Socceroos lose to South Korea in extra time of quarterfinal to be eliminated from Asian Cup

The Socceroos have crashed out of the Asian Cup in heartbreaking fashion, suffering a dramatic 2-1 extra-time loss to South Korea after throwing away a 1-0 lead in Qatar.

Craig Goodwin gave Australia the lead when he volleyed home in the 42nd minute in front of 39,632 fans at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Australia then spurned multiple chances to double their lead before a nightmare stint off the bench from right-back Lewis Miller, and two big moments from Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min turned the game in South Korea’s favour.

With Graham Arnold’s charges up 1-0 deep into stoppage time, Miller needlessly dived in late on South Korea’s superstar captain Son, giving away a penalty.

Hwang Hee-chan coolly slammed the spot-kick into the top corner in the seventh minute of injury time to take the game to extra-time.

In the 104th minute, Miller then brought down Hwang on the edge of the area, only for Spurs’ Son to lift a wonderful free kick into the top corner to put South Korea in front.

Australia’s hopes of a comeback were then made all but impossible minutes after the goal when they were reduced to 10 men.

Aiden O’Neill lunged in to attempt to win the ball and caught Hwang with his studs, with his initial yellow card upgraded to a straight red after a VAR referral.

South Korea comfortably saw out the game from there to send Australia packing and tee up a semi-final against Jordan, who beat Tajikistan 1-0 earlier on Friday local time.

For the Koreans, the result partly avenged their 2-1 extra-time loss to the Socceroos in the 2015 Asian Cup final in Sydney. 

Check out how the match unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Thanks Sam. A disappointing, but not unexpected result. The Socceroos gave all that they had.

Will you be blogging the Tillies v Uzbekistan Olympic qualifier?

– Mark

Football can be a cruel game, and this is one of the cruellest Socceroos games I can remember.

They were literally a minute away from a heroic 1-0 win over South Korea, only for Lewis Miller’s panicked slide tackle in the box handing their opponents a comeback on a platter.

Hwang Hee-Chan’s penalty took the wind out of Australia’s sails, as did the straight red card to Aiden O’Neill after a dangerous tackle on Hee-Chan in the first stanza of extra-time, taking the Socceroos down to ten.

From there, the team faded and faded. Overall, South Korea were good for this win, but Australia will know that this is an enormous opportunity missed, and will linger in the heads and their hearts for a while.

South Korea now progress to the Asian Cup semi-final against Jordan, while the Socceroos will debrief and then go back to their clubs.

There will be plenty of conversation in the coming days about this game and this tournament, but all I’ll say for now is that I am really proud of how the Socceroos played tonight: they did what they do best, showing us the grit and the fight that captured the whole country in 2022.

Like then, it was a joy to bring you their journey here. I’ll be back on the ABC Sport liveblog later this month to cover the Matildas’ Olympic qualifying games against Uzbekistan, which I hope you’ll join me for.

Until then!


Full time: Australia 1 – 2 South Korea

119′ Chance Korea!

Son Heung-min picks up the ball on half-way and just… jogs forward towards Australia’s defence, with no yellow shirts flooding back with urgency.

He has so much time to choose what to do here as three team-mates flood around. He opts left, sending a perfectly-weighted pass angled left into the box, and his team-mate rockets a shot towards the far post… only for Mat Ryan to throw two big hands at it and palm it away.

The ball rolls out to the other Korean winger, who tries to fire it over Ryan who’s still splayed out in the grass, but somehow it spins out for a goal kick.

Incredible keeping.

116′ Long bombs

Both teams are just pinging the ball over the top of each other’s defences now, hoping one of their fresh-legged forwards can speed in behind the slowing centre-backs and nick a goal.

It’s pretty rudimentary stuff, though. A ball floats in, and is headed away by a centreback. It’s hoofed up-field, only for the opposing centre-back to head it away. It’s been like this for a few minutes as both teams try to figure out what on earth else they can do.

114′ Referee error!

