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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Soccer's big day sends warning signals to cricket

The major sporting event today in Melbourne, or Australia for that matter, was not the charity cricket match at the MCG featuring Shane Warne and other celebrities which was televised by Channel Nine. It was the soccer A - League final down the road at Docklands Stadium, in which Melbourne Victory thrashed Adelaide United 6 - 0 in front of a 50,000+ crowd.

Two interesting matters arise from this: interstate sporting rivalry and the relative popularity of sports in Australia.

In yesterday's Age Greg Baum had a thoughtful piece about the longstanding sporting rivalry between South Australia and Victoria. He explores the historical background, which means essentially cricket and Australian Rules football, to show that the tradition has been around for a long time.

Today on ABC TV's Offsiders ,which now thank goodness has a website ,the panel discussed the attendances at major sports in Australia. Soccer (I'm still resisting the push to call it "football") has become much more popular following its restructure a couple of years ago into the A-league with city-based teams replacing the old ethnic-based ones who for so long inhibited the game's development. As most of the season is played during the summer the game is emerging as a major threat to cricket, which has just enjoyed a season in which the Ashes attracted the highest attendances for more than 20 years. This is unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future, so soccer will almost certainly become the best attended Australian summer sport next year and may remain so for some time.

A transcript of the Offsiders panel discussion has not, as I write, been posted but it is promised. The statistics, and many of the panellists' comments make interesting reading (or viewing: see the website for details of how to do so). Cricket Australia is on notice. I shall return to this topic soon.
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