We love Cup football. So now that the FFA Cup is done for another year, what other Cups could we see on the Australian football landscape?
With the FFA Cup run and won, Cup football and all of it’s beauty leaves us for another year. The third edition of the competition saw record attendances, two A-League teams get knocked out by Semi-professional outfits, wonder goals, young stars emerge and old stars re-emerge in what is effectively Australia’s second tier. And didn’t we love it!
Who will forget Danny Choi’s strike for Blacktown City against Mark Rudan’s Sydney United, Liam Boland’s screamer to knock the Central Coast Mariners out of the Cup, Redlands United beating the A-League Champions, packed houses across the country from Dorrien Gardens to Perry Park, Valley Road to Barlow Park, Deakin Reserve to Kingston Heath. And it wasn’t just the minnows who enjoyed much fanfare throughout. Sydney FC didn’t concede a goal until the Final, whilst Melbourne City impressed at first easing Tim Cahill into fitness, all the way through to the drubbing of Western Sydney in the Semi-Final before putting the cherry on the top in beating Sydney FC in the showpiece to claim their first piece of silverware. And what a nice looking piece of silverware it is.
It seems that slowly but surely the magic of the cup is getting entrenched into the Australian sporting landscape, and that midweek football is growing even though not yet not at a pace some might like. Are we playing enough meaningful football? Do NPL Clubs get enough chances to play A-League teams? The more players are exposed to playing football against higher quality opposition, the better. So, with expansion now confirmed for 2018/19 and plenty of talk around a national second tier(with or without promotion & relegation), what other Cups could we see introduced by the powers that be now, and in the future?
A Super Cup pits the winner of the League (In Australia’s case, the Grand Final winner) vs the winner of the premier Cup competition. So, for the 2016 version, Adelaide United would have played Melbourne Victory. In 2017 it would be Melbourne City vs the eventual A-League Champions. If Melbourne City wins the Championship, then you either take the Premiers Plate winner or the other Grand Finalist if again, City were to win the Premiers Plate. This fixture has potential to start another tradition for Australian Football. People say it’s a stretch to play the FFA Cup Final at a neutral venue like Canberra, but with this match you could do it as the official start to the Football season. It could be used to bring new fans in new regions to the game, it could be played on the same weekend as the NPL final series, it could be sold as a Community game with all proceeds going to local charities or grassroots clubs. It’s another piece of silverware for the clubs, and could be implemented in very little time. It’s time we build our own traditions and this Cup presents an opportunity to do that. The equivalent version in the UK this year between Leicester City & Manchester United drew over 85,000 fans.
The NPL finals series has been a fantastic innovation for the last 4 years which involves all of the NPL league winners of their respective federations playing off against each other in a knockout competition, a mini-cup if you like. Whilst we don’t have a national second-tier or promotion and relegation, let’s help put the building blocks in and create an NPL Cup for ALL NPL teams across the country.
Have doubts about the depth of talent and scope for expansion for the Hyundai A-League? In 2017 there will be over 90 Semi-Professional teams competing in the NPL of respective federations, Australia’s second-tier. Importantly, done right it could bring more sponsorship opportunities with national exposure, later rounds could be televised, and we may unearth more Danny Choi’s.
It’s the year 2022. Not only is the round ball game the most popular participation sport in the country, it also has the most professional sporting teams of any other code. The Hyundai A-League is now a 14 team competition, and a national second tier is finally in place with 18 teams competing in a 17 round competition.
The League Cup is another Cup competition that we could see in the future should Australia ever see a second tier. This Cup is played between the professional teams only. In the above scenario, whilst purposely written thus to balance the numbers, we would see a League Cup commence from the Round of 32. Sure, it’s not the 100-plus entrants the English League Cup currently sees, but it’s an option.
What other Cups could we see in our football landscape? Youth Cups? An expansion to the existing federation state and territory Cups? Not all will work together, but if we needed an excuse or reason to provide more footballing opportunities, Cup football certainly can answer the call.