A lovely cross-field pass out to the left for the charging Aziz Behich sees the full-back bring it down beautifully before turning and aiming for a through-ball, but the referee whistles the game dead and points for a free kick to… Korea.

What? The referee gestures for a handball on Behich, but the replay shows the ball was nowhere near either of his arms.

That was such a shame: the Socceroos could’ve carved a rare opening with that run down the wing, but the ref has decided otherwise.

111′ Mat Ryan still flyin’

The Socceroos captain is still on his toes, even if most of his team-mates aren’t anymore.

Australia’s players are making more and more mistakes as they fatigue and lose concentration, but lucky for them Ryan is still wide-awake.

He snapped a shot out of the air a minute ago, and just came sprinting out of his box to calmly collect a through-ball with his foot before passing neatly to a team-mate.

Son Heung-min found too much space a moment later, opening up his body as a sliding Behich came across, but he hooked his shot just wide as Ryan was ready for it to come at him.

So at least we’ve got that.

108′ Behich is down

He’s run a marathon in this game, has Aziz.

Somehow he’s found himself up near Korea’s box, throwing himself around, trying anything to get a foot on the ball and send a cross in.

He tries to work with Bruno Fornaroli, but the ball just doesn’t settle. It’s hoofed into his stomach, and he tries his best to loft the deflection over the Korean defenders and towards the six-yard box, but it floats harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s hands.

Behich then leans down into the grass and clutches at his stomach. Winded, maybe? He gets up and jogs gingerly away a moment later after the Koreans had lumped the ball out so he could receive attention.

He looks cooked.

106′ Big Man Up Top

Harry Souttar is a centre-forward now.

If you were wondering what Graham Arnold’s “break glass in case of emergency” plan was.

Second half of extra time kick off!

105′ South Korea substitutions

Park Yong-Woo is replaced by Park Jin-seop.

Hwang Hee-Chan, who’s been epic in this match, comes off for Oh Hyeon-gyu.

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Socceroos draw 1-1 with Uzbekistan to top Asian Cup group

The Socceroos have sealed top spot in their Asian Cup group but will head into the knockout stage with a dent in their confidence after a flat 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan.

Australia were already guaranteed to reach the round of 16 but needed a win or draw at Doha’s Al Janoub Stadium to finish top of Group B.

Martin Boyle’s spot-kick in the opening minute of first-half injury time, after a dubious hand-ball call on defender Odiljon Hamrobekov following a VAR review, gave Australia a much-needed lead after an uninspiring opening half.

A handful of personnel changes were made after Australia’s 1-0 win over Syria on Thursday, with Riley McGree in particular offering a point of creative difference in an otherwise stale Socceroos attack that was spear-headed by the inexperienced Kusini Yengi, who had replaced the injured Mitch Duke up front.

However, Uzbekistan grew into the match and, come the second half, took almost total control of possession and chance creation. Their effort and energy paid off when substitute Azizbek Turgunboev leapt over Aziz Behich and headed home the equaliser in the 78th minute.

It was Uzbekistan’s first goal against Australia in five meetings, also ending a run of six consecutive clean sheets for the Socceroos.

Uzbekistan finished second on five points, while Syria beat India 1-0 to finish third on four points, sealing progression as one of the best third-placed finishers while knocking out both India and China, who came third in Group A but cannot now progress.

The Socceroos will play the best third-placed team from either group C or D, and will likely be on the opposite side of the draw to tournament favourites Japan.

But there is plenty for Arnold to address, with Australia’s struggles to break down a defence, lack of creativity and a second-half fade-out among the concerns.

Harry Souttar had hearts in mouths in the ninth minute when he turned the ball over to Oston Urunov, only to recover to make the crucial tackle at the last moment.

Australia had the ball in the back of the net in the 11th minute through Kusini Yengi, but it was chalked off for an offside in the build-up.

Yengi’s best moment of the game came at the end of the first half as the striker went on a wonderful weaving run through Uzbekistan’s defence and cut the ball back for McGree, who inexplicably shot wide.

