Football Needs To Tell Its Own Story

22/04/2016 11:13 AM AEST | Updated 28/09/2016 9:59 PM AEST

If Australian football wants to sway the so-called 'Eurosnobs' from their arm chairs, then it needs to invest in storytelling.

There must be no more frustrating sight for Australian footballing supporters than two non-Australian sides featuring over-the-hill players packing out a stadium when dynamic clashes between local sides barely sell half that.

If the rumours are true, a Manchester United legends side are set to play a Juventus legends side in what is sure to be a well-supported fixture in Sydney later this year.

On Sunday, Melbourne City played off in an elimination final against Perth Glory - a final which featured the dazzling skills of Bruno Fornaroli and Diego Castro, along with boy wonder Aaron Mooy.

Yet that clash barely attracted 11,000 punters, and the clash of the legends of yesteryear will attract perhaps quadruple that.


It points to the dreaded 'Euro-snobbery' mindset which has always infected Australian football. That is, Australians getting up in the middle of the night to watch a game from the other side of the world but not walking down the road to support players representing their city.

A lot of it stems from post-World War II migration and the want of migrants to keep their connection of home intact - but the fact it remains such a potent force in this day and age smacks of failure to promote the local game as it should.

A-League supporters passionately defend the league and insist that there is good football to be had, and slowly club supporters have been building emotional attachments to their clubs but the current league is but 11 years old.

The lack of cut-through in the current sporting market is simply breath-taking.

When you consider that there is genuine passion for the sport, a passion which gets people up at 2am, it's simply staggering.

But if the local league and its supporters want to tap the untold number of people who won't give the local game a look, it needs to be inviting rather than just shouting 'Euro-snob!' at them.

It needs to present a good product, and it needs to generate buzz. Think what you will about the former, but the latter simply doesn't exist.

The FFA has admitted in the past that it needs to revamp its marketing and has committed to doing so, but it continues to kick own goals in the meantime.

Earlier this week Adelaide United's Premiers' Plate was presented to the side, in front of more cameras than fans.

Simply put - it was a missed opportunity for the club and the FFA to build a genuine emotional connection in an AFL-mad city.

It is believed the Reds wanted to present it at a fan day an open training session last Saturday, but for reasons unknown this didn't work for the FFA.

A young league and a young side needs to build emotional connections with its fan base - and there may be no better opportunity to do so than sharing in the joy of winning a trophy.

Many have pointed to the lack of free-to-air coverage as the source of the lack of the A-League's cut-through, but this thinking is dangerous in a whole stack of ways.

Firstly, the FFA is in the middle of TV negotiations so putting too fine a point on the power of FTA television isn't the greatest bargaining tactic - but it also passes the buck.

If football's plan is simply to wait until the game is on FTA (it actually currently is on SBS2) - then its thinking is sorely misguided.

It needs to realise that every single day is an opportunity to tell a positive story about football in Australia, to weave its own narrative and build connections with the broader community.

The passion is there, it just needs to be teased out from following European sides and into supporting A-League sides (as well).

In this, the biggest challenge in Australian football may not be getting more cash - but rather finding a compelling way to tell its own story.

Other sports know this.

The AFL has a massive in-house media unit, and as part of the current TV rights deal the NRL was able to secure the story-telling ability of News Corporation.

This is the competition the A-League is facing for consumer awareness and ad dollars.

The question which needs to be at the heart of every decision made regarding the league is: "how does this enhance our story"?

People have latched onto stories since the beginning of time, and football needs to figure out its own story - or people will stick with the established narrative that European football is the only 'legitimate' football.

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