A proposal to give Australian football a Twenty20 cricket-style makeover with lights and music during games met with widespread criticism on Tuesday as fans and media slammed the ideas as “cheap gimmicks”.
Fox Sports Australia said A-League head Greg O’Rourke has spent the off-season working with clubs to develop the proposed model, which takes its cue from cricket’s successful IPL and Big Bash League.
It could see safe smoke from flares in the stands, lights and even music played during the brief pauses before goal kicks, corners and substitutions. “We’re fully aware of what the Big Bash entertainment product is and how it attracts young families. We need to make sure we’re not closed off to that,” O’Rourke was quoted as saying.
“But equally we need to make sure the things in our game that we hold unique will be maintained. We’ll be treading carefully towards this to get the best of both worlds.”
Australia’s Big Bash League has been a smash hit since its inception in 2011, with large family-centred crowds entertained by blaring music, fireworks and quick-fire scoring. In contrast, the domestic football league has been struggling, with fewer fans through the turnstiles and tumbling TV ratings in a sports-saturated market.
“We want to see the return and growth of active fans that have a large, boisterous, entertaining, standing, singing, chanting culture,” added O’Rourke.
But not everyone is convinced, with fans taking to social media to dismiss the idea. “Big Bash is a niche cricket product played under different rules and over a compressed period. The A-League is our core domestic offering not a niche or supplementary product,” Remo Nogarotto tweeted.
Fellow Twitter user BK added: “The fans in the A-league ARE the atmosphere. Don’t need to try and create an artificial atmosphere,” while TRNA said: “How out of touch are these suits in charge?”
The Australian newspaper also hit out what it called “cheap gimmicks”. “If you want to do something positive then how about reducing ticket prices? How about getting better food deals for the fans,” said chief football writer Ray Gatt.
“They don’t want crappy music aimed at the hip-hoppers who get bored at the drop of a hat and would only turn up for a few games before moving on.”
The Sydney Daily Telegraph agreed, saying authorities should be working on more attractive ticket prices and better ancillary entertainment at stadiums before the games, and leave the atmosphere inside to the fans. “That’s the way forward, not a blast of music to signal that a goal kick has been given.”
With the backlash building, Football Federation Australia’s chief marketing officer Luke Bould took to Twitter to say: “Don’t believe everything you read,” without elaborating.