Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Getting Premier League tickets from Australia

I've never left the country before, so don't be too jealous, but tommorow I will be flying to London and taking in Chelsea v Newcastle on Saturday (hoping Mark Viduka gets a game).

I would like to offer some tips on getting Premier League tickets, for anyone who is thinking of doing this:

- First place to try is the Australian Supporters group (have a search in google, you will find one for most clubs), some of them have a process so that you can apply through them and get tickets to a game. I know Aresnal and Tottenham allow you to do this... just make sure you get in early, because often there is only a small window that you can make your applications, this is usually a little over 10 weeks out from the game.

- Try ringing the club, discussing the situation. They will help you work out the best way you can get tickets from them, this will probably involve becoming a member, unless it's one of the less popular clubs.

- Have a look at fan forums, they may have unofficial ticket exchange processes that don't require you to be a member. If you are only trying to get one or two tickets this might be a good way of doing it.

- Last resort is ticket onsellers. They will often charge well over 100 pounds for a ticket, but might be a good way to get one or two tickets. Just search in google for "Premier League tickets" or "Chelsea Tickets" etc.

I will be posting reports and photos of my experience here at some point...

Bye for now,

Monday, December 24, 2007

2007 in Review

This year has been an interesting one for football in Australia. The memories of the World Cup in 2006 are starting to fade, but the integration of Australia into the Asian Confederation has given great hope that football will continue to grow as a force in Australian Sport.

There has been a lot of football this year, really there has barely been a break - and for football fans, that's been great. The year started off with the conclusion of the A-leauge, as an Adelaide United fan, the 6-0 loss to Melbourne Victory in the grand final was hard to take, particuarly as two of Melbourne's goals were clearly offside, and we had a goal ruled out for offside when it cleary came of a Melbourne player. 4-1 certainly would have been a fairer scoreline, but full credit to the Victory who pushed the boundaries of the A-leauge, and proved that Aussie clubs could thrive - both on and off the pitch.

Adelaide and Sydney then took part in the Asian Champions leauge, there were some nice moments during this campaign - Sydney's first-up victory in China and tight contests with the eventual champions - Urawa. I felt Adelaide was unlucky, and when only one team from each group progresses to the knockout rounds, you need a bit of luck - Travis Dodd's hat-trick in the final game was the highlight for me though.

Meanwhile the European season was drawing to an end, West Ham's remarkable run to see them stay in the top flight was unforgettable. For many weeks it looked like we may see a grandstand finish to the EPL season, Chelsea and Man United were scheduled to face off in the final week, and when Chelsea had an opportunity to get within 2 points of United a week or so before this game, every neutral fan was hoping that this match may decide the premier league champions. In the end, Chelsea couldn't take advantage of the chances that Man United gave them to catch up - and Man United sealed the Premier League title a week out from the end of the season. Chelsea got one back a week later, winning a dull FA Cup final at Wembley.

AC Milan took out the UEFA Champions league, although Liverpool looked the better side for most of the game, then again Milan dominated much of the 2005 final, which Liverpool took out on penalties. It was also good to see Harry Kewell come back from injury late in the season, he would go on to do well in the Asian Cup for the Socceroos, and has eventually started to get some regular football for Liverpool in the current EPL season.

Anticipation was starting to rise for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, a full strength Socceroos team was called up for the tournament, and the expectation was that Australia would take out the title. Unfortunately for Aussie fans, the tournament did not go well - in retrospect it seems that Graham Arnold and the FFA underestimated the tournament, players all had a break for a month or so before the tournament, and were obviously not fit enough to be at their best. Despite an opening draw, and a dissapointing loss - Australia hit back with a 4-0 win against Thailand to book their spot in the Quarter finals. Aussie fans began to hope that the Socceroos were coming into form at the right time, and after John Aloisi put Australia 1-0 up with 25 minutes to go in the Quarter final against Japan, it seemed that this was the case. Some lazy defending, however, allowed Japan to equalise. The Japanese were obviously fitter and from that point on were clearly the better side, Australia managed to take the game to a penalty shootout, but when both Kewell and Neill missed their penalties, Australia were as good as eliminated. It was encouraging, however, to see two A-league stars in David Carney and Nick Carle score penalties to keep the pressure on Japan, but no miricale was to occur and Australia bowed out.

On a more general level, the Asian Cup was a good touranment. The quality of football was good, and the tournament was well run. Unfortunately the crowds were poor in both Thailand and Malaysia - but good crowds in Indonesia and Vietnam meant that at least some games had a nice atmosphere. The temperature was also a problem, average temperatures in the mid-30s with high humidity made it very difficult for the players, this is something the AFC will have to look at, if the Asian Cup is going to grow into a really major tournament, then you can't have games played under those conditions - it's going to be a tricky problem to deal with.

A decent performance against Argentina and a win against Nigeria saw the Socceroos round out 2007 well. New coach Pim Verbeek was appointed when Dick Advocaat pulled out on the FFA at the last minute. 2008 will be an interesting year for the 'roos. The 2010 world cup qualifiers are the obvious fixture, with Australia in a tough group. It will be interesting to see how Australia deals with the problem of unavaliability of European players in their first couple of games - let's hope we can work out a system that will serve us well in the future.

Australia's women had a big tournament this year, a first up win and two impressive draws saw the Matlida's qualify for the Quarter finals of the Womens World Cup in China. It looked like a massive upset might be on the cards as Australia came back from 2-0 down to be level against Brazil in the Quarter final, however Brazil managed to find another goal and progress - they ended up cruising into the final of the tournament (which they did loose), which shows how close Australia came to a huge result in what was a very successful tournament.

Another Australian national team making waves in 2007 was the Olyroos. Australia's under-23 team faced a very difficult campaign to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, but they came through a very difficult group to reach the final stage of qualification with some impressive wins. Players like Kristian Sarkies, Nathan Burns, Bruce Djite, Mark Bridge, James Troisi, Neil Kilkeny, Mark Milligan and Adrien Leijer all impressed and look to have a good future. The team would end up topping their final round group (which was required for qualification) after a 2-0 victory over Iraq at a packed stadium in Gosford and a tense 1-1 draw in North Korea. It was a shame that most of the Olyroos games this year were not televised in Australia, particuarly when coveraged was produced for every game - and many countries across Asia had coverage of our games. Eventually SBS decided to show our game against Iraq and Fox Sports stepped in to show the final game against North Korea. Hopefully this trend will continue and we will start to see a lot more games invloving youth and womens teams (