A-League boss Greg O’Rourke is hoping for bigger crowds after a hike in first round attendances.First dates always carry excitement and so it was with the A-League’s season openers.
Round one attracted almost 18,000 more spectators than last season’s series of first dates.
All host clubs banked attendances larger than their average for last season.
Even the A-League’s problem child, Wellington Phoenix, scrubbed up OK.
Though the 9174 crowd in Wellington was the lowest of the round, the attendance was Phoenix’s biggest in 26 home games.
The round one crowd aggregate of 84,761 – compared with 66,814 last season – were treated to compelling football.
All clubs scored goals – the first time that has happened in the same round since round two last season, when it happened for the only time in the 2017/18 campaign.
And there were no blowouts.
Three 1-1 draws and a pair of 2-1 victories, perhaps, offer early evidence of what could be one of the A-League’s tightest seasons.
A-League chief Greg O’Rourke certainly hopes so.
“We focused on a few things this year, but two in particular,” O’Rourke told AAP on Wednesday.
“One was what initiatives are we going to bring to the game and the fan experiences, and the second thing is the quality on the park.
“It seems to have worked on both measures.
“Everybody is saying the quality on the park seems to be really good.
“And what is important about this is it’s not just in one or two teams, you can see quality in all the teams which is reflected in the goals and the scores.”
The opening round crowd figure was bolstered by some shrewd scheduling, including the Melbourne derby which drew 40,504 spectators.
The A-League debut of Japanese megastar Keisuke Honda for Melbourne Victory helped produce the 11th largest crowd for an A-League home-and-away game.
However, low television ratings puzzled O’Rourke.
Sydney FC’s away opener against Adelaide United was watched by 67,000 on broadcaster Fox Sports – the smallest viewership for a season opener since 2011/12.
About 70,000 viewers watched the channel’s coverage of the Melbourne derby, down 30,000 from last season’s Saturday night opener between Victory and Sydney.
“That 30 per cent drop in the Fox number, we were surprised by. We’re going to dig a little bit deeper (to find out why),” O’Rourke said.
But digital engagements over the first round were well above last year.
O’Rourke said engagements on Twitter were up 185 per cent year-on-year, with Facebook (up 19 per cent) and the league’s website traffic (up 34 per cent) all increasing.