So there’s national league in our country that is apparently on the verge of signing one of the biggest names in the world. You’d think the response to this news would be an overwhelming tick of approval from all angles. But this isn’t the case.
David Beckham – that’s right - the global icon and former captain of England and the star of it’s biggest club Manchester United, is reportedly interested in joining the A-League on a 10 week loan from his MLS (Major League Soccer in the US) club, LA Galaxy.
You would think this would be a huge boost for the game, on a local and international scale - not according to some pessimists. Many believe Becks joining the comp would turn the league into a circus.
Excuse me? The A-League has had a dream start to season eight. Turn the clock back to the start of this calendar year, and rich-boys (and club owners) Nathan Tinkler and Clive Palmer were threatening to pull their support, no one was turning up to the games and many were questioning the long term future of the competition.
Since then, three genuine stars (Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey) have joined the league, the Western Sydney Wanderers have had an impressive start to their debut season and one of the land’s best sports administrators David Gallop has taken over the top job.
The A-League is the highest domestic football competition in Australia is still in its infant stages, and can’t rest on its laurels like other sports. It can’t be dictated to by tradition knowing that it’s dyed in the wool faithful will continue to support the game through thick and thin.
All codes have to play to their strengths, and football’s undeniable asset in Australia is its links overseas. It’s the world game. Be proud of it. Embrace it. Pull in players from overseas who have a global reach, like Beckham and Del Piero, to inspire the next generation of Socceroos. The AFL and NRL can’t do this. If it’s not in their backyard, it’s not there.
There are so many options for the current day sports fan that a code has to do whatever it can to stand out from the crowd. Imagine if the bumbling NBL had the chance to secure Kobe Bryant or another aging basketball star for a short-term contract. It would be hailed as one of the great acquisitions.
This is why the Waratahs should be doing what ever it takes to secure a northern-hemisphere marquee signing like Brian O’Driscoll. Instead, those at NSW Rugby throw their arms up saying it’s all too hard, and that they’re satisfied with the playing group they have.
Despite what the anti-Beckham’s say about Mr Posh Spice just being a spectacle, and not adding any substance to the competition, the A-League still needs to grab headlines wherever and whenever it can. When Alessandro Del Piero landed in Australia in the middle of September (yep footy finals month), it featured on news bulletins right across the country. If it wasn’t for this story, the A-League would’ve had a handful of lines deep into the sports section of local newspapers about how [insert local club] is shaping up just weeks out from the season – not quite the blanket coverage that the Italian Superstar drew.
I’ve got sports mad mates who’d never heard of Alessandro Del Piero before he signed with Sydney FC, but since he has and they’ve seen the hype that goes with him, they’re tuning into the A-league and feel associated with a club for the first time since the competitions inception in 2005.
As Del Piero has shown in the months since he left Italy, big names signing bring headlines that lead to improved crowds, television ratings and mainstream interest. This will result in growth in the game. But it will take time.
The naysayers believe that rather than shell out big dollars to sign a 37-year-old,
the money should be invested it in growing and nurturing the game. But remember, the grass roots will only grow, when stars like Beckham shine bright above them.
What do you think? Leave a comment below or get me on twitter at @lmeyrick