In the curious case of Andres Iniesta, where he will land following his departure from FC Barcelona has seemed to make everyone in the A-League go a little crazy. Crazy in the sense that the FFA is on a mad scramble to pull every dime they can find from their coffers to throw at the World Cup winner, in hope of luring his services to Australia.
Is it a good thing? Sure! Having Iniesta in the A-League will deliver the ‘bump’ that the league wants from the media and ‘mainstream sports fan’. You can already picture ‘INIESTA’ lined across the back of a blue Melbourne City shirt. Don’t fool yourself; If he does come to Australia, it’ll definitely be on the City Football Group’s account.
But here’s the problem. If the FFA really had some long-term vision, they would understand that throwing money at yet another European superstar in his twilight, was a waste in the long-term. Del Piero came and left. How’re Sydney FC’s crowds now? David Villa popped in for a few weeks and City still hasn’t been able to crack 10,000 at a home final. The big names draw attention to the league, sure, but does the attention stand? Can we honestly track the ‘Del Piero’ effect as having a positive impact on the status of the league today?
It seems this short-term thinking, in the long-run, has left the game in no better state than we were 4-years ago. In fact, you could argue that the league was in a better position in 2014. So excuse me for thinking a real vision and action to improve the following of the A-League needs to come at what the very essence of the league is about, not just a big name. It amazes me what the million dollar consultants at the FFA continually fail to understand. They’ve won the war, they’re just losing this battle. The kids are already sold on what the game is all about, heck it’s the most participated sport in the country, but they’re not on the A-League.
And can you blame them? When the Premier League is accessible live 24/7 – tell me why you’d bother spending your Saturday afternoon watching the Wellington Phoenix take on Perth Glory in a 0 – 0 draw. Or watching the same recycled players jump from club to club?
It’s not like we’re oblivious to what part of the solution needs to be. The Wanderers demonstrated what can happen, what the game should be about, what entertainment really looks like. But the FFA was quick to quash that. And there were many games that weren’t the most exciting on the field but were in the stands. That worked. That won. And yet we seem to again retreat our focus to winning the ‘mainstream sports fan’ who’ve demonstrated they can’t be won, this way at least.
Remember when Channel 7 and the Daily Telegraph couldn’t wait to tell their hardened NRL readers that they had to get down to Paramatta Stadium to be apart of the rising of the West? They couldn’t believe that the whole stadium stopped to do the Poznan. Or that families, yes the sacred family unit, was swept up in the RBB? The football heartland cared and the average sports fan couldn’t help themselves but get a look.
So in summary, whilst we all lose our minds over Iniesta, it’s about time that the FFA get some real vision for the future of this league. It’s time to stop focusing on winning the AFL or NRL fan who might tune-in to see what this Iniesta fuss is all about and pay attention to the heartland who are waiting to be convinced.
Words by Jacob Arnott