“Do you want tickets to the Soccer on Friday night?”
The man asked us as we left the Albert Park Indoor Sports Centre, shaking my partner Georgie and I, from our discussion of the fact that netball umpires seem to call me for stepping, whether I move my feet or not.
“Do you want tickets to the Soccer on Friday night?” He asked again “Tottenham v Atletico Madrid” he elaborated. “Sure” I answered. Happy with my answer, he smiled and reach into the box he was carrying. It was packed to the brim with blue tickets he promptly pulled off four tickets and handed them to me. “And you?” he asked Georgie, seemingly keen to hand out as many of the tickets as possible.
The random and vigorous give away of tickets would seem to confirm that the disastrous crowd at the Melbourne Victory game was expected to be replicated, when the European heavyweights met this week. How did the International Champions Cup fall so hard so quickly? Only last year I was one of 99,175 who jammed into the MCG to see Real Madrid take on Manchester City. How did we go from sell out to give away in twelve short months?
In my mind there are a convergence of factors at play.
There once may have been a time when Australian football fans, a world away from top quality clubs, would flock to the grounds on the basis of the team name alone. After a flood of teams over the last few years, the fans are now a little more discerning about who they will spend their hard earned dollars on.
Ticket prices to this year’s tournament aren’t cheap. When the tournament was announced prices ranged from $79 – $214. When presented alongside images of Paul Pogba, Gialuigi Buffon, Antoine Griezmann and Harry Kane they appear reasonable. World class players with a world class price.
However, all these players were never going to come. World football’s off-seasons are extremely short. Doubly so, when in season’s like this year’s when major tournaments are played. For a competition like the ICC, contracted at least for another two seasons, it’s a something they will be confronted with every other year.
While the crowds have stayed away the “second stringers” have provided plenty of highlights Carlos Blanco Moreno’s 50m strike is a case in point, if you haven’t seen it, watch it here. In a shameless piece of Melbourne Victory promotion I should also point you to Jai Ingham’s equaliser.
The class of both players is evident. Ingham was basically playing park football last year and Moreno’s wonder strike wouldn’t have been seen had Juventus fielded their Scudetto winning squad.
Maybe this is the way forward for the ICC organisers in major tournament years. Instead of promising star’s that aren’t coming, they should be promoting the games as a gem finding exercise. A more adequate ticket price point probably wouldn’t hurt either.
Obviously this won’t be a problem next year when teams are at full strength but Melbourne fans really need to come out and support this concept. For a week or so a year the football world is on our doorstep. Even without the stars on the park we have been privy to some of the off-field transfer machinations. The continuing Paul Pogba situation and the drama of Juventus’ dramatic swoop for Gonzalo Higuain all taking place before our eyes.
Next year the tournament will need to overcome the scepticism created by this year lack of star power and Arsenal’s visit to Sydney. However, if they can present the right teams and they come close to full strength, the crowds will be back. That doesn’t help them this week though.
‘Does anyone want tickets to the Soccer on Friday night?’