Make the ACL shorter… to make it more meaningful!

The joys of procrastination in football offseason… It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of a considered calendar, and coming off the back of the FA’s domestic solution I thought it was time to turn my attention to Australia’s international engagement.

Although if you haven’t already, check out my idea to increase the number of senior games for Aussies

Some Aussie fans have lamented our football fraternity’s disengagement with Asia, whist others, by definition, have been disengaged. I however fall in the first of those buckets.

As well as supporting the 3+1 foreigner rule for A-League and NPL clubs (for which fixing the domestic transfer situation is a priority please FA), a similarly crucial problem is the ACL competition and where it fits in the Australian Football Landscape.

I’ll be blunt, it’s not pretty. The current ACL leaks across two club seasons, and besides the miracle victory of Western Sydney, this laboured schedule is a big reason fans simply don’t care.

If we look at the European gold standard, the UEFA Champions League runs alongside the domestic competition during the week and fans can follow the two competition undisrupted. Once I took a look at the current situation in Asia however an interesting dynamic emerged…

Firstly the seasons of Asian domestic competitions are not aligned (Note the below is mostly based on pre-COVID ‘normal’ seasons). The vast majority of West Asian competition occur from October to April, whilst the majority of East Asian competition falls between March to November.

This is a big enough challenge that only compounds the tyranny or distance (or more accurately tyranny of different television time zones) that already divides the Asian Football Confederation, however there is another even more challenging problem that stands in the competition’s way… it’s bloody hot in West Asia!

There’s a reason the Qatar world cup is going to be held in December… and (from what I can tell) this same reason is why the ACL takes months break between group stages and knockouts…

Worse still the East Asia and West Asia Group stages are completely misaligned! Aussies typically have no idea that half the competition is going on and the competition itself cannot effectively employ narrative devices across social media to get the message of the competition out effectively.

This explains why the competition feels drawn out as an Aussie, this explains why the competition just seems to pop up out of no where when A-League clubs make the knockout rounds, and this explains why the competition completely falls off the radar when A-League clubs (frequently) don’t make the knockout rounds.

I suspect as well this is causing much frustration to other Asian football fans too, and I think there is a simple solution….

I believe the competition should start and finish earlier. That’s it. By starting the competition in January and ending in May the ACL would capture most clubs across the continent the thick of their seasons, have a single unbroken story that people can attach themselves too and avoid crossing over multiple seasons or requiring a heat break.

This is easier said then done, but shortening the competition that allows for an unbroken timeframe will do wonders for its meaningfulness and its standing in Asian football.

What do you think?

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