Saturday, 9 January 2016

You can merge the stats, but can you merge the stories? Probably not.

So, FFA is merging the NSL and A-League statistics. About time many of you will say, and there was once a time that I would've agreed with this move, but not now. Rather, the rhetoric and the reality of the situation have long ago worn me down to the point where token gestures like this only serve to make me despair even more.

Several people have called for this move over the years, perhaps most notably Australia's soccer statistician par excellence Andrew Howe, on the FFA website no less - an article which incidentally had its visitor comments deleted, many of which were very much against the idea of merging the stats (and you can imagine the usual racist junk in there); though Joe Gorman's sort of follow up article garnered a more positive response. And there will be those South fans who will be glad to have acknowledgement of our success. But what does it mean in the long run? To my mind, not very much. And as far as I'm concerned, it;s not even about FFA having had so many opportunities over the past decade to have made this decision.

Do we have a chance to add to those records? No, of course not. Our records will remain in a persistent vegetative state, with no chance to be improved upon. We've had to endure eleven years of derision, ignorance, belittling, omission and finally being turned into food trucks without wheels. After all that, why not merge the stats? It's almost the perfect final insult - 'hey, let's celebrate 40 years since the birth of the NSL, the league we replaced and whose legacy and people we rubbished without mercy'. The timing, too, could scarcely be more convenient - with two A-League teams on three titles each, one of them is bound to match the record four of South Melbourne, Marconi and Sydney City - records which as we've noted, none of those teams can possibly add to.

As always, these things are done from both a position of power, and as a demonstration of power. When the 'old soccer/new football' and 'pumpkin seed eaters' comments were made, it wasn't offhand or accidental - it was just another demonstration of what the new ideology was all about. There was nothing 'unfortunate' about it, as Simon Hill has claimed, especially since his main employer was as responsible as any organisation for pushing this angle and persisting with the rigid distinctions between old and new. Now that we, that is the bitters, are even less of a threat - persistent pipe dream internet promotion/relegation chit chat aside - being brought back into the fold in this symbolic manner changes what exactly? Symbolism's great, and it's important - I would have an even more tenuous grip on my so called career if I believed otherwise - but where is the change in the material conditions?

There will be those that will be happy in one way or another with this, and others who will tell us that we should be grateful that they're doing this at all. But it's not even a week ago that we had the Melbourne Victory Twitter account baiting the Perth Glory account by telling them they'd never experienced winning a title - and the Glory Twitter account could only muster a 'well played'! Perth Glory, the team that more than any other was the inspiration for the A-League, having no idea of its history and relevance. It took the intervention of Bonita Mersiades to set the record straight:
Sure Perth Glory are mostly irrelevant now (relatively speaking, of course), but who let things deteriorate that much? To the point where two years ago, we had media and the FFA telling us Thomas Broich was the first player to win the Johnny Warren Medal twice? Records and stats are not just numbers - in sport they are an essential part of the story we tell ourselves as sport fans, and the story for the past decade or so is that the pre-2005 stuff didn't matter, or worse than that, an attempt at some sort of damnatio memoriae. So what's the story that the FFA want to tell now? That we're all one big happy family, and that all we had to do was wait until the old NSL clubs had been materially ground into the dirt?

There is one group out there that will rightly benefit from this and for whom it is hard to begrudge this change in official policy, and that is those players who either played exclusively in the NSL or had their careers split across both competitions. Those players have found themselves caught in the middle of this culture war through no fault of their own. What's more, a player's career and experience differs from that of a club's existence: a player's career is rigorously finite, while in theory a club's existence and opportunity to play at the highest level are not.

But that line of thinking doesn't apply to Australia - at least not for the next twenty years or so.

19 comments:

  1. I would suggest Paul that Perth Glory administration's reflection of the past does not meet the values of its fans - which is not unusual.

    As soon as that was tweeted, fans got on board to challenge this perception that we were somehow inferior based on titles to Melbourne Victory.

    It's not really the greatest example of the club losing interest in its NSL records. More like the person in charge of the twitter feed is too scared of continuing on banter with Melbourne Victory's twitter feed.

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    1. Chris what's going on with Glory's crowds? I had a look at the latest stats for this season, and you guys are averaging about 6k. The city of Perth has really jumped off the bandwagon. Both the Perth Wildcats and the Western Force (who finished bottom of the Super Rugby comp) are doubling your crowds.

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    2. I too have wondered why Glory's crowds were greater in the NSL than a-league. I genuinely haven't ruled out the possibility that the pom-heavy anglo bigots out west simply loved the notion and aura of being 'superior' to the stinky ethnics. They loved coming to games and seeing the wogs getting whooped. Kind of like old pagan Romans baying for blood in the coliseums... The gay league doesn't give them that satisfaction no more.

      And I agree with the article, too little too late.

