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?Carn Glory you have to know your own history. Well in to @bonitamersiades for setting the record straight pic.twitter.com/dGe4PBym0i— Adam Howard (@adamOsaussies) January 5, 2016
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.