Saturday, April 30, 2011

LIVE - Wigan vs Everton - Premier League 2011

Everton take on Wigan away from home, can Everton continue their superb charge for Europe. Feel free to comment and discuss the game!

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Time to be timid has passed

By Paul Frederickson

Season 7 of the A-League is still an unbelievable 6 months from commencing, and whilst many see the competition in a difficult stage of its development it should be the hierarchy of the FFA that should be working harder than anyone to make sure the foundations are built more on solid work than best wishes. 

The FFA must focus primarily on the A-League, access to a better TV rights deal and then the national teams, in that order. For it is the national football competition that requires more than the seemingly scant attention that Buckley and his cohorts have given it so far.

The failed World Cup bid cost, "$46 million of Federal Government funding and could have brought Australia billions of dollars in economic activity", according to Peter Wilson of the Australian Newspaper (1).Whilst the majority of money was supplied by the Australian Federal government, how this money could have been by the A-League clubs and at grassroots football around the country! Whilst the chance to host the World Cup has passed for now the FFA seemed to put all their eggs in one basket in the hope that it would transfer to the national competition. This was always going to be a potentially artificial boost to the competition, as the euphoria from gaining and then hosting the world's most prestigious competition can never guarantee ongoing interest in the local game.

Where can the FFA improve their stance?
The FFA needs to be unapologetic in its bid to be a mainstay of the national football landscape. The times of being deferential to the other football codes must cease. The A-League has as much right to be part of the Australian football scene as the AFL, NRL and Super Rugby.

The product has visibly improved, teams like the Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners and in particular the Brisbane Roar displayed arguably the finest football standards witnessed in our domestic competition. The finals series was an unqualified success with the grand final played in from of an orange mass of 50,168 in one of the most dramatic grand finals of any code seen in this country.

                                Video courtesy of Fox Sports Australia (2)


The bane of the competition since its new incantation as the A-League. The crowds have declined in the past two seasons and there has been many reasons put forward for the decline and quite a few opinions on how it can be improved. I think that this is one the biggest challenges that faces the clubs for the next few years. Bigger crowds increase media reach and exposure, talk in workplaces and increased interest in the game by the general public. It also looks far better on television. How sad has Skilled Park looked in the first two seasons of the national competition with a near empty stand visible for almost every game? The lack of crowds around the league, and in particular stadiums such as Skilled Park, home of Gold Coast United do not inspire people to come for the noise and colour generated by larger crowds.

Having been to games at Skilled Park to watch the Gold Coast the stadium has no atmosphere and it must be very hard for a team to be inspired by skeletal support. Kudos must be give to the loyal band of supporters who do attend their team’s games week in, week out. It is not their fault that there are not more supporters at the local games. The clubs must continually engage the local supporter bases through engagement at local clubs and organisations, junior player clinics and attendance at club events. At the end of last season there were supporter forums held in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Whilst they were sparsely attended they allowed supporters to question local stakeholders, journalists and club administrators. This should have been done at the inception of the A-League but at least efforts are being made to communicate their thoughts and decision-making processes. These forums should continue in each state and be an annual affair.
Memberships are one way in which clubs can guarantee revenue and have some idea of potential crowds for each match, which can also be based on historical attendance patterns. Memberships for some clubs in Season 5 were increased by up to 73% in times of economic uncertainty, and whilst this was addressed by clubs in Season 6 many clubs will take years to recover the supporters that they disappointed in this period. Membership packages at most clubs are very reasonable with the lower priced rickets averaging at an incredible $19 per game.
Television and multimedia rights
The AFL has scored the biggest sporting rights broadcast deal in the history of Australian sport. The Wide World of Sport website reported that, "AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said the AFL would earn $1.253 billion from the 2012-16 deal, including a cash contribution of $1.118 billion." (3) This will leave future television deals for the other codes very hard to negotiate. The A-League television broadcasting rights are not due to be re-negotiated until the end of the 2011-12 season and with falling crowds, less teams in the competition than expected and the unsuccessful World Cup bid many are stating that the new deal could be worth as little as $3-$5 million dollars a year. The FFA has one very significant leverage point at their disposal, the Socceroos. The previous bid for the A-League was included in a deal that included the national teams games. At the time of granting the original television rights the FFA did not have a visible product to sell. The A-League has six years of highlights to market to broadcasters and should think outside the box. Many supporters have bemoaned the lack of free-to-air coverage of the A-League. It is suggested that if the FFA insist on some games being shown on FTA or even a highlights package available that they would receive less money in their broadcast deal. So be it. The long term gain associated with more mainstream exposure should be considered. The National Basketball (NBL) model should be considered. The NBL in the 80's and 90's had a FTA deal backed up with fierce rivalries and good crowds. Once the FTA deal was transplanted to a minimal subscription television deal crowds decreased, teams such as the Brisbane Bullets ceased to exist (other financial factors were involved) and the league went into a hiatus that it is only just recovering from. This recovery has coincided with a new FTA deal.