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    3. That's an interesting notion. I also wonder if the local's have assimilated to the extent they now follow Australian Rules more than Soccer? Perth is not a place that overly encourages non Australian traits, so to speak.

      As an anecdotal piece of evidence, I give you my work colleague, who is from England, still follows the English League, but fell in love with Australian Rules. He bypassed the A League altogether. Would a non English Speaking Migrant assimilate so quickly? I don't think so

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  2. I agree with much of what you say here Paul. Particularly in calling the FFA out for their insincerity with these types of token gestures. Reading the quotes from the FFA spokesperson, they were talking themselves up, what an amazing thing they've done by amalgamating the stats. It was like they were waiting for a round of applause. I never knew that simple common sense now actually warranted a pat on the back. This is something which should have been in place in the beginning.

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  3. Been mentioned that the FFA is possibly doing this to "gloat" about being "the first" truly national sporting competition in Australia, to mark 40 years, i would say that wouldn't be that far-fetched

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    1. FFA can get fucked and how the Glory forget that they are 2 times Australian champions is a disgrace

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    2. Chris if you actually read the article that Paul linked to the FFA have said that's exactly why they are doing it. The FFA spokesperson is quoted as saying "Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the NSL and we'll mark the occasion. In 1977, football was the first Australian sport to have a national club competition, so we'll honour those pioneers and all who followed them". So they aren't hiding their reason for doing it. They are planning on making it a big part of their PR campaign for next season. I look forward to the shitstorm that its going to create.

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  4. Paul are you kidding me? How can you say "there was once a time that [you] would've agreed with this move, but not now" and then follow it with "Records and stats are not just numbers - in sport they are an essential part of the story we tell ourselves as sport fans"?

    Well guess what weather we have a chance to build it or not is not the issue here but the fact that the NSL and South have been officially included in the story football fans tell themselves is, and that is a massive win.

    I enjoy how you challenge the A-League and the FFA but this is great news and should be treated as such.

    Manny

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    1. I appreciate that not everyone will share my point of view on this matter. There have been a variety of responses to this change in policy, which has been interesting in and of itself.

      For mine, not being able to add to the records is at the heart of the matter. While we are now acknowledged as part of the official national league story, the parameters of that inclusion are still largely dictated by the FFA. It in effect consigns South and other ex-NSL clubs to the status of museum pieces, a position I ham not comfortable with - and that goes for both the limits set upon the club from external sources, but also from those within the club who would seek to reverse the club's natural and inevitable evolution.

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    2. It's a win, yes.
      But the trouble is, it is another win on the FFA's terms for the FFA's own interest. I hate being cynical, but one has to suspect the motivation for this isn't solely, or even primarily, to recognise the past and bridge the gap.

      Recent history leads us to accept the FFA's primary motivation for this merging of histories is to shove in the face of the other football codes that our game was the first to go national.

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    3. I's not always FFA vs Old Sokkah. Sometimes we can both benefit, it's not always one or the other. So what if the FFA looks good? They should! They did something right!

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  5. Even though I agree with most of what Paul was saying, for me there is still no question that ultimately this is a good thing to have the stats combined. However Manny you describing it as a massive win is a bit much. This decision isn't going to have some far reaching effect or any practical benefits. Its a win for common sense, there is not much more than that to really take away from it.

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    1. I see what you're saying but I'm elated. This has been a major personal grievance of mine for years and it's excellent to see it rectified.

      It may just be a win for common sense but for a while it seemed like the FFA wasn't capable of that :P

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  6. Straight after this announcement was made, I was (ONLY!!) briefly watching the Friday Night A League match, and David Basheer (He is goddamn boring! But that's another story) mentioned a record of some sort that a player or team held. I think he said it was an A League record.

    So what are TV commentators to do in future? Will they continue as before? Will they now use different words? National instead of A League? What do they do in the English Premier League?

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  7. Melb Cro - Here's the link that may help you http://www.footballtoday.com.au/tabs/blog/2015/12/the-boycott-that-hasnt-ended

    Saavas - Perth is definitely not an english paradise but nor does it interact in the same way as other cities in Australia. It also had an ultras end developing that had people of all ethnic backgrounds joining in until the boycott.

    The above article, done through researching the cities past gives my reflection on why crowds have stopped going. Make judgement as you see fit...

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  8. Michael Lynch's bit on this

    http://www.theage.com.au/sport/soccer/national-soccer-league-if-you-know-your-history--20160114-gm64pv.html

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  9. I never considered a second team from WA. But like Sydney, which had a definite cultural separation of sorts between East and West, so does Perth insofar as what constitutes the heart of the place. Melbourne and Adelaide don't have this. Neither does Brisbane I suspect. Hence why Heartless needed foreign money to survive.

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  10. Interesting piece there Chris, quite enlightening.

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