Real emotion will come to the A-League when the football landscape is reshaped to include football’s trump card: relegation and promotion, he says.
And that sense of urgency will help players, too.
Olympic FC coach Ben Cahn told FTBL that the A-League needs to change.
This was underlined during Cahn’s stint in the A-League with the Central Coast Mariners youth team and head of the performance phase in 2016 and 2017.
“The first team were bottom of the A-League towards the end of the season. Nothing to play for,” Cahn, a former Fulham FC junior, recalled.
"Fans were disengaged, staff members were planning for next year, players who were out of contract had mostly agreed to moves elsewhere and were counting the days until the end of the season.
"Players that were contracted for the following year were cruising.
"It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it’s just the conditions that didn’t demand anything more from anyone.
"Imagine how different it would have been if relegation from the A-League was on the line?
"When the stakes are higher, the emotion is higher, and emotion is what captures people.”
Cahn grew up in England and understands like many that financial security as a consequence of avoiding relegation drives players on.
At the same time, relegation clauses in player contracts help clubs survive.
And broadcasters and fans lap-up relegation drama and theatre as the season reaches its climax.
Other codes in Australia would struggle to match that type of emotion, giving the A-League a huge boost as the sport moves out of the coronavirus lockdown stage.
And now is the time to use football’s vast landscape to begin reshaping ad reimagining a supercharged future, bringing genuine aspiration and opportunity.
A-League fans will love the passion and drama of a promotion and relegation playoff, says Cahn
"We need to connect the tiers; we need promotion and relegation and we need to align the calendars,” Cahn stressed.
"It’s what the majority of the football population wants to see, it’s the only way to bring meaning, emotion, and engagement to every game."
Additionally, Cahn points out, with the debate over youth development in full swing, he believes promotion and relegation will help Australian players in the A-League cope with one vital part of football abroad.
"It would also condition A-League players better for the challenges of playing overseas.
"They’d be used to playing with real pressure with real consequences. The same applies to clubs in the race for promotion."
He continued: "In terms of broader interest, imagine three games to go in the A-League, the bottom two clubs playing each other, a few points between them.
"It would attract a big crowd plus you’d get football people and probably some non-football people all over the country tuning in to the A-League, following and talking about it.
"Then imagine an A-League team finishes bottom and they’re in a playoff with the team that wins the second tier or NPL.
A-League fan passion is second to none, promotion and relegation would simply make it even more intense
"The quality of the players and the quality of the viewing spectacle would improve as well. There would be a real intensity around clubs at the bottom of the A-League table," added Cahn.
"They’d be working with urgency every day.
"Games would be quicker, more intense, and more on edge, making the A-League and a second division a better product.”