A winter comp would align with the rest of the Australian football pyramid and allow for prom/rel in the future (?).
Fox Sports ratings being down? The advent of streaming services may have made it difficult to judge this. Kayo and Telstra's 'My Football' might hide the real numbers of people watching - don't know for sure. However attendances at games has been on the decline. Average attendance per season:
Not sure that playing games in winter in parallel with AFL/NRL will help those figures.
Jason Culina: 'It's not possible to perform as well in summer as in winter'
By Jason Culina
January 8, 2020 — 6.27pm
It was 20 years ago but I will never forget the feeling of training in the European winter coming from the Australian summer.
I joined Ajax from Sydney Olympic in 1999. The pace of play and technical standard was a class above but almost instantly, I felt I could operate quicker. In the Australian summer, I could make three or four sprints before I was out of breath. By the time my first winter in the Netherlands arrived, I was sprinting eight or nine times. If I really needed, I could probably make a 10th before being out of puff.
In Europe, players are fitter, stronger and faster. That's just the reality, we are not yet up to the quality of Europe. In saying that, it's a hell of a lot easier playing in cooler conditions and 99 per cent of players will agree.
Whether it was in the Eredivisie, UEFA Champions League or international games, I could not only perform better and faster in European winters but my recovery was also a lot better and quicker.
I could play two, three games a week at a high level in Europe but in the A-League, I would lose up to four kilograms after games in heat and take days to recover.
Performances suffer but not as much as the wellbeing of players. It's not just the heat of the Australian of summer that takes it out of you but the rock hard fields at that time of year. We have to train on them every day and it takes a toll on players' joints, knees and their backs. As I learned, the older players feel it the most.
My career was almost ended by a serious knee injury in 2011 that was caused by wear and tear. There wasn't a single factor or incident that caused the injury but the hard conditions in Australia might have accelerated the deterioration. If I had my time again, I would have managed my work loads and wellbeing differently. My attitude was always to train, train and train. The more I trained, the better I played. That was how we worked on the softer grounds and cold winters of Europe but I shouldn't have applied the same intensity daily in the A-League. In hindsight, I would have skipped a training session here and there because of my age and the hard pitches. I should have been smarter as a player.
Over seven years with the Socceroos, I played games in South America, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. I experienced heat, humidity, harsh winters and altitude but the most difficult climate I've had to work in might well be the Australian summer. A one-off game in the humidity of South East Asia poses challenges but the weekly grind of playing and training in heat, on hard pitches and having to travel great distances frequently makes the A-League very, very difficult. You simply can't extract the same kind of performance out of yourself playing here in Australia compared to how you will play in Europe. The human body is not made for that. It’s like a car, if it overheats then it doesn’t perform as well.
When I played on the Gold Coast, sometimes we trained at 7am in the morning just to avoid the peak of the heat. If we didn't, we would be absolutely wrecked by the weekend and not able to perform in games.
That's why we should start talking about moving back to a winter competition. Whether we like it or not, the A-League is in the entertainment business. If you are putting something on TV screens, you want it to be good quality. Fox Sports ratings are down and that's purely because not enough people think it's entertaining. If moving the competition to winter helps to improve the quality, you will get more people watching.
At the end of the day, football players are entertainers and if we can’t entertain, people won’t watch. That’s the way it works.
In my opinion, moving towards a winter league makes sense. It realigns us with Asia, youth football and fixes some issues we have with the Australian league. It obviously means we compete with other codes like rugby league and AFL but we are already competing with cricket, basketball and other sports in summer. If we believe in our sport then we shouldn’t care about who we compete with.
Now is the time to start the conversation about moving the A-League to winter.
Jason Culina played for PSV Eindhoven, Ajax and FC Twente in the Netherlands. He made 58 appearances for the Socceroos and was part of the 2006 and 2010 World Cup campaigns and played for Gold Coast United and Sydney FC in the A-League.