Unfortunately, no Free to air channel has publicly proposed an offer for the A-League. Thus we are left with, $0 from FTA versus whatever the A-League may muster from Fox Sports. It must be noted that Fox Sports have offered excellent coverage of the A-League for those who can afford the subscription television costs.

What else must the AFL consider in regards to broadcasting rights?:
The FFA should also consider online broadcasting rights as well as the medium of television:
* Games on demand using Internet and smart-phones could be offered to consumers. This is already offered on Fox Sports Australia for the English Premier League.
*Season highlight DVDs should be available for consumers. Currently only Grand Final DVD packages are available.

Free to air advertising for games is essential for people to know when games are on. To save on costs a generic format could be used with the details of the upcoming week's games being the only change that would be required each week.On-line commercials through mainstream newspaper websites would increase exposure to the A-League. There has been a distinct lack of A-League advertising after season one. Whilst the A-League can not force the mainstream media to write about football they can be in the media by paying for the exposure.
                                         Season 1 A-League commercial.

Smaller Tournaments
The 2015 Asian Cup may not have the lustre of a World Cup tournament but it is a chance for Australian football to show the quality of our organisational management, event hosting capabilities and excellent stadiums. This is perhaps another way that football can be wider part of the football landscape.
Government Review
The FFA have announced that all football operations of the national body and league will be reviewed under a government inquiry.The FFA website states (4):

Former Federal Sports Minister and current Chairman of the Australian Sports Commission, the Hon. Warwick Smith, AM, has been appointed to head a review of football in Australia in partnership with Football Federation Australia (FFA).

It will be interesting to see if the review is one of suggestions or criticisms. I personally hope that the review is a progressive and balanced view of the Australian game. If so, the Smith review should be one that is embraced by the football community. Any directions or initiatives that are suggested should be seriously considered by the board of the FFA.
Season switches
A premiership and cup winning team is usually a model of consistency. Consistency and certainty is the minimum that a fan of any competition can ask for. The FFA have changed the A-League season dates yet again with the 2011/12 installment commencing late October so as to not compete with the AFL and NRL finals series. This does mean that the finale of the next season will take place at the commencement of these seasons. No matter which way the FFA manipulate the draw the A-League will compete with these leagues at some stage. Many people are waiting on next season's draw in the hope that they may plan away trips. The away colours of opposition supporters have decreased dramatically in the past two seasons and the away strips create banter, opposing songs and fun at A-League matches, something that the league desperately craves. Unless the FFA introduce new teams to the competition the season dates should be the same each season. Our competition needs to be visibly consistent for our sponsors, the general public and the most important stakeholders of all, the fans.

The FFA needs to proactively promote the A-League. Aggressive marketing, aggressive negotiations.Fans need to be pro-active and buy memberships and merchandise. People power, as observed in Egypt in recent times, is not just about statements but action.

Have Lowy and Buckley done enough in their time in charge of the FFA?

What would you do differently and why?

Do you follow the Premier League but not the A-League, and why?

