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We hear it often enough from coaches and new signings – “[Insert name of club] is the biggest club in the A-League  ….”.

Fans of Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers especially are adamant that their club rightfully owns that sentence. Fans point to the number of titles, the average crowds, the membership base. All of these are appropriate ‘metrics’.

Fans of other clubs point to their relative success compared with the big city clubs also. Fans of Central Coast Mariners, Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix regularly say they punch above their weight.

And then fans of the ‘middle cities’ of Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, say they’re doing well “considering” the size of their population compared with Sydney and Melbourne.

How does it all stack-up when they’re put together? Which is the biggest and best club in the A-League?

This isn’t an opinion. We’ve put together some hard data to determine the answer.

What we’ve done is scored and then ranked each of the current ten teams in the A-League in seven categories. The categories give a guide to both on-the-field and off-the-field performance. Categories such as trophies won, average finish and player quality are on-field issues; whereas membership, average crowds, social media following, and membership and crowds as a proportion of the population base are off-field matters (although on-field performance can impact these). One key piece of data to which we do not have access, other than in aggregate, are television audience numbers. As they are not available by club, this measure is not included.

The number-crunching shows that clubs such as Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners have performed well on-the-field but are perhaps let down by off-field issues.

By definition, ‘big’ clubs win things, perform consistently, attract good support and have quality players in their squad.

And the winner is …

Melbourne Victory come out on top, ranking first in four of the seven categories.

Those categories where they don’t rank first include player quality where, unsurprisingly, Wellington Phoenix has had the most with a total of 34 national team players compared with Melbourne Victory’s 27 (in second place). An other area is in population where Central Coast ranks first. However, even in this, Melbourne Victory is ranked fourth behind the three smallest city teams. The final area is average finish where Western Sydney Wanderers scored way ahead due both to the Wanderers’ strong performances and the number of seasons they have been in the A-League competition.

Considering the focus last season on the ‘metrics’ for Wellington Phoenix, this analysis shows they’re rated higher than two Australian based A-League clubs. Wellington Phoenix are ranked last in membership and average crowds, but are helped in their overall ranking by their player quality and population scores.

The club that gives the most cause for disappointment – and perhaps underscores the necessity for some stability in management and marketing spend – is Perth Glory. Once widely lauded as the off-field leader in the national soccer league, the club’s overall ranking is last with a total score of 55 (from 70). Perth Glory languishes in the second half of every category ranking except player quality where it sits fifth. As our fourth largest city, with a population nudging 2 million, it has scope for significantly improving its performance across the board. 

Here’s how we worked it out

Membership:  We ranked all clubs on the size of their membership in the 2015-16 season. Data via Outside 90.

Crowds:  We ranked all clubs on the size of their average crowds during the 2015-16 season. Data via Ultimate A-League.

Social media:  We ranked the clubs on the total of their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers. Data from club social media accounts at 28 July 2016. 

Population score:  We ranked the clubs on the basis of their membership and average crowds as a proportion of the city’s 2013 population. In the case of the two Sydney and two Melbourne teams, the population was split evenly. Data via the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Trophies:  We counted trophies won by each club, giving points for each. 10 points for winning the Asian Champions League; 8 points for being A-League premiers; 7 points for winning the A-League Grand Final; 5 points for winning the FFA Cup; and 2 points for winning the pre-season competition which was in place in the first three seasons. This is strictly based on winners; there are no points for being losing finalists. Data via the A-League.

Average finish:  We ranked the average finish over the number of seasons the club has been in the competition. Data via the A-League.

Player quality:  We counted the number of players from each club who have played for their respective national team at the time they were with, or had signed for, the club. This potentially means that an individual player may be included more than once for different clubs, but not in the same season. Data via Andrew Howe.

Note: We’re only human so it’s always possible there’s a data entry error in the spreadsheet. If you think there’s an error, please let us know.

Postscript (added 4th August)

Dean Rosario kindly extracted data on TV ratings as provided by Media Week for the past four seasons (since Western Sydney Wanderers’ inclusion), and provided a rating table as follows:

This has the impact of reversing the positions of Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix on the overall ranking table, that is: Melbourne City in 8th position and Wellington Phoenix in 9th position overall.

Thanks Dean.

Categories: Analysis | A-League


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