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Deal vs Develop

While watching the second half of the Brisbane vs Adelaide match last weekend, one remark from Fox Sports commentator Andy Harper regarding the A-League’s marquee player rules stuck with me.

His view on the current system is that it may be more beneficial for a club, both in the short and long-term, to take a promising talent from overseas and develop them into a marquee player (much like Thomas Broich at Brisbane and Carlos Hernandez at the Victory) rather than buying an ageing former star whose skills are nowhere near as good as they once were and making them the marquee, in order to reap some short term benefits in the stands (much like Robbie Fowler at Perth this season, and at the Fury last season).

Whilst I find myself often both disagreeing and mocking Harper for some of his views on the world game, and laughing hysterically at his tortured analogies and mixed metaphors (baby from a candy, anyone?), I couldn’t help but agree with him. Just looking at the attendances this year stands to reason that what Brisbane are doing with Broich is going to be more successful in the long term than what Perth are with Fowler. Perth started the year with crowds tipping 10 to 15 thousand, figures not seen since their ‘glory’ days in the old National Soccer League. Now thirteen rounds into the season, Perth are languishing towards the bottom of the table, Fowler has had a down year, and the crowds are losing interest in the novelty that Fowler was bringing to the team. So much so, that the crowd figure for last weekend’s home match at nib Stadium was only around six and a half thousand spectators, well down on their season average. Add to that the fact that, at age 35, this could well be Fowler’s final season as a professional, and you’re left with a poor result all round for the Glory.

Contrast that with Brisbane’s fantastic form and style of play through the first thirteen or so rounds this season, and the fact that Broich, at only 29 years old, is setting the league alight with his skills, selflessness and finishing. What do you get? The crowds are increasing, as more and more Brisbanites look to get on board whilst the team is playing such entertaining football.

Coming at it from another angle, Hernandez (a developed marquee, despite not filling a marquee roster spot in Melbourne) lifted the Victory to a premiership/championship double in 2008-09. Broich is well on the way to achieving the same, or similar, feat with the 2010-11 Roar squad. Fowler, on the other hand, provided a 7th place finish for the Fury last year, and his Glory currently sit 8th this season, with finals a minute possibility.

Now it would be naive to suggest that all fans come and go based solely on the quality of the team’s marquee player, and the hype surrounding them (although it can be a big deal-maker or deal-breaker for many fans). There are many other reasons as to why the public choose to attend or not. However, if I had the choice between seeing a team that have developed a marquee man and are playing fantastically entertaining football as a result, or seeing a team with a former Premier League star that are playing poorly, the decision would be a cinch.

So, is it better to develop a promising player into a marquee player, or buy an ageing star and hope for the short term benefits? I think that the best model for an A-League club, in terms of long-term benefit and ongoing success of the clubs and the league as a whole, would be the former.

Justin is the Editor and Creator of Ultimate A-League. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/justintickner

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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