The A-League, the top tier of club football in Australia, is set to introduce a number of new game-day initiatives to try and drive fan engagement in the sport.
The league has suffered with declining attendances and lower television audiences and league officials are keen to capitalise on growing interest in the sport following the recent FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The 2018-19 A-League season gets underway in mid-October and fans can expect a different atmosphere on match days, with A-League officials pointing to cricket’s Big Bash League as a model to try and emulate.
“We’re fully aware of what the Big Bash entertainment product is and how it attracts young families,” A-League head Greg O’Rourke told the Australian Associated Press news agency.
“We need to make sure we’re not closed off to that. 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.”
One of the initiatives set to be introduced is ‘safe smoke’, with the Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix having agreed to a trial run of controlled flare releases at their stadia. Other plans include music and video during goal kicks, corners and substitutions
“We want to see the return and growth of active fans that have a large boisterous entertaining, standing, singing, chanting culture,” O’Rourke said.
“We’ve been doing a significant amount of work with the clubs, the police and also the active fan representatives about what would be important to them to attract them back and to allow them to grow.”
He continued: “The plan is based on what fans felt were missing out of an end of season review. Fans wanted more pre-game entertainment, more in-game entertainment and more at half time.
“Football globally has about 30 minutes when the ball is stopped or out of play. Some of those gaps can be filled. But not in the big derbies when you’ve got big active fans because the natural rhythm of the supporters is the strength of the game. When we’re at smaller stadiums or bigger stadiums with smaller crowds, we’ll use them.”