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Report on the Hyundai A-League Season 6 launch

Fan Made?

(FFA CEO Ben Buckley launches Season 6 - "Fan Made"')

The 2010-2011 Hyundai A-League season 6 was launched on Monday afternoon, 2nd August 2010, at 'Simmer on the Bay', behind Wharf 2/3 Walsh Bay, Hickson Road, Dawes Point, in Sydney - overlooking the harbour.

(Players, coaches, media, and FFA staff mingle pre-launch')

FFA CEO Ben Buckley and Hyundai CEO Edward Lee officially launched the event, while Fox Sports presenter Simon Hill was master of ceremonies.

(Simon Hill of Fox Sports and formerly SBS)

(Hyundai CEO Edward Lee launches the 6th season of Hyundai sponsorship')

Ben Buckley introduced HAL 6 ... "For season six the Hyundai A-League does not stand still as we see the introduction of a new team, new players, new coaches, new rules, a new purpose built venue and an expanded format and new time slots."

"Season six of the Hyundai A-League not only expands from 10 to 11 teams but also sees the competition expand in matches and introduces a series of midweek fixtures commencing on September 15 when Melbourne Victory host Wellington Phoenix. This season sees an extra 30 games with an increase from 135 to 165 matches," continued Buckley.

"We also see the introduction of regular midweek matches which will test the resolve of players endurance, our Coaches' ability to manage more matches in essentially the same period of time, our medical and conditioning teams and of course our fans' nerves and anxiety levels as they ride the highs and lows of a season.

"While the players and coaches and clubs are the ones that make the spotlight each week let us not forget the passion and commitment that we see week in and week out from our fans. "There are no other fans in Australia that are as passionate, inspiring, organized and as dedicated", he concluded.

In attendance were all captains and coaches of the participating teams as well as selected players.

Rini Coolen (coach), Travis Dodd, Fabien Barbiero (Adelaide United)
Ange Postecoglu (coach), Matt McKay, Luke DeVere (Brisbane Roar)
Graham Arnold (coach), Alex Wilkinson, Oliver Bozanic (Central Coast Mariners)
Miron Blieberg (coach), Jason Culina, Michael Thwaite (Gold Coast United)
John van 't Schip (coach), Simon Colosimo, Kristian Sarkies (Melbourne Heart)
Ernie Merrick (coach), Kevin Muscat, Adrian Leijer (Melbourne Victory)
Branko Culina (coach), Michael Bridges, Tarek Elrich (Newcastle Jets)
Franz Straka (coach), David Williams, Gareth Edds (North Queensland Fury)
David Mitchell (coach), Naum Sekulovski, Victor Sikora (Perth Glory)
Vitezslav Lavicka (coach), Terry McFlynn, Nick Carle (Sydney FC)
Ricki Herbert (coach), Andrew Durante, Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix)

(Kevin Muscat and Graham Arnold in discussion with Ray Gatt of the media)

(Players waiting to be introduced)

The launch of this season marks a watershed for the League in some ways. When started in 2005 many of the targets and timelines and restrictions were predicated on the first 5 years. We are now passing that key point and on into the unknown to some extent. Expansion continues, albeit shakily, with North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United, HAL 5 entrants, now added to by Melbourne Heart (and the prospect of Sydney Rovers in next season).

How will season 6 go? Well off the park having Hyundai still on-board as naming sponsor is a huge plus, but it has to be said that in season 5 to most observers the FFA took it's eye off the ball.

Sure it was consumed with the World Cup (qualification, then the Cup in South Africa itself), and the bids for the 2018/2022 World Cup and 2015 Asian Cup, and the Matildas Asian Cup triumph! All positives for football but the A-League went backwards off the park. Crowds were down along with media coverage. Certainly also many committed fans are not happy with the FFA and its approach to stadium security, scheduling of games, and their carriage of finals series.

Financially almost all clubs are struggling with operational costs; and recoup on investment a long way off, however they are still there! A long way from the latter years of the former regime's National Soccer League when clubs fell over, or were pushed, on an all too regular basis.

How about on the park? Well many will say it went backwards in HAL5 on the park as well but there were many areas of hope - especially in young players breaking through into the first team ranks, and some better quality imports from a greater range of football pedigrees. The feel about things on the park this season is positive. Even more imports of a quality that can be tested, and in the coaching ranks Rini Coolen (Adelaide) and John van 't Schip (Heart) join the Dutch 'mafia', Czech Franz Straka (Fury) adds more to the mix, and the return to club coaching of former assistant national coach Graham Arnold - their impact will be interesting to observe.

The A-League remains a creature of the FFA rather than more independent as envisaged by the Crawford Report that was instrumental in establishing the new governing body in 2003/2004. This hinders getting more ACL places among other things (such as keeping a focus) but we may be commercially some time away from resolving independence.

It remains to be seen whether real lessons have been learnt, and if new leader Lyle Gorman (ex Central Coast Mariners) can or is allowed to drive the changees required through CEO, not to mention Director and board levels.

The marketing and advertising efforts will need to be much better, and building better relationships with fans and indeed the clubs will be important. Competition for the hearts and minds of Australians is hitting new highs in sport, and this in a climate of financial restraint.

(Simon Colosimo and John van 't Schip (Heart))

(Travis Dodd and Rini Coolen (Adelaide))

(Gareth Edds and Franz Straka (Fury))

(The Qld 'Miron and Ange Show'! What are you doing with your hand Ange?')

The 11 A-League clubs supporter groups will battle it out for the inaugural title of 'best fans of the year' as recognition of their contribution the FFA also revealed today at the launch. This award is part of what new A-League boss Lyall Gorman describes as the major "point of difference" between A-League football and the other so-called 'football' codes in this country. It is not clear how it would actually be judged, which fans groups would be eligible among the number at some clubs - but the FFA is confident the award would further entrench the "fan made" ethos now being used to advertise the league.

A season to look forward too! Starting on Thursday evening with Melbourne Heart FC hosting Central Coast Mariners at the Melbourne Football Stadium (AAMI Park). See link to fixtures down below.

(Miron hands over to Jason Culina)

(NZ Hero Ricki Herbert and Phoenix captain Andrew Durante)

(Ben Buckley again)

(Good level of media interest building)

(Media interview players)

(Sydney's Walsh Bay Wharf area)

View or download the HAL 6 fixtures here: FFA Listing in pdf

Report and photos by Chris Dunkerley 2 August 2010

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