A-League deserves greater recognition
The Hyundai A-League is unique in a football sense and much like the USA's MLS it should get the recognition it deserves from FIFA.
In this Hyundai A-League this season, it isn-t such a long way to the top.
As the season ticks over the half way mark, Sydney FC sit at the bottom of the table with just 13 points. In other leagues around the world the relegation trap door would be creaking under the weight of such a disappointing campaign.
In this case, the Sky Blues sit just 4 points off 6th placed Brisbane Roar.
That-s a couple of wins away from being in the race for a finals berth and an unlikely shot at the title.
It seems that in The Hyundai A-League, hell aint a bad place to be after all. It-s a fair argument that such a tight league diminishes the moral hazard that comes with underperforming. In most leagues if you prepare poorly, play badly and refuse to address your weaknesses then relegation oblivion beckons.
There-s no greater incentive for struggling teams to improve than the ignominy of “the drop”.
With that threat being eliminated by the unique nature of The Hyundai A-League, the legitimacy of the competition is questioned in some quarters.
Certainly there are those who believe that a lack of a divisional structure with promotion and relegation as a function of the Hyundai A-League was a key factor in Australia-s failure to be taken seriously in its bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Added to the fact that Australian Football is yet to put a traditional “FA Cup” style competition on the menu as yet, from the outside Australia-s A-League could seem like a football facade masking a feeble interest in the game.
Of course that-s not the case.
Australian Football operates in a competitive environment where there are numerous other football codes also competing for talent, air time and revenue
It has had to establish itself on its own terms, ones which reflect the unique challenges that it faces.
Thus we have a summer competition, a masterstroke born of necessity. The clear air the game has been given by playing in the heat of summer has been invaluable to it establishing an identity all its own.
And it has become THE thing to watch this summer.
Walking into a pub in inner city Richmond on Tuesday to find the joint heaving with people glued to the Western Sydney Wanderers V Melbourne Victory game was quite an experience.
As Shinji Ono and Spase Dilevski added to this summer-s catalogue of golden goals the excitement was palpable.
Ten years ago who could have ever imagined that?
Still, there is work to be done to sell the legitimacy of The Hyundai A-League to the wider world.
Just recently FIFA boss Sepp Blatter took aim at the MLS in the United States.
In a wide ranging interview on December 28th with AL Jeezera, Blatter took aim at the MLS.
"Soccer, as they call football there, is the most popular game in the youth. It-s not American football or baseball, it is soccer. But there is no very strong professional league, they have just the MLS. They have not professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.”
Facing stiff competition from well established sporting organizations such as the NFL, NBA and MLB (to say nothing of the booming College sports scene) the MLS faces a similar challenge to the Hyundai A-League.
The MLS has a tight salary cap, no promotion and relegation, a finals system and new franchises working hard to connect with local communities.
Yet in the Imperial Court of Football in Zurich it, like us, has to beg for legitimacy.
Neither the MLS or the Hyundai A-League needs to justify itself to the FIFA Football Czars who sit in judgement of such things with their old world views.
Both leagues are a product of their unique circumstance and should be recognized for the degree of difficulty they face.
Its football, but not as they know it. And in that sense, we really are in a league of our own.