The A League Needs To Be Bold And Beautiful

On occasions, Australian football can be Beautiful. On Sunday morning in Riyadh, it was Bold. To succeed in the mainstream, it will need to be both. Ben Shine reports.

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On Sunday afternoon 17,000 sun-drenched fans at the SFS watched a uncharacteristically disciplined Sydney FC side methodically dispatch a Central Coast Mariners side short of confidence. Among the crowd was Ronn Moss – otherwise known around the world as Ridge Forrester, a character from the long running Soap Opera the Bold and the Beautiful.

In a week where Australian football reached dizzying heights with the Wanderers Asian Champions League triumph, the presence of this quasi-famous soapie star at an A League game was a sharp reminder of the glaring shortcomings in our local game.

For all its growth, for the A League and soccer football to be accepted in the Australian mainstream, it needs more soap opera.

Just like TPA Chief Executive Dave J. Edwards has argued that Rugby Union needs a good scandal, for the A League to succeed it will need to occupy the back pages, as well as the front pages.

More SCANDAL; not more SKANDO
More SCANDAL; not more SKANDO

Rugby league, and to a lesser extent the AFL, does a fantastic job of this. Despite diminishing entertainment returns on the actual field of play, the NRL has a canny knack of sustaining the public’s interest by forever embroiling itself in a series of off-field scandals.

For years it has seemed the NRL has a monopoly on low-brow, tawdry soap operas. Match-fixing. Assault. Drugs. Pissing in one’s own mouth etc etc.

This soap opera distracts from the game itself – but perversely that works in the NRL’s favour, helping to attract wider media interest to the sport. Like a philandering Karl Kennedy from Neighbours, Rugby League keeps on playing up, and yet like a loyal Susan, we always take him back.

If football wants to mix it with the big boys, it’s time the A League started eating away at the NRL’s lion’s share of the scandal market. It’s unrealistic to think this will happen overnight, but if the A League makes a few small adjustments, and borrows liberally from the script of popular soap operas, they could snaffle a few more column inches in Sydney Confidential.

First, the A League needs characters. Flawed characters, specifically. The next marquee at Sydney FC should not only be great at football, but he should also have well-documented substance abuse problems. Del Piero was too clean. Too family-friendly. Too approachable.

"All Night" Dwight was a smart, but the A League has lost its way in recent years.
“All Night” Dwight was a start, but the A League has lost its way in recent years.

The A League also needs conflict. Not confected derbies, but a good old fashioned personal feuds between players, coaches or owners. I’m talking Melbourne City’s John van’t Schip calling Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat a yellow-bellied rat f*cker – to his face – prior to kick-off, and then letting the pair have at it.

Like a good soap opera, there will also need to be some form of sexual infidelity or scandal. Whether it is happening or not, I think the world is ready for a coach-player homosexual relationship that is exposed after a player revolt on team selection.

Finally, a much loved character – who we all had assumed was long gone – should surprise us all by coming back. Like Harold Bishop in Neighbours, imagine the look on the faces of the Ramsay Street locals fans when Mark Viduka pulls on a Newcastle Jets jersey and started posting-up in the box just like in his Dinamo Zagreb days.

A formidable, yet traditional Number 9
A traditional, yet formidable Number 9

Rather than simply feting soap opera stars at a Sunday afternoon fixture, the A League head honchos should be sitting down with the likes of Ronn Moss and picking his brain. After decades working on the Bold and the Beautiful, he knows a thing or two about garnering eyeballs.

Instead, rather foolishly, it seems the A League is intent to walk a lonely road – trying to make it into the mainstream on the merits of the sport alone. Even Ronn Moss knows that good looks don’t get you everywhere. You need a juicy storyline. Preferably one with sexual overtones.

By Ben Shine

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