It was still, however, behind the AFL (27.1 per cent), which generates substantial coverage through the national draft, trade period and the start of pre-season training. The Big Bash (25 per cent) and NRL (22.4 per cent) were also ahead of the A-League in December.
Seven months later and the drop-off has been significant since the A-League’s resumption. Throughout July and August, the A-League’s share has fallen to just 5.4 per cent, while the AFL has had 44.1 per cent, the NRL 42.4 per cent and Super Rugby 5.7 per cent.
‘Is their coverage from October to December strongest because [of interest at] the start of the season … or is it because there’s less competition in the market?’
Streem’s media and partnerships lead Conal Hanna
Contraction in the media industry as a result of the pandemic is a contributing factor as to why the smaller football codes have struggled for space, and while the level of disruption makes interpreting the data difficult, Streem’s media and partnerships lead Conal Hanna said the conclusions were clear for the A-League.
“This is a very challenging year and it’s hard to know how much you can treat it as a base case for the future,” he said. “But the AFL and NRL are able to generate a lot of coverage, even off the field, and that’s something the A-League doesn’t have the presence to do in Australia as much.
“I would suggest the coverage in future years wouldn’t be as low as this year for the A-League at this time of the year, but it’s probably not going to be the same as that October to December peak either.
“The key question is, is their coverage from October to December strongest because [of increased interest at] the start of the season … or is it because there’s less competition in the market? I guess you’re going to find that out.”
Streem’s analysis does not include any other sports or factor in broadcast ratings.
While the A-League often trumpets its digital engagement and social media numbers as proof of its popularity, mainstream coverage remains vital as a way of reaching new audiences and demonstrating additional value for sponsors and broadcasters.
Former Socceroos high-performance boss Dr Craig Duncan, who works as a consultant for two A-League clubs, said there was little doubt winter was a “superior environment” for athletes versus the harsh Australian summer, but warned claims of an increased tempo were not backed up by numbers.
“I’ve got my hands on a fair bit of data … I don’t see it,” he said.
“In most instances the data pre- and post-COVID is comparable in respect to total distance covered and distance covered at high speed. There’s no big surge or anything like that.”
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Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.