(1) Peter Wilson, "Australian World Cup bid team caught out lack of support", The Australian, December 10, 2011.
(2) "Roar comeback to take title", Fox Sports Australia, March 13, 2011.
(3) "New AFL broadcast rights deal announced" Wide World of Sports, April 28, 2011.
(4) "AFC Asian Cup Focus of Football review", April 27, 2011.

Mourinho meltdown, could get him introuble with UEFA!

After Madrid's loss to Barcelona at the Bernabau in the Champions League Final, Jose Mourinho has once again found himself in hotwater. The master tactician has caused a stir with comments he made about the match in the post-game press conference.

During the rant Mourinho went on to talk about the unfair reffing decisions he believes he was on the end of. He was obviously referring to the Pepe sending off and even the sending off of he himself after the incident. However amongst these things Mourinho claimed that if Barcelona win the Champions League they will do so knowing that they cheated to reach the final. These comments have Barcelona outraged and talk has been that the Catalan giants are close to reporting Mourinho to UEFA.

The consequences could be devestating for Mourinho, with talks of extended match bans, monetary fines both to club and individual, as well as an overall bad reputation for Madrid, who look to be out after the 2-0 loss.

The fate of Mourinho wil be decided in the next few days.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Young versus old in the A-League

This week 35 Scott Chipperfield signed a contract extension with FC Basel which, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, will keep him at the club until June 2012 (1). This effectively shuts the possibility of a return to Australia to play in the A-League for the Socceroos veteran. With sporting careers rarely spanning more than a decade and the amount of the contract unsubstantiated who can blame the veteran for obtaining one more valuable contract for his family? The A-League promised a return of the 'golden generation' of Socceroos but that has yet to fully materialise. Should we be concerned at the lack of interest of these players in returning to the A-League or is this giving a new generation of starlets the chance to truly shine?

We have had stars come back haven't we?

Craig Moore came back to the Brisbane Roar and after an initially successful stint as Brisbane captain fell out the new and current A-League winning manager Ange Postecoglou. Craig wanted the backing of the board, it was him or Ange. Brisbane will forever be thankful for the decision to keep the right man at the helm. Moore's exit from the Roar somewhat tainted his time at the Roar. Former Roar CEO Peter McLennan was quoted in the SMH, stating(2):

"On at least two occasions during that time Craig issued me with the ultimatum that either Ange went or he went," McLennan said.
C+ Grade

Danny Tiatto returned to Australia with a checkered history in the English leagues, but as a former 23 game Socceroo, he too was heralded as a successful coup for the A-League and Brisbane Roar. After 2 goals in 49 appearances, playing primarily as a defender, he was sacked in Postecoglou's sweeping 2010 review of the Brisbane based club. His time in the A-League would be considered mildly disappointing with ill-discipline once again letting Tiatto down.
C- Grade

Jason Cullina left PSV Eindhoven in a shock to many football pundits around the world. At the peak of his career Cullina announced that he would join the fledgling A-League outfit, the Gold Coast United in their inaugural 2009/10 campaign. It was argued that it would cost him his spot in the Socceroos squad which, besides injuries, has yet to do. He has now joined his father at Newcastle United for the 2011/12 season. So far it could be argued that he has been the A-League's perfectly aged and performing, returning Socceroo.

B+ Grade

John Aloisi
It was suggested that the return of the World Cup Qualifying hero Aloisi would see a plethora of goal-scoring feats that would take the A-League by storm. In a 75 game A-League career, which spanned three clubs and included an A-League title and 27 goals could be, some would say unfairly, seen as an almost disappointing result for such a talented forward.
C+ Grade

Josip Skoko
A new club, met an old football friend Josip Skoko and the Melbourne Heart had their first marquee player. In what shaped as a talented squad tipped for a finals campaign in their inaugural season the Heart, like Skoko, showed flashes of brilliance but consistent inconsistency!
D+ Grade

Kevin Muscat
Talented, gritty, loved and hated in equal measures. The 'winner' of the league who captained Melbourne Victory to two A-League Championships will be remembered for 'that tackle' on Adrian Zahra, and maybe even his, 'love and tickle' with old mate John Kosmina. Always in the headlines, something that the A-League will take in almost any format, he has to be deemed an A-League, returning success.
A Grade

