Western Sydney’s A League Team And The Media’s Reaction

The Football Federation Of Australia (Soccer) has announced today that they will start up a Western Sydney based A League team. It has been interesting to see the way the media has reacted to the news, as they look for the dumbed down, sensationalist angle about a “code war” that doesn’t actually exist.

The A League kicked off in 2005 and at the time I thought it was a huge mistake to leave out Western Sydney as one of the foundation clubs. Western Sydney has a huge player base, bigger than anywhere else in Australia, and for any code to turn their back on that in my mind was a mistake.

Look at it this way…

The AFL will spend over $200 million dollars in the next five years to push their Western Sydney team. There are more Rugby League players in Melbourne than there are AFL players in all of Sydney. Yet, the AFL is going to try and throw so much money at this tiny base and hope that in 40 years from now, something may come of it.

Soccer in Western Sydney easily has the highest participation numbers of any sport, including Rugby League. Much of this does come from a phenomenon Soccer has to deal with in that, is it a simple and easy sport for kids to play, and parents and more comfortable having their kids play a minimal contact sport like Soccer over Rugby League.

As kids get older and can make their own decisions on what they want to play, many of them move into playing over sports, with Rugby League eventually being the most popular sport in Western Sydney by a long way.

Still, Soccer can say that up until a certain age group, they have a sizable captive audience here. Maybe a Western Sydney A League team would give kids in Sydney’s west that play Soccer something at aspire to. They just have to capture those kids attention for a couple of extra years longer than they do right now and it the world of difference to the A League.

Upon news of the new Western Sydney A League team, the media went into a stupid melt down talking about “code wars” and “battles”….all sorts of rubbish.

Looking beyond the fact that the A League is played over the summer and that it doesn’t really compete at all with the tradition winter football, the media still pushed this idea that Rugby League would be in for a battle and that AFL would not sit back and let this happen.

I felt the need to write when this all began.

For of all, the AFL, and their make believe push into Western Sydney.

The AFL will tell you they are pushing into Blacktown. This despite the fact they play and train at Homebush. The GWS team may have a lot of money behind it, but I have more followers on Twitter than this team has members in Western Sydney. $200 million dollars can go a long way, but it can’t polish over the fact that the GWS side blew its bolt before they had even played a game, they have a miniscule player and supporter base in Western Sydney, and as a business model, this team will lose more money for the AFL over the next five years than the A League’s entire broadcasting deal is worth!

The AFL and its GWS team is a very expansive facade. They will have no impact and no say on the A League expansion into Western Sydney.

Rugby League was also dragged into the media’s made up mess, and it is ironic because I think no two sports in Australia should work closer together than Soccer and Rugby League.

They require roughly the same sized fields and the same facilities. I also think that at the junior levels, and even going into higher age groups, they attract different types of people with a different sporting psyche.

Rugby Leagues place in Western Sydney will only every change if there was some sort of seismic shift in what the general culture of the area wants from sport and entertainment. A shift so large that it would effect every other sport anyway and would take generations to take hold.

Soccer in my opinion is very comfortable with its place in Western Sydney and I think it fears Rugby League as much as Rugby League fears Soccer….thats being, not at all. They offer different things to different people and their success is proven to not cannibalize the other sport.

So, this idea of a “Code War” in Sydney’s West is complete and utter bullshit. I say that as someone born and raised in Sydney’s west and who currently lives in Penrith. I don’t need some dip shit in the media to tell me what they think is going on out here.

What I hope is that the FFA is smart about the way they set up this A League team. They could very easily stuff things up. As a potential customer, there are certain things I want them to do to get me on board.

First of all, the name. In the past named like the “Rovers” and “Wanderers” have been tossed up, much to my horror. The last thing you want to do is saddle the newest A League club in your most important market with a rotten name from a Pommy club that will just make most potential fans switch off.

This team needs to belong to Western Sydney, not be borrowing a name from some club in another country.

I’d be happy enough with Western Sydney Football Club. What more do you really need? That says every you need it to say. Don’t listen to some marketing type with slick hair who talks fast, you don’t need some stupid mascot to get the kids onside because the fact is, you have the kids! They are already playing the game!

The colours will be important. Sometimes when a new team is started in a sporting competition, you know from the get go that they are the ugly ducklings of the competition.

The horror of Norther Queensland fans when they realized they would be wearing green. The great idea to have a Cricket team wearing pink. How about an AFL team wearing Black and….Dirt?

I personally think Black and White would be the way to go. It is simple, it looks good and it would play into the black of the Penrith Panthers and the black and white of the old Western Suburbs Magpies.

So where do they play games?

There is already talk they would play games at Parramatta Stadium, which I think is a mistake. We have seen teams in every sport try to establish themselves at Parramatta Stadium, and it just doesn’t work. Only the Parramatta Eels have lasted there for any length of time.

Its strange too because Parramatta Stadium is a nice stadium and based in a population center. For what ever reason though, it just a grave yard of sporting clubs. Hell, even the Eels aren’t setting the world on fire right now!

I think the Western Sydney A League team should split games between Campbelltown and Penrith for the most part. I would also look to try and get access to the AFL/Cricket Stadium at Blacktown.

Long term, the very best place for a Western Sydney A League team to be based at would be Blacktown. They would be the only show in town with no other major sporting club being based there and playing games there. Blacktown has a huge Soccer base….if the A League was able to secure funding for a 15,000 seat Soccer stadium in Blacktown, they would be set.

It is a big ask, but one that would be a real legacy for Soccer in Western Sydney.

Now, the A League and the FFA have just 6 months to get this club up and running. It is going to be a tough ask. They will make mistakes. If they can just get the basics right though, I think it would be a fantastic success.

As a life long Rugby League fan that also played Soccer as a youngster, I’ll be supporting them.

Now it is up to the FFA to get things right.

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