Sports

A-league boasts record crowd aggregate for season

 

Australia's Mitchell Nichols (L) is congratulated by his teammate Marko Jesic after he scored against Japan during their U-22 friendly soccer match in Niigata, northern Japan, June 1, 2011.  — Reuters file picAustralia's Mitchell Nichols (L) is congratulated by his teammate Marko Jesic after he scored against Japan during their U-22 friendly soccer match in Niigata, northern Japan, June 1, 2011. — Reuters file picSYDNEY, March 26 — The A-League this season boasted the largest aggregate attendance in the seven years since the top flight of Australasian football was launched in 2005, Football Federation Australia (FFA) said on Monday.

A total of 1.416 million fans attended 135 matches in the regular season at an average of 10,490 per game, the first time the average has exceeded the 10,000-mark since the league was expanded beyond eight teams in 2009.

The increase in attendances is welcome news for a sport which trails in popularity behind the rival football codes of rugby league and Australian Rules in the congested domestic market place.

The league has also had to deal with the fallout from the acrimonious demise of mining billionaire Clive Palmer's Gold Coast United, who attracted just 1,723 fans to one home match last month.

The Footballoos are among the biggest draws in the Australian marketplace, however, and the return of Australia internationals Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton to play on home soil this season will have helped attendances.

Former Liverpool forward Kewell, whose first match for Melbourne Victory against Emerton's Sydney FC attracted 40,351 fans, will play no further part in this season after his team finished eighth in the 10-team league.

Former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Emerton, however, was inspirational in Sydney's 3-2 win over the Newcastle Jets on Sunday, which won them a place in the league's complicated playoff system.

A-League chief Lyall Gorman said television audiences were up by 46 per cent on the 2010-11 season, attracted perhaps by the average of 2.7 goals per match.

"This has been a fantastic season with our goals per game average in line with some of the biggest leagues in the world," he said in a news release.

"The on-field action has been watched by more people, proving that football has a growing footprint in this country." — Reuters