more the question is being asked: Is it time for the A-League to break away and set up on its own? Di Pietro doesn’t think so, at least not just yet. But plenty of others are prepared to think what would hitherto have been the unthinkable.
Should the flagship domestic competition sever its ties with the FFA and run its own affairs?
Would it be better served by having its own administration, a separate and distinct body, with its headquarters in another capital city far from Sydney, most likely Melbourne?
Could it do a better TV deal if its negotiators only had to worry about securing money and coverage for the clubs who put on the show rather than money to run a plethora of national teams and underpin grass roots football and game development?
There are many who believe that if the A-League was spun away it could herald a new start for the competition.
There are others who argue, looking at the parlous financial state of some of the clubs, that it would be like putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum.
If the competition did exist as a separate entity there is no doubt that it would almost certainly look rather different.
If businessmen and women – domestic and local – knew they could invest directly in the league as well as clubs it could unlock a revenue stream far greater than what currently exists.
Cashed-up investors could pump money in knowing they would get far more of it back than they do now when the FFA takes the dividends from the TV deal and hands out allocations to the clubs that put on the show.
The separation could be effected by way of a share float. The league could be spun off and sold to institutional investors who would then have serious skin in the game and would have plenty of incentive to grow it and maximise revenue.
Or the FFA might find a broadcaster who sees soccer as the way to drive subscriptions, build market share and grow advertising revenue. It might find one willing to pay a substantial one-off sum to buy the league and run and manage it as a business proposition of its own, attracting a whole new range of investors with deeper pockets than those currently in the game.
The disquiet over the performance of the current FFA leadership is growing.
A separation between the church of the FFA and the state of the A-League is not beyond the realms of possibility.
At least it is now being publicly discussed: and when the genie is out of the bottle it can never be returned.
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