The Advertiser is dragging the chain

The sporting environment in Australia has changed forever. Football has gone from being the ugly duckling to the rising star of Australian sport. Its popularity has risen in leaps as evidenced by the scenes around the country during the 2006 World Cup Finals and the fans turning up to watch the A-League.

Throw in the immensely popular FoxSports coverage of the A-League and there are some pundits who are now arguing that more people tuning into football than AFL or Rugby. Most of the print press has boarded the football train but there has been one very disappointing exception – the Adelaide Advertiser.

Its coverage of the A-League in recent weeks has been nothing short of shameful. Adelaide United are playing in the finals yet the Advertiser sees fits to relegate the A-League into the depths of its sports pages.

Adelaide United have a sudden death final on the weekend – the winner gets to play in the grand final and a shot at the title and its season over for the loser. So what does the Adelaide Advertiser put on the main sports page?? – an article on the hair of an Australian cricketer!!! Not that this is unusual – the A-League has been relegated to bowels of the Advertiser sports pages during the A-League finals series.

Hit the rewind button to the Adelaide v Melbourne game only a fortnight earlier. The Advertiser sent two non-football reporters to the match – in hindsight a suggestive signal of the newspapers intent. The match was an uneventful 0-0 draw. Next day, to the shock of all, the Advertiser ran a front page story claiming crowd violence at the match. The colour picture accompanying the article told the true story – it was a snap of some Melbourne fans on the way to the game – doing nothing other than singing and wearing their teams colors.

The Advertiser’s article drew much criticism from the Adelaide and Melbourne camps as well as a full frontal attack by Channel Ten.

In contrast the coverage of the A-League by the interstate press has been excellent. Last week the Age put Melbourne’s win over Adelaide on the front page. On page 2 it put up a graphic comparing the crowd problems at the football to that of the cricket match on the same day. Five people were ejected from the football whereas nearly 200 were ejected from the cricket – a stark comparison. There was several more pages of football coverage, including a two page colour photo, in the sport pages.

It is a disappointing situation when, as a football fan, you spurn the local Advertiser and buy an interstate paper because it has better coverage of local football.

Football has undergone massive change. Arguably it is the most popular sport in the country. Importantly the traditional barriers between sporting codes and fans have broken down. Football is here to stay as a mainstream sport in Australia and most have accepted the inevitable reality that comes with it being the most popular sport on the planet. Unfortunately, like many things in this City of Churches, the Advertiser is living in the past.

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