But luck was in Australia’s favour. During Yengi’s run, he attempted to get past Hamrobekov and the ball flicked off the defender’s arm, which he was using to brace his fall, then back into the striker’s path.

After a lengthy VAR review, Hamrobekov was penalised and booked and Boyle drilled the penalty into the bottom corner.

Uzbekistan’s Umar Eshmurodov headed home in the 60th minute but was offside.

It proved a warning shot.

Eighteen minutes later, Turgunboev brilliantly buried a wonderful dipping cross from Jaloliddin Masharipov to ensure Uzbekistan’s progression.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

They’d already qualified for the round of 16, but this draw against Uzbekistan means Australia have topped Group B and will play the best third-placed team from somewhere else in the tournament.

Like their first two group games, this was an awkward and rusty performance from the Socceroos. A handful of personnel changes perhaps contributed to that, though Australia’s best players was probably Riley McGree, who earned his first start of the Asian Cup.

But there’s still a question of where more goals can come from. There was a lack of creativity tonight, as there has been over the past two games, and too much sideways possession with not enough activity or improvisation through the central channels.

Graham Arnold will have to solve these problems now. There are no second-chances in knock-out football, and while Australia have done themselves a favour by topping the group and therefore facing a theoretically weaker opponent in the round of 16, they haven’t got long to figure this stuff out before they face a serious title contender.

In any case, there’s one more game on the horizon in five days’ time. And you bet I’ll be here to take you through all the action once again.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your week!


Full-time: Australia 1 – 1 Uzbekistan

96′ Chance Australia!

A long ball from Souttar is controlled nicely by Kusini Yengi, who eases it out to Marco Tilio on the left.

The winger shimmies past two defenders and clips a cross into the six-yard box, but an Uzbekistan player beats Yengi to the header near the back post.


Someone needs to do something! …. Sam! … HELP THEM!…

– Mike



93′ Long throw

Lewis Miller’s first touch is launching a gigantic long throw into the box, which is chaotically headed out towards the D.

I’m not sure who that is running in – Tilio, maybe? – trying to use their momentum to deflect the ball off their chest and back towards the pack of players, but an Uzbekistan defender gets in the way. The ball is cleared.

92′ Australia substitutions

Jordan Bos and Nathaniel Atkinson are off.

Marco Tilio and Lewis Miller are on – the latter for his Asian Cup debut.

90′ Masharipov pulling strings

The substitute has been excellent since coming on, involved in all of Uzbekistan’s best attacks.

He’s at the heart of one again, connecting beautifully with two team-mates in a tight space as they make their way collectively towards the top left corner of Australia’s box.

His pass almost slices two Socceroos apart, but Kye Rowles flies in to the rescue and hoofs the ball upfield.

90′ Seven minutes of added time

Thanks for reading, Phil!

Thanks for this coverage!

– Phil J

88′ Atkinson is down

The right-back tried a long cross-field switch but totally shanked it and it rolled out for a throw-in near the half-way line.

The defender falls into the grass with his legs stretched out in front of him. It looks like cramp. Yep – an Uzbek player comes along and stretches out his calf for him. He’s up a minute later. He’ll have to keep pushing.

86′ Behich gets forward

Jordan Bos and Aziz Behich have been more involved towards the back-end of this half, with the two trying to muscle and race their way down the left wing.

Behich’s endurance has been particularly impressive given his age and the fact he’s the only defender aside from Harry Souttar to have played every minute of this tournament so far.

He gets in behind Uzbekistan’s three defenders here thanks to a cheeky backwards pass by Bos, but his cross is a tired one and sails all the way across the field for a throw-in.

82′ Uzbekistan substitution

The substitute has to be substituted as Igor Sergeev is carried off the field with that calf problem.

He’s replaced by Jamshid Iskanderov.

82′ Australia double change

The brilliant Riley McGree is replaced by Bruno Fornaroli.

Keanu Baccus is off, too, in place of Aiden O’Neill.

81′ Play paused

Some cheeky footwork by Jordan Bos to nip around Uzbekistan’s substitute Igor Sergeev sees the blue-shirted defender reach down to his calf as he tumbled into the grass.

