Forget the Fury, let’s focus our anger on the future
Yesterday afternoon, Football Federation Australia confirmed the game’s worst kept secret and announced North Queensland Fury would not take part in the A-League next season, the club short of cash and the sport’s ruling body unwilling to stump up its own.
Given we’re one week out from the competition’s grand final, this is a Godsend for the anti-soccer brigade, who will pounce on any opportunity to shove all those “the world game will dominate” arguments back down the deluded roundball fanatics’ throats.
There’s no denying the decision to close the Fury is a body blow for the code but it’s not the death knell for football. In fact, forget the Socceroos – this is the time when football in Australia really comes of age.
Back in 2009 it all seemed so rosy. Gold Coast United and North Queensland joined the competition in a blaze of publicity, Melbourne Heart was a twinkle in Frank Lowy’s eye and the World Cup was a saucy dream that kept him awake at night.
Didn’t really work out, did it Frank? Clive Palmer has more notes in his money clip than there are fans watching Gold Coast United. Melbourne Heart have plenty of promise but the club’s main effect this season has been to split the city’s football fanbase.
The less said about the World Cup bid the better. It was like watching your ugly mate cracking onto a woman way out of his league, only to discover she was actually a lady of the night and he couldn’t afford her in the first place.
For many, the collapse of the Fury is symptomatic of FFA’s mismanagement and short-sightedness. The lack of planning and a business plan that went tits-up even before the end of the club’s first season was just another example of how the governing body over-reached itself in Townsville – to somewhere in between $6-9 million this season alone, depending on who you believe – in the rush to expand the competition and make our very expensive World Cup bid book look a bit more serious.
In their hurry to impress FIFA, FFA propped up new clubs without a degree of sustainability planning. Was Townsville seriously just supposed to fall in love with the Fury and provide the minimum $2m per season working capital needed to keep the club in working order?
The A-League certainly has its problems. Despite the indisputable rise in quality on the pitch, crowds are down again this season and a number of clubs are in real trouble. Without Nathan Tinkler, Newcastle Jets would have already gone under and Sydney FC, one of the supposed premier brands, seem to be tearing themselves apart again.
So how, after all this, can I argue that this is when football comes of age? Basically, there is nothing else to do. FFA have been forced into strategies of reduction and consolidation. Fewer clubs means less opportunity to stretch the game’s meagre resources so thin.
No Blatter-shaped dead-ends means the only direction to take is that of domestic development. No money means the game, its owners and its administration must all learn to live within their means (something happening in all soccer leagues around the world), with less posturing of that world game nonsense. Who cares if billions around the world love it – all that counts now is what happens here.
It is a dark day for the code, but it’s not like both the AFL and NRL haven’t lost clubs in the past. Football and the A-League will continue, smaller than hoped, but also more streamlined, more determined and, one hopes, a lot wiser. Still not convinced? Watch Brisbane Roar in the grand final in a week’s time. That’s what the future holds.
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