Fight night: John Kosmina comes to grips with Kevin Muscat when the teams last met at Telstra Dome. Picture: George Salpigtidis Herald Sun

We want and wanted these stars back!
The FFA, huffed, and they puffed, but they have yet been able to lure any of these bona fide stars back to the fold.
Harry Kewell
The former Leeds teenage prodigy would be the ideal signing in a stagnating Sydney market. The looks, the skills and history would make him an ideal marquee player to match the heights of 'all night' Dwight Yorke from season one. Sadly, if he does come back to play a part in the A-League, the return may be more likely as an owner or manager.
Lucas Neill
It has been reported that Neill is looking to return to Australia, possibly playing for a Sydney based club. More in the mould of a Craig Moore than a Harry Kewell, would he bring people through the turnstiles?
Mark Viduka
Some would say Australia's greatest export. How many of us would have loved to see the V-Bomber play as an out and out striker as he did as a precocious teenage talent plying his trade for the Melbourne Knights in the old NSL? Sublime skills, and a deft touch that always brought team mates into the game, Viduka has been seen in the stands watching the Heart instead of gracing the fields.
Tim Cahill
One of Everton's best players and arguably Australia's best current player would be a superstar in the A-League and would have fans young and old attending games even as a neutral fan. His marketing presence and pull would also generate much needed income for the A-League. His passion for the game would be mirrored by adoring crowds.

Those who have briefly sparked and may yet shine bright!
For some these are the stars of tomorrow, for others they have already set the league alight!

Dario Vidosic, Fabian Barbiero, Luke DeVere, Matthew Leckie, Matthew Ryan, Mustafa Amini, Nikita Rukavytsya, Robbie Kruse, David Williams and Tommy Oar. Some of the young names that have all graced the A-League, some have played for the Socceroos, Olyroos and some have ventured to bigger clubs in both Asia and Europe. If you look at the lists of every A-League club there are stars in the making and players who you already want to watch on a weekly basis.

When the A-League started I focused on the experienced players from around the world that were signed by each club and looked forward to seeing them in an Australian competition. Whilst there has been the odd success, Flores, Van Djik, Hernandez, Fred, Broich, Yorke and Smeltz, these players have been the exception to the rule. I now look forward to seeing the unknown youngster flourish in our national competition. This is now more of my focus as a supporter than who is coming back to play for our teams at an older age.

We, as supporters, can always say that we saw the future stars play for and against our teams. It also gives young supporters a role model for their own career paths. That can only be good for Australian football.

Who do you like watching in the A-League?

Which young players do you think will be stars of the future?

Who would you like to see come back and play in the competition?

(1) "Chipperfield shuns move to Sydney FC", The Sydney Morning Herald, April 25, 2011.
(2) "Brisbane Roar release skipper Moore", The Sydney Morning Herald, December 31, 2009.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Real Salt Lake 0 - 1 Monterrey (2 - 3 agg) (CONCACAF Champions League Final)

Major League Soccer (MLS) side Real Salt Lake have fallen at the final hurdle and seen their 37 game unbeaten streak ended by Mexican outfit Monterrey 1 - 0 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

After both teams drew 2 - 2 in the first leg, there was all to do for both teams as they fought to be crowned champions of North American football and securing a berth in the next edition of the FIFA Club World Cup

All it took was a lone goal by Chilean international Humberto Suazo in the 46th minute to secure the win for the defending Mexican league champions, making it 3 - 2 on overall aggregate.

Despite enjoying a strong start to the match, Real Salt Lake failed to maximize their chances particularly through Argentine forward Fabian Espindola.

A late surge in attack by Javier Morales and Jamison Olave (both of Real Salt Lake) wasn't enough for the Monarcas as Monterrey ended their attempt to become the first MLS side to take home the CONCACAF Champions League title and entry into the FIFA Club World Cup.

Watch extended highlights of the final here:

By Marcel Abboud

One Foot into the UEFA Champions League Final: Manchester United FC and FC Barcelona Secure First Leg Wins

Perhaps two of the world's most dominant teams have each secured one foot into the UEFA Champions League final, with Manchester United and FC Barcelona each securing 2 - 0 wins over FC Schalke 04 and Real Madrid respectively.

