Opinion

Time to take the A-league to a world desperate for football

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It may not be the biggest of international audiences but a section of Chinese gamblers have long had a soft spot for the A-League.

The minimal time difference, the trust in the results and the competitive nature of the tournament means there has been an online audience in that country for a while.

Some have even become fans and when A-League clubs travel to the Middle Kingdom for AFC Champions League games, they go and cheer on the visiting teams - after placing a cheeky bet on the outcome, of course.

Now however, the A-League has an opportunity to move around the world.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought football in Europe, Asia and elsewhere to a halt. China and Japan are tentatively talking of May restarts but the odds of that are still uncertain.

It seems like Europe has longer to wait before the beautiful game returns to stadiums, televisions and mobile devices.

The A-League is, however, still playing.

Whether that is the correct course of action is a debate for another day, but at the moment, this means that the competition is now one of the best and highest-profile of those in action - anywhere.

At a time when football fans around the world and especially in Asia and Europe are starved of things to watch, now is the ideal time to get the A-League on screens and tablets in as many places as possible.

There are some fans that will do other things but the number of those that just want to watch some competitive football should not be underestimated. The current reruns of past games and seasons only go so far.

There is still a thirst for live football. The A-League is coming to its final stages.

Sydney are out in front but there is plenty of jockeying for finals positions.

There is much drama to be had. There are plenty of names, Robbie Fowler is recognised around the world, that will be familiar to fans near and far.

The next few weeks can be billed as a chance to get to know the rest - the teams, the players and coaches - ahead of the finals series.

In Australia, the drama, excitement and heartbreak that these provide have been enjoyed for years but now it is time for an international audience to witness scenes such as Erik Paartalu heading in a late equaliser in 2011.

In these unprecedented times, the usual rules don’t apply or, at least, they can be discussed.

A few phone calls and emails to international broadcasters or media rights agencies and the offer of some immediate quality football action presents a win-win situation.

Suddenly sports channels have some serious space to fill in their schedules.

Those places around the world that already broadcast A-League games should be encouraged to put them front and centre as much as possible.

Any extra content and information needed to increase knowledge and awareness and add context can be provided.

The A-League presents a temporary solution for other broadcasters.

This is a great chance to showcase the competition. Obviously the lack of fans means that there is going to be a surreal atmosphere that comes through to the viewer but all will understand the reasons for the empty stadiums.

It also means there will be no comparisons made with the big European leagues. It is all about what happens on the pitch.

At the very least, it can’t hurt. At the very least, fans around the world will appreciate the opportunity and it may well be that those who watch the action in the coming weeks, when there is nothing else to do, will become longer-term supporters even when things, hopefully, return to normal.

The equation is simple: fans around the world are being starved of football; Australia has football.

It’s time to bring the two together.