The Socceroos could have kept charging forward there, but the referee whistles play dead as the physios run onto the field. The stretcher is out, too. It looks like the sub may have popped a calf. Unlucky.


Just as I say that – Uzbekistan have equalised!

Australia’s record run of clean sheets and minutes without conceding comes to an end as the substitute Azizbek Turgunboev rises above Aziz Behich to head home a gorgeous dropping cross from Masharipov on the left wing.



Syria have taken a 1-0 lead over India, which takes them just below Uzbekistan on goal difference in Group B.

If Syria score twice more, and the current score in our game stays at 1-0 (or Australia score another), Syria could leap-frog Uzbekistan into second.

How good is tournament football!

73′ Uzbekistan keep trying

A very neat series of zig-zag passes by Uzbekistan down the left side sees them slice smoothly through the swarming Socceroos, with Masharipov on the ball near the top corner of the box.

His final pass undoes all that good build-up play, though, as he sends the ball through two yellow shirts where he thought a team-mate would be ghosting in behind but finds green grass instead.

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ANZAC Soccer Ashes rediscovered in former football chairman’s garage after almost 70 years

For decades, Australian football has been hunting down an object described as “the greatest domestic treasure there is”: a small, hand-carved wooden box containing the ashes of two cigars smoked by the captains of Australia and New Zealand after their first ‘A’ international match on Australian soil in June, 1923.

Known as the Soccer Ashes, this precious relic was the first trophy that was ever contested between the two trans-Tasman rivals, and forms a key chapter in the larger history of the Socceroos.

The trophy was the brainchild of New Zealand team manager and trophy-maker Harry Mayer, who was convinced the two nations needed to play for something physical, something real, like what they had in cricket.

Mayer designed the casket with a combination of woods — New Zealand honeysuckle and Australian maple, to be precise — and adorned its lid with iconic national imagery, a kangaroo and two silver ferns, symbolising the relationship between the two nations.

The lid of the Soccer Ashes contains symbols of Australia and New Zealand.()

Inside the box, nestled into deep blue velvet lining, was a small silver-plated razor case that belonged to Private William Fisher, then-secretary of the Queensland Football Association, who’d carried it with him during the landing at Gallipoli in 1915 — the event that began the ANZAC legend.

For 30 years, Australia and New Zealand contested the Soccer Ashes, with the trophy travelling back and forth across the Tasman, paying homage to their wartime origin story.

But in 1954, the trophy completely disappeared.

Rumours swirled as to the trophy’s whereabouts, with some fearing it had been thrown away or destroyed entirely by someone who did not appreciate its significance.

And were it not for the ongoing efforts of historians Trevor Thompson and Ian Syson — who, with the backing of Football Australia and some government funding, spearheaded a project to track down the trophy in 2019 — it may have faded from Australian football’s collective memory, too.

Until now.

69 years after its last known sighting, the Soccer Ashes have finally been found.

The Soccer Ashes were found in the garage of Sydney Storey, former chairman of the Australian Soccer Football Association (ASFA) in the mid-20th century.()

Discovered by the family of former Australian Soccer Football Association (ASFA) chairman Sydney Storey, who helped run the game between 1922 and 1966, the trophy was identified amongst a treasure trove of football memorabilia, documents, photos, and other items as they sorted through old boxes in his garage after his death.

The sheer volume of artefacts meant the family took over a year to actually go through each box and verify their contents, but once they realised what they had on their hands, they immediately got in contact with FA.

“The large shed was literally full of relics of past days, and not easy to move around in,” Storey’s son Peter said.

“Most of these boxes had sat there untouched, decade after decade, until we started to go through them.

“There were so many historical, classical last-century items in the garage — even in the house — and the items we came across were of great interest. These included team photos, annual reports of the ASFA, an ASFA’s official badge, newspaper clippings, souvenir soccer match leaflets.