The first of the ties saw the Red Devils travel to Gelsenkirchen in Germany to face this season's Champions League surprise packet Schalke. In a very entertaining first half which saw Manchester United squander a number of chances to take the lead, the heroics of Schalke keeper and suppossed United target Manuel Neuer
was the main talking point as the 23 year old made sure nothing went past his goal.

In the 66th minute the deadlock was finally broken as Wayne Rooney slipped through a nice through ball to veteran Ryan Giggs who slotted it home. Moments later, Rooney added himself to the scoresheet thanks to a Hernandez pass making the score 2 - 0.

Watch extended highlights of the Red Devils win here:

The second tie saw the third installment of the El Classico, as Real Madrid entertained heated rivals FC Barcelona. In typical Barcelona fashion, the first half possesion was mostly dominated by the Catalan men, forcing Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas to pull off a few saves from shots thanks to Xavi and David Villa.

An on-field scuffle between the two team soon ensured and eventually Real Madrid were forced to play the game with ten men as Pepe was given his marching orders (and oddly enough, Jose Pinto the Barcelona second keeper was also given a red card...)

With under 15 minutes left, Messi breached the Madrid defense and delivered a sublime hammer-blow slotting his 51st goal of the season, before skimming past three Madrid defenders to add to the scoreline in the 87th minute with a cool Messi style finish. Watch highlights of the game here:

szólj hozzá: RM 0-2 BAR - Highlights

The two wins see Manchester United and FC Barcelona with each one foot in Wembley in May, leaving both FC Schalke 04 and Real Madrid with a hugs mountain to climb.

By Marcel Abboud

LIVE - Real Madrid vs Barcelona - Champions League 2011

The third of the El Classico's kick off. Catch all the updates herre. Feel free to add your comments.
We will provide minute by minute updates as well as half time analysis.
If you have questions or requests for further coverages. Let us know!

 You do NOT have to subscribe to comment, so by all means feel free to take part in the discussion

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FC Schalke 04-Manchester United FC 0-2 (Champions League semi final). 26-04-2011

PTA Live Commentary Information

With the introduction of the new chat feature on PTA we are now able to post live updates of matches for those of you unable to access coverage of matches.

How it works?

Well it's simple really, we will post what games we will offer commentary for and all you simply have to do is go to the link we provide you with just a few minutes before kickoff.

The chat feature enable you to talk to the other people reading the updates as well as the person providing the updates. They will be minute by minute action so you do not feel as though you are missing out on the game.

Try out the Chat feature below and let us know what you think! Feel free to let your friends know about it too. The more the better!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Will the FFA Cup capture your imagination?

The FA Cup format is to be somewhat copied by the A-League in a bid to capture the minds, hearts and hip-pockets in an ultra-competitive football market. The somewhat unimaginatively titled FFA cup is expected to kick-off in January of 2012. But can it replicate the history and mystique of the FA Cup or will it merely be another blip in what is fast becoming a crowded radar of FFA miscalculations?

The FA Cup is arguably the most famous football final in the world. The first FA Cup competition was held in 1871-72 and had fifteen entries (1). This season will see Manchester City playing Stoke City on May 14 at Wembley Stadium. One of the two teams will win their first major trophy since the 1970's. Millions from all over the world, across multiple time-slots, televisions, pay television and Internet sites will watch the match at home, in pubs and at the game itself. It has captured the imagination of people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds across the globe.

Why has the FFA decided to adopt an FFA Cup?

After six seasons of the A-League two teams have disbanded, there has been multiple club owners, and the FFA has changed season dates to combat the might of the AFL and to a lesser extent the NRL. An FFA cup will see teams from all over the country contest the competition in a move that football fans of all levels in Australia have been asking for since the inception of the A-League. The FFA could be seen to be placating fans of the game as well as building a platform for state clubs to be a vital part of the national competition.

