About 30 years ago, football in Australia switched from a winter code to a summer one. But in those three decades since that major realignment, the landscape has changed dramatically.
Today, thanks to COVID-19, football globally is on hold, while the A-League’s calendar is now out of sync.
Season 2019/20 is set to resume this August and finish in September.
Where does this leave A-League season 2020/21?
Will it kick off later in the year as per the usual ‘summer’ competition, starting later this year and finishing in May, as it’s always done since the A-League’s launch in 2005?
Or will the league use this COVID-19 interruption to rethink the league’s calendar and switch to March to November?
The idea of a COVID-19-inspired switch of the calendar has the support of an A-League great, former Melbourne Victory and Socceroo striker Archie Thompson.
The game may never have such a unique set of circumstances to facilitate a switch in the calendar.
Here are nine reasons why the A-League and football more broadly in Australia could be boosted by this once-in-a-generation chance to reset.
1: NO MORE WET BULB TESTS
Cooler weather, faster football. Better to watch. Makes sense?
2: ALIGNING FOOTBALL’S POWERFUL PYRAMID FROM BOTTOM TO TOP
Football, from grassroots, NPL, and elite professional club football. All playing together at one time, one huge football family coming together to power football in this country.
Alignment is an ideal platform for clubs, players, advertisers, broadcasters and digital marketers to leverage the massive numbers in the pyramid to boost crowds, sponsorships, and interest.
The pyramid aligned would also allow players and fans to take advantage of synergies up and down the vertical (NPL double-headers, for example, A-League promotions across the grassroots, a huge fanbase of participants coveted for so long by A-League clubs).
Furthermore, from a talent ID perspective, NPL players, in particular, have chances to be seen regularly and in-season for A-League and W-League.
Similarly, for fringe players at the professional level to be loaned out for spells in the NPL (in a similar way AFL clubs send fringe squad players to lower-tier VFL clubs). While January will no longer give A-League coaches headaches as squad changes interrupt a potential finals football push.
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3: SUPER NOVEMBER: A HUGE CELEBRATION OF FOOTBALL DRAMA
November is now the perfect time for a huge hit of football at its very best. And by best, we mean the peak of the season, finals football and grand finals (and potentially, the ACL final?)
Before the weather becomes too hot, November would host the culmination of an A-League and W-League finals series, followed by two grand finals as well as an FFA Cup final.
Imagine that? November suddenly becomes the perfect storm for football.
One massive month of the very best in Aussie club football, played in ideal weather conditions over consecutive weeks while the other codes are essentially in their off-season, and prior to the summer of cricket, basketball, and tennis.
Add to this, over time November could also have the drama of relegation and promotion playoffs to and from the A-League, and from the NPL to the second division.
No other codes have relegation, do-or-die matches, as November could become a football celebration like no other.
4: MEDIA COVERAGE
Summer was supposed to be largely free from other football codes, giving football free rein. That hasn’t panned out in recent years.
As social media and broadcasting diversified, a myriad of sports (tennis, basketball, and all forms of cricket) and other football codes have crept into “summer" coverage.
The bottom line is, media coverage of the A-League has decreased to the point where it makes little difference when it’s played.
The game has nothing to lose from a media perspective and everything to gain, particularly in that sweet spot of November when there is some clear air. And with a better product, football will earn better coverage.