‘It was perfect’: Could Monday night football be the accidental saviour the A-League desperately needs?
With media interest dwindling and TV viewership down, Monday night football could give the A-League Men a facelift in the summer as it desperately tries to win back lapsed fans.
A crowd of 4,893 were present for Macarthur’s 3-0 home loss to Wellington Phoenix at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Monday and while that might not be a groundbreaking figure, it is a considerable feat for the Bulls.
Macarthur were admitted into the competition in 2020 and their ability to attract and maintain home support as an expansion franchise in a traditional rugby league heartland has been severely impacted by COVID-19.
“It’s school holidays and we were playing on a Monday and it was good to have a big crowd here tonight,” said Macarthur manager Mile Sterjovski.
“I’m disappointed with the way we played, it would have been nice to put on a good performance for them and get the win.”
Despite the entertaining style Sterjovski has quickly implemented, the conversion of new fans – something the club is often hammered for – is slightly slower.
Afternoon kick-offs in baking summer heat in Sydney’s south west also haven’t helped the Bulls build a stronger core of fans.
And the few times their crowds have got anywhere near breaking the five-figure mark has been when one of their local rivals, Sydney FC or Western Sydney Wanderers, have rolled into Campbelltown.
But Monday’s game – rearranged due to Macarthur’s AFC Cup commitments – appeared a hit with fans still making their way into the ground well after kick-off as temperatures cooled.
“I think it was a good atmosphere and Macarthur deserve it because they’ve got some really exciting players,” said Wellington boss Giancarlo Italiano.
“I think the A-League is nothing without the fans and, for me, the more turnout we get, the better the product.
“On a summer night like this, I was worried it might have been too humid, but it was actually perfect.”
Monday night football has been a hit for broadcasters overseas with Sky Sports’ English Premier League broadcasts often among the pay-TV giant’s most-watched programmes.
Fans often tune in for analysis of the weekend’s results before attention switches to that evening’s game.
Wellington’s 3-0 win, which sent them top of the ALM ladder, was only broadcast on the league’s streaming platform Paramount+, with scant dissection in pre or post-game coverage.
As part of the league’s TV deal with Network Ten the Saturday 7.45pm and the Sunday 3pm kick-offs (both AEDT) are the only games shown live on free-to-air.
But supporters, such as Macarthur fan Paul Zielinski who attends home games with 11-year-old son Riley, say that’s the only way to ensure the league is relevant once more.
“It’s not widely televised but if it was people would probably get behind it more,” Zielinski said.
“There could be more fans, the ones that do come get behind their team and are very passionate.”