As a Sydney FC fan since day one, I have witnessed the club go through many highs and lows. The current predicament is one of those low points. Currently in 8th place, Sydney has the worst form in the league, with one point from the last 15 available, and the fans are starting to ask questions.
Does Frank Farina or the board dictate player recruitment? Are the players in the squad good enough? Can Sydney FC make the finals? And is that good enough for a club of Sydney’s stature?
Let’s start with the current Sydney squad.
Farina has now been in charge for 14 months and should have been able to build a squad in that time. Contrary to what has been said in the press, the perception is that this is Farina’s squad. 21 out of 25 players in the squad have been signed or re-signed under his tenure as manager. Add to this the fact that Farina was able to join forces with Rado Vidosic, his former assistant at Brisbane Roar.
Frank Farina was given a 1 + 1 year deal by the club, whilst Vidosic was given a 2 year deal. This has the potential to undermine Farina’s position as manager and must surely have an impact on the club’s culture. To go along with that, David Davutovic tweeted suggesting that Scott Barlow, Sydney FC’s chairman, has had a huge influence on player transfers in recent times, which confirmed fans’ thoughts.
This leads to questions being asked about who is accountable within the club. The fans often say that they don’t know enough about how the club operates. All that can be judged is on field results. Since Frank Farina has come in, the team have picked up 45 points from 34 matches (13 wins, 6 draws and 15 losses). This equates to 35.74 points in a 27 game A-League season. Their away record is abysmal under Farina, having only picked up 2 wins and 4 draws from 17 matches. Whether it’s poor tactics or something else, those statistics aren’t acceptable for Sydney FC and surely they must change something to have more success away from home.
With the seasons results in mind, Sydney FC had assembled the most expensive team in A-League history before Brett Emerton’s retirement. Spending in excess of $6 million, Sydney FC should be considered competition favourites on their spending power alone. This spending power saw Juventus legend, Alessandro Del Piero join the club and will hopefully result in more high profile marquee players in the future.
As Alessandro Del Piero’s time at Sydney FC seemingly comes to close, what legacy will the footballing legend leave in Australian football?
Del Piero’s impact was immediate, scoring on his home debut vs Newcastle Jets in front of 35,419 fans. However, his impact hasn’t been fully felt throughout his 2 year deal due to poor on field results, which has turned fans away.
Whilst he has become outwardly frustrated in recent times, Sydney FC and Australian football fans will remember the time Alessandro Del Piero played in Australia fondly. As a number of fans have suggested recently, Sydney FC and FFA could, and perhaps should, be doing a lot more to keep him in Australian football in some capacity. Del Piero has helped improve the level of the A-League over the past two seasons but he could achieve a lot more in a long term focussed approach.
This will have a massive impact on members and fans of the club when Alessandro leaves Sydney FC. Just how big remains to be seen.
In the 2013/14 season, Sydney FC hit 10,000 members for the first time, which should of been deemed a success. For many fans though, this is far from successful. With Sydney FC’s cross town rivals, Western Sydney Wanderers, hitting in excess of 15,000 paying members, Alessandro Del Piero being on Sydney FC’s books and Sydney having a stadium twice as big as the Wanderers, what’s going on?
Many Sydney FC fans/members don’t feel that the club and team give them bang for their buck. The team don’t play attractive football and have fallen behind in recent years from the teams near the top of the table. Sydney FC’s CEO, Tony Pignata, said before the start of the 2013/14 season that top 6 was the club’s aim. The club should be aiming for top 3 or 4 each year. Anything else should be considered below par. Missing out on the 6 team finals series in a 10 team league is unacceptable for a club of Sydney FC’s size. The club can’t underestimate how important results are for many non-regularly attending Sydney FC fans, people which Sydney FC will want as long term members.
The club also got a big one wrong when they said the Sydney derby on 26th October 2013 was sold out. This was indeed incorrect as they later said the only way to get in was for fans to buy memberships. The question has to be asked, why the short term focus from the club to only increase membership numbers and money for the club, rather than to increase the long term fan base? The match was the hottest ticket in town and thousands of people were turned away as they didn’t want to pay to buy a membership. For a family of 4, a membership is a minimum of $520. That is rather excessive for a family who wants to experience an A-League match live for the first time and to see what the fuss is all about.
There are a lot of issues which Sydney FC need to address and fix to improve in the future. With Sydney FC wanting to be the biggest club in Australia, this must come with fantastic on field results and a stable off field team. This hasn’t been the case for Sydney FC for much of their history, with multiple changes in managers, CEO’s and many player changes every year.
The club’s board of directors must leave the coach, with the CEO’s assistance, to make player signings and make team decisions. Also, as mentioned above, the club must look at their membership focus and look at attracting fans for the long term, rather than having a short term focus.
It’s going to be a big last three months of the 2013/14 season, so lets hope that Sydney FC can play an important part in the finals series this season.