Well, at least we won a soccer cup bid…
There are consolation prizes and there are Asian Cup bids.
I’m not sure which is worse, given the news Australia was the only nation willing to host the 2015 Asian Cup - and given the shock horror announcement this morning we’d actually won the thing.
How does one ‘win’ a competition where there’s only one entry?
Detractors from other codes will chuckle, and question the validity of the event.
But does AFL or League have such a base in Asia, where a tournament can be staged with 16 nations - 12 of those credible competitors?
We all know the answer there, even if Messrs. Demetriou and Gallop think otherwise.
Bottom line, Australia got the rights to host what many - especially in Europe and the Americas - see as a third-rate tournament.
Third rate? I can hear the screams of anguish from the halls of SBS already, yet the Asian Cup sits fairly and squarely behind the World Cup, the European Championships, the South American titles and a couple of other tournaments in the big picture painted so eloquently by FIFA chief Sepp Blatter only last month.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash football (or soccer still to some). I’m trying to see where any benefit can be gained after the admission following our World Cup disaster that $45 million of taxpayer money was spent trying to secure the 2022 tournament.
And given the announcement that just $23 million is expected to return via a GDP boost as a result of these Asian games, it doesn’t take a Joe Hockey to figure out the economic loss.
What football needs right now is a new focus after the disappointment of the World Cup fiasco.
Yet our bid for the 2022 World Cup saw national newspapers devote front pages and spreads galore, and the Asian Cup ratification? Two thirds of a page five pages in from the back.
Even our own media is finding it hard to write a good news story.
But there should be plenty to build on if we are to be seen as a major player in Asian business as well as Asian sport.
The fledgling A-League is hardly fledgling anymore, given we’re in year six, yet it is still struggling to stay afloat in a saturated sports marketplace.
Its failure to connect with a growing grassroots - up three per cent again in 2010 - is the one main question mark against FFA boss Ben Buckley.
The former AFL executive has brought a lot of stability to the game at its higher echelons, but his organisation has failed to connect with the hundreds of thousands of players - and supporters - who still contribute more revenue by way of registration fees than any other code.
The A-League was seen by many as the link between the two.
It hasn’t happened - in fact in some franchise areas it has seen the gap grow even wider as fans of the code become more disenfranchised with a league that is either too expensive to watch, boring or just far inferior to what they can watch live on their TVs from Europe every weekend.
If they can watch it at all because A-League is only available on Pay TV - and free to air coverage in other sports has reaped obvious benefits - just look at AFL and League’s overall community standing.
AFL is currently spending around $9 million trying to grow its brand through NSW and Queensland. FFA’s model is the complete opposite, spending virtually zero.
The 2015 Asian Cup should - and I stress the word ‘should’ - be used as the catalyst to reconnect those at grassroots level with A-League, with W-League and with the Socceroos - without asking for more money.
A time to put back, a time to give the game a major lift at its base levels.
If the spin off from hosting an Asian Cup is to see funds made available to assist the tens of thousands running local clubs to give their kids the chance to aspire to reach the top - in Asia or Europe - then the bid can be seen as a success.
Because the consolation of losing the 2022 World Cup bid could be the establishment of the next generation of Socceroos, ready to challenge the world to even greater heights.
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