“And, importantly, found inside a well-sealed box, a wooden football match souvenir, which we identified as the Australia-New Zealand Soccer Ashes trophy.

“At that time, we didn’t realise that people might have been looking for it, or that it was of any interest, rather than just something 100 years old.”

Why Storey kept the trophy and all the other memorabilia hidden away remains a mystery.

Thompson, who authored the book Burning Ambition: The Centenary of Australia-New Zealand Football Ashes, thought Storey may have wanted to keep it safe as a political tug-of-war occurred between the old administration and newly arrived clubs and federations that were being created following post-war migration in the 1950s.

Thompson had reportedly tried to contact Storey about it 20 years ago, having narrowed down the suspects given their role inside Australian football at the time, but was rebuffed by the family.

For Syson, who first learned about the Soccer Ashes back in 2009, its disappearance was more than simple forgetfulness; it was a symptom of a broader cultural transition that football went through during the mid-20th century.

“It’s an interesting phase in Australian soccer history, where 1954 is very much the beginning of the end,” he said.

“Concern about representative football begins to decline as club football becomes much more important. The continental Europeans come into Australia and they bring professionalism, they bring quality, they bring in close[r] grounds. But they also bring club focus, to the detriment of other considerations such as international football.

“At this point, the idea of Australia and New Zealand as being an important contest starts to decline. I think we lose track of the Soccer Ashes because we lose our game’s focus on that international contest.”

However, FA are determined to fill in the gaps of Australian football’s history.

They hope to rediscover many more objects imbued with cultural memory that have faded into the dusty boxes of the game over the past century and install them at a new national Home of Football, which is slated to be built in the next few years.

Recognising its own past has already begun. Last year, FA celebrated the Socceroos’ centenary, lining up a pair of friendlies against New Zealand to mark 100 years since their first ‘A’ international, which took place in Dunedin in 1922.

The Socceroos played their first “A” international game against New Zealand in Dunedin on June 17, 1922.()

And there are already calls for the Soccer Ashes — or a replica of it — to be used as a trophy once again, and for the trans-Tasman clash to occur every year to not only mark the occasion, but to also recognise the game’s rich, storied past and ensure it does not slide into insignificance, as it has so often threatened to do over the past century.

“This trophy is symbolic of something really important, and its discovery is also really important as well,” Syson said.

“Its absence was a symptom of Australian soccer’s tendency to forget itself, and for the surrounding culture not to care at all.

“This trophy is replete with sacred significance to a country that is so obsessed with its ANZAC mythology. For that to go missing, it says a lot about the way this game manages to shoot itself in the foot all the time.

“And so maybe this is a sign that the game can correct itself, can fix itself, can remember itself — if there’s enough people caring about it, if there’s enough people taking an interest in the history.

“It means so much for the game.”


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How Socceroo Awer Mabil became 2023 Young Australian Of The Year

When Awer Mabil was a boy, growing up in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, he got word that a grassroots football clinic was being organised by a couple of Adelaide United players at a community club about 20 minutes’ drive from his house in Hillbank.

Mabil had never met a professional player before, but had been kicking a ball around for as long as he could remember, including in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where he lived until he was 10. He knew this could be his chance to impress them.

The problem? Nobody in his family was around to drive him there. His mum, Agot, was at work and his older siblings were elsewhere. 

However, Mabil would not give up. Undeterred, and burning with ambition, Mabil grabbed his scooter and rode the 45 minutes along suburban streets to the clinic by himself.

Awer Mabil made his debut for Adelaide United at 17 years old, paving the way for more representation of African-Australians in football.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

“I was like, ‘Man, this is my opportunity to impress and get recognition by these professional guys,'” he laughs over Zoom from his hotel room in Prague.

“[I thought], if I train hard, then they will be like, ‘Hey, we should sign this guy!’ I thought that’s how it worked.

“When I went there, I saw Travis Dodd and Scott Jamieson taking the clinic. And Travis realised that I didn’t have a jacket. So he gave me his Adelaide United jacket. I still have a photo of it on my old computer.

