Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Loyalty

It was about three and a half years ago that I began this blog, on a high of enthusiasm for the new sport I have quickly grown to love. September 2006 was my first post. No mysteries about the timing.

The World Cup itself was over though so I launched automatically into following the A-League. Soccer has absorbed me since, and I count it as an important part of spiritual life, but I can no longer think of any compelling reason to follow the A-League.

Some may think I'm being mean or spiteful. "Why dis Australia's League?" they might ask. After all, it can only get better with support. If I love soccer then I should support the A-League anyway, right?

It's a reasonable argument, but really I just think I'm being honest about my response as a consumer. Regardless of how you do it, it costs money to follow the A-League. Not just $5 or something either, but hundreds of dollars a season - as much as a hard-core music enthusiast would spend on concerts, say. It has to be worth it. It's not. Increasingly it just looks like a circus, but without the quality entertainment.

The short of it is that the Brisbane Roar cannot repeat its original seduction of this consumer. This time they're going to have to realise a product that is worth it for me to seek out.

The next clamour of voices I hear are going on about "Loyalty." How you can't abandon support for your team when its down. There is allusion to the great English club traditions where fan-loyalty is tatooed onto a person's soul if not their body. I'm interested in this phenomena.

Now I have trod a twisted path so far in this life, having been involved in religious groups and political groups. I've heard the call for "Loyalty" before. In my mind it comes from a time of Protestant vs Catholic, English vs Irish, worker vs boss, a time of sharply deliniated and highly destructive divisions in an industrialised anglo-celtic world. "Solidarity brother!" "Discipline comrade!" "The workers, united, will never be defeated." "Manchester, United, will never be defeated." It's an old world, and not one that can avoid critique, especially as it gave rise not just to colourful fan cultures but to tribalism, hooliganism and violence. So sorry there, the Loyalty thing just doesn't rub. I'll make independent decisions about what I'll spend my money on, thanks.

Meanwhile of course The Brisbane Roar and the A-League are about as far away from the sorts of communities that evolved these fan-cultures as David Beckham is from Garrincha. Quite clearly they are businesses, as cynically run as any, who have no regard for the loyalty of these old fashioned fans whatsoever, especially as these loyal fans are not where they expect any growth to come from.

The modern Australian clubs are selling a product to consumers. That's absolutely fine - I'm not some sort of anti-capitalist - but let them sell it! There's a lot of good, inexpensive competition for entertainment. There's much better soccer on free pay-TV if you love the game itself, and if you just love supporting a team, it costs practically nothing to support the Brisbane Strikers, who, like the Brisbane Roar, are great for amateurs.

Anyway, the World Cup is the gig right now. 65 Days. Soccer is life. Life is soccer. But the A-League is an overpriced product.

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6 Comments:

Blogger collins said...

Hi Hamish,

I thought you might be interested in contributing articles to our sports site.

You can see the site here , www.thebigtip.com.au

You will see alot of AFL on there but where now just adding more sports writers like yourself.

We can help give you good exposure for your blog.

Can you email me at- liam@thebigtip.com.au

Cheers

Liam

April 09, 2010 8:34 pm  
Blogger john said...

Hi Hamish

I am hearing this 'loyalty' thing too.

And I would like to be loyal. However, the clubs aren't and the players aren't. The sporting market is too competitive for soccer to keep going just because of loyalty.

Actually, now I think of it - there is an exception. Matt McKay. Amazing that he has stuck with the Roar when he had much better offers and could have gone further. I do hope he is rewarded for that.

April 10, 2010 5:17 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Absolutely John re: Matty. Was just thinking earlier that fom the beginning of my following the Roar Matt & Mass have been the through-thread. So loyal and so hard-working. I too hope they are rewarded.

It's just as likely they'll end up shafted on a creaky limb, but perhaps I am merely at a cynical nadir.

Cheers.

April 10, 2010 6:08 pm  
Blogger john said...

I have been thinking that it is, in a way, wrong that so many Queenslanders are choosing to play elsewhere. FFA needs to build a local feel here. Shoj moving from Perth to melb - McCain saying he wanted to come home then staying in nz for another 3 years.

A lot of these players started with the strikers. That they or the Roar won't bring them back - or fury or gold coast - sends a message to fans. Who wants to pay to watch players they have never heard of?

April 11, 2010 8:49 am  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

There is SOMETHING that's been missing since about Season 2. Some sense of enthusiasm, connection between the club/board/players and the supporters, whatever. But in particular the fact that the individual clubs haven't been able to develop their own unique culture - and for that you can blame Matt Carroll, whose obsession with standardising the franchises has gone a long way towards making them such unattractive "brands".

I'll still follow the A-League of course, but I find I'm enjoying the NSW Premier League, with all of its faults, eccentricities and occasional insanity, much more.

April 13, 2010 12:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Hamish,

Looking from a very far distance away, I would say that there are some happy fans in the A-league.

Just not in Brisbane. Or Townsville. Or the GC.

It warmed my heart to see that knockout final in Welly when they filled the stadium.

So nice to see Perth finally have a winning season.

Interesting thing about loyalty - it is a two way thing. Sounds like those in power in Brisbane haven`t done anything to inspire (or deserve) loyalty from football fans.

Clayton

April 14, 2010 9:56 am  

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