The format of the cup is yet to be released by the FFA but is expected to follow a similar qualifying path to Victoria's recently founded Mirabella Cup.

The state teams who participate may derive much needed revenue from staging the cup matches. SBS's Daniel Phan (2) reported that, "That means state league venues will welcome visiting A-League sides and are expected to yield gate revenue and generate publicity for clubs that would otherwise struggle to draw media attention and substantial crowd numbers regularly." This may generate much needed revenue to state clubs that will also benefit the future of the game at the grassroots level.

The FFA will also compensate state league clubs with their travel expenses. The FFA Cup will not be a cheap competition to run but the short term cost could be just the boost that Australian football needs.

Granted, it may take a minnow to beat one of the A-League teams to capture the media and public attention but even this attention may be negative if people focus on the A-League team's loss instead of one of the State team league's win. If the FFA cup runs smoothly, then along with the regular season and ACL participation the A-League is adding layers of texture that the Australian football public has been demanding. Let's hope that the cup is talked about for years to come!

What do you think of the FFA Cup? Would you attend a game?

(1) History of the FA Cup:
(2) Phan, Daniel, Positive signs for the FFA Cup:

By Paul Fredrerickson

Game of two Halves: Can Australia get goal-line technology over the line?

World Cup 2010, the crowd is on tenterhooks as England push forward looking for the equaliser against a young and impressive German team. Frank Lampard's rocket of a shot smacks into the crossbar and almost as one the England team celebrate the goal and the 2 all scoreboard in the 38th minute of the second round match.

But the Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda waves play on to the disbelief of the England team, English fans and football fans world-wide. Television replays show that the ball clearly crossed the line but this article has not been written in judgement of the referees, it is written to suggest, as many have done before me that the world game requires goal-line technology.


FIFA have stated their reluctance to use such technology, as reported on the WWOS website (1): "FIFA president Sepp Blatter, currently opposes introducing video and goal-line technology because he says it is too expensive to apply worldwide and would break up the flow of games."

Do these arguments have credence?

Let's look at the flow of the game. It would be a rare occasion on where this technology would be required and would not add significant time to the game. This time would be added in the same way that injury time is added to each half. To reduce the chance of the reviews being used as a time-wasting tactic, the decision to review the goal-line decisions would only be used at the discretion of the referee.

If money is the significant handicap to the adoption of the technology the cost of goal-line technology in its infancy could be minimised by the use of cameras focused on the goal-line. This is opposed to GPS trackers located in the ball and on the goal-line. Whilst this too is not perfect it is a significant improvement on not being able to review the goal decision at all.

Australia could be the perfect place to start the technology revolution. In many ways Australia has led the world in use of world record lines in swimming and 'hawk-eye technology' as well as 'hot-spot' technology in cricket. The FFA can lead the way, showing more than our video suggested for the failed 2022 World Cup bid presentation.

The decision to go to the technology could be done by an assistant referee located in the stands along the
same lines as both the NRL and cricket. The other option is to follow the example of the NFL in America where the referee uses a camera on the sideline to review the goal-line decision. By reviewing
the decisions in this way the referee is not replaced but has the ability to determine if the close call was a goal or not. If the referee is not convinced that the ball has crossed the line then he doesn't give the goal, this is in no way different to what the referee would currently do.
This is where Australia's skilled cameramen and technology experts can put both the A-League and Australian football on the map and lead the way. Something that can be followed by not only other leagues but taken up by the ultimate power in world football, FIFA.

People have argued that this technology should be extended to penalty decisions. At this stage I am opposed to these type of reviews as the decisions are far more subjective than the decision on if the ball has completely crossed the goal line or not. If goal-line reviews are seen to be successful then discussions on increasing the review process are certainly viable and welcome.

How would you feel if your team drew or lost a game due to one decision? Don't answer that too loudly, but at least with goal-line technology we have the ability to reduce the chances of a disallowed goal. This also takes pressure off those who are already subjected to enormous pressure, those people that are as vital part of the game as any other, the referee.

(1) FIFA quiet on denied England goal: Wide World of Sport, June 28, 2010.

By Paul Fredrerickson