“From that day on, that was a big motivator for me. At that time, I was playing for [Dodd’s] former club, St Augustine, which is an amateur team. That motivated me to also become a footballer.”

There are a number of formative moments like this that Mabil, now 27, is looking back on after being named the 2023 Young Australian Of The Year: the red Kakuma dirt where he first kicked around a “ball” made from rolled-up socks or plastic bags, the two-hour walk he’d make regularly to the nearest television to watch games, moving to Australia in 2006 and seeing the Socceroos first compete in the World Cup.

However, it’s that act of kindness from Dodd that stands out. Not only did it provide inspiration for Mabil to pursue professional football, debuting with Adelaide United in 2013, but it also laid the foundation of charity and “giving back” that has motivated his life off the field.

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Did A-League Men attendances benefit from the Socceroos’ Qatar World Cup bump?

Late last year, in scenes reminiscent of the most exciting football crowds in Europe and South America, tens of thousands of people packed into city squares, stadiums, and public parks around Australia to cheer on the Socceroos’ historic World Cup campaign in Qatar.

For many of the country’s footballing faithful, the huge crowds that flocked to these places confirmed something they already knew: the round-ball game is one of Australia’s biggest and most popular sports, with a vibrant and passionate fanbase unlike that of most other domestic codes.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Celebrations in Federation Square as Australia qualify for World Cup knockouts

But you wouldn’t know it from watching the A-League Men (ALM), Australia’s top-tier domestic league, every week.

In contrast to the images from Federation Square in November, pictures of fans scattered around half-empty stadiums have become the norm in the ALM over the past few years.

Following the World Cup, players and coaches alike expressed hope that the Socceroos’ strongest-ever performance might re-ignite the spark that saw the ALM bouncing a decade ago.

“We hope that what we’ve achieved here can help grow the game back home because the A-League is better than it’s perceived,” Adelaide United winger and Qatar goal-scorer Craig Goodwin said.

“The message to [the public] is ‘get out and see the Socceroos players that are playing in the A-League.’ Support your local teams and embrace Australian football; help it grow. It’s about building on what we’ve done here, not just as a playing group, but as a nation as well.”

So has it worked? Has the Socceroos’ World Cup ‘bump’ seen waves of new fans flock to the ALM?

According to an ABC News analysis of data collated by and, no.

In fact, in the seven rounds of the ALM held since Australia were knocked out in Qatar by eventual winners Argentina, the league has recorded some of its worst average match attendances so far this season — and some of the lowest overall in its history.

Round 7, the first weekend of games held after the Socceroos’ exit from Qatar, attracted an average attendance of just under 6,000 people: lower than all the rounds held before the World Cup.

Figures haven’t improved much from there, with the seven rounds since the tournament containing six of the least-attended weekends this season.

The highest attendance point so far in the 2022/23 ALM season was in Round 6, the last round before the World Cup break.

However, the higher-than-average figures were boosted by two key derby games: the Sydney Derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney (34,232 people) and the “Original Rivalry” derby between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory (13,504 people).

Without these, the current ALM season was trending towards its lowest average attendances ever, only just topping the two pandemic-hit seasons that saw several games played behind closed doors.

This mid-season slump has only been made worse by the Melbourne derby pitch invasion of Round 8, whose punishments have included restrictions on ticket sales and negative headlines that have potentially driven away new and casual football fans.

Until then, Melbourne Victory had attracted the highest average attendances to all their games across the season. But following the sanctions, those numbers have plunged.

Victory aren’t the only club to experience a drop in numbers following the World Cup, though.

In fact, the biggest overall decline has been the Western Sydney Wanderers, whose average attendance across all games featuring them has fallen by more than 60 per cent, while Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC and the Newcastle Jets have seen overall decreases of at least 30 per cent.

But not all is doom and gloom. Some teams — mostly those that have the highest number of Socceroos within their ranks — have seen increases to their home attendance figures, or at least minimised the falls experienced elsewhere.

Looking just at home crowds, Melbourne City, where Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Marco Tilio play, has seen a 43 per cent boost to home match attendances since Qatar, while the Central Coast Mariners, where Jason Cummings, Danny Vukovic, and recently departed Garang Kuol were the headline acts, went up by 36 per cent on pre-tournament levels.

Indeed, when taking just home game attendance averages into account, Western Sydney and Western United have both seen slight boosts, too.

Melbourne Victory, with its sanctions, have seen the biggest average fall in home crowds. And while Sydney FC continues to draw the biggest home crowds in the league, average attendance has fallen by nearly half since the World Cup.

Perth Glory’s overall and home attendance figures have been excluded from this comparison because they did not play a single home game before the World Cup, while their post-tournament games (which have mostly been at home) have been temporarily moved to the smaller 4,500-capacity Macedonia Park, which they have regularly filled and created vibrant atmospheres in the process, arguably showing the potential benefits of smaller stadiums for the ALM going forward.

Stuck in the pandemic blues

While leagues like the AFL and NRL saw crowd numbers return to near-historic levels in the 2022 season, the A-League Men seems to be trapped in the pandemic doldrums.

The latest men’s AFL season saw attendances across the first 22 rounds average around 31,000 people — only about four per cent lower than the historic average.

Meanwhile, although the current ALM season is an improvement on the previous COVID-ravaged seasons, crowds are still more than 25 per cent below historic norms, with the past four seasons the worst in the 18-year history of the competition.

So, if the Socceroos’ best-ever run at a World Cup can’t even boost interest in the ALM, what can?

This has been one of Australian football’s “golden questions” for several years, and one that is increasingly shaping decision-making by the Australian Professional Leagues (the club-run governing body in charge of the A-Leagues), from negotiating new broadcast deals to controversially selling the grand final hosting rights to Sydney for the next three seasons.

But the dilemma of how to translate football’s booming participation base (almost two million people take part in football in some way in Australia), as well as the enthusiasm shown for the Socceroos and Matildas during major tournaments, into regular fans of the struggling local competitions is not as simple as that.

The A-Leagues currently sit in the centre of a bigger Venn diagram of forces including competing with rival summer codes, a lack of mainstream media coverage and marketing cut-through, television and streaming bungles, increasingly uncomfortable summer temperatures, few “big-name” star players, a perceived lack of quality, and unrest from dedicated active fan groups: issues that have existed for far longer, but which the World Cup slump has brought into sharper focus.

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War of words erupts as fallout from A-Leagues grand final decision continues

As the fallout from the A-Leagues’ decision to sell their grand final hosting rights to Sydney continues, more clubs and players have taken to social media to clarify their positions, with one club shareholder and former director criticising the actions of a key decision-maker.

At 10:20pm AEDT on Tuesday, following an emergency meeting between club owners, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) — which own and operate the A-League Men and A-League Women — released a statement doubling-down on their decision to partner with Destination NSW to host their showpiece events in Sydney for the next three years for a reported eight-figure sum.

“The Australian Professional League Club Chairs met today to reaffirm their support for the partnership with Destination New South Wales,” the statement said.

“As a result of the consensus achieved in this meeting, APL is committed to this new and significant partnership and the resulting generation of important new funds for football — all of which will be invested into the growth of the game.

“We believe in the potential for Australian football to close the gap on professional football in other parts of the world. We thank DNSW for sharing in that belief and our strategy to continue to grow the Australian professional game.

“Our immediate focus will be to work with partners to ensure accessible travel and accommodation for all travelling fans and to build a festival of finals football worthy of our game.”

When it was originally posted on social media, the statement was accompanied by the names of 11 club chairs — with the exception of Anthony Di Pietro, who resigned from his position on the APL board earlier in the day, and a representative from Canberra United — implying all had agreed to the information it contained.

However, the statement was soon taken down after some club figureheads — including Western United Football director Steve Horvat and Perth Glory chairman Tony Sage — revealed they never agreed to have their names included on the release, or were not part of the meeting from which the statement came at all. The APL then replaced the statement with one that had the names removed.

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