By Michael Turner
I think I’d have my column revoked if I didn’t write a piece on the Sydney Derby. But what else could I really say that hasn’t already been said?
Personally, I thought Vince Rugari from the Sydney Morning Herald summarised it best. “For a competition battling to recover a sense of mainstream relevance, Saturday night’s Sydney derby was manna from heaven. Bottle it up, drink it in – this is how good the A-League can be, if you care to remember.”
No truer sentence about football has been written this season. For rusted on A-League fans, this was vindication. Our sport still has life. I’ve referenced a few times in my column the underlying pessimism that our sport seems to often wallow in. But even the most pessimistic fan cannot deny the strength the weekend’s fixture showed us.
It seems a bit of a shame that we weren’t able to showcase the match on free-to-air television. But as I highlighted last week, we can rise above that. We have the power to promote our unique and high-quality product by talking about it on social media and in passing conversation. I still maintain that is such a powerful tool.
In business, some of the best referrals are word of mouth. A personal experience is worth an unquantifiable number of dollars in marketing terms. People are more likely to take up a good or service based on a positive experience shared by a trusted friend or voice.
As a collective, we as football fans have the power to influence and change our attendances. It seems crazy: How can I, as an individual, drive change in the game? But truly, we can. If we rave about our experiences, we can convince a fence-sitter to join us the next time.
Whether it’s in the active support or sitting on the sidelines, each of us have a unique view and perspective on our domestic game that is worth showing to someone new. A crowd figure of 6000 can become 8000 the next week. And even if we convert 1% of those to another game, that’s an additional 20 through the gates.
We have such a unique product. I’ve met countless hardcore Wanderers fans who tell me a similar story. That it wasn’t the football that converted them across. It’s the atmosphere and the connection with their club. Die-hard Rugby League fans, perhaps disillusioned with the growing commercial nature of their game, converted after one visit to the old Parramatta Stadium. Now they won’t miss a game.
Across the country, there are countless stories much the same. At the end of the day, we, the fans, as a collective, are really the product. It’s our stories and how we feel connected with our clubs, and what it means to be a fan of our clubs. Something foreign to other codes, as I highlighted last week.
This week, I think I’ve told countless people about the amazing atmosphere and spectacle that was the Sydney Derby. Similarly, I found myself talking about football with people who caught the coverage or were told about the event. Many of them, I would never have thought I’d have had a conversation about the World Game. But it was the stories and tales of others that ignited their interest. Perhaps something I can capitalise on.
I lost my voice at the game. I no longer stand in the active support bays, but the sheer noise at Bankwest Stadium was so loud I lost my voice merely trying to talk to those seated beside me. I couldn’t begin to count how many times I had to lean in and ask them to repeat themselves.
It seems like an odd selling point, but that in itself brings out the curiosity in so many people. How could you not hear someone while sitting on halfway?
It might seem trivial, but we really hold the key to our sport’s own destiny. We have the opportunity to spread the word – disciples of the game, if you will. Even if you convince just one person to join you, many more will hopefully be doing the same. Each time, we bolster our ranks, of passionate football fans who can’t wait to share the good news and tales of their joyful experiences.
As a fellow football fan, I implore you to get out there and share the story. The more we talk, the more they talk. The more our niche community conversations become the conversations of the general public. We may not control the purse strings of the marketing budget, but we can sure control the conversation – and it’s the conversation that is most critical in pushing our game into the public consciousness.
Michael Turner is the host of Around The Bloc – the supporters podcast of the Western Sydney Wanderers. Catch ATB every Wednesday from 5pm AEDT on FNR, or subscribe on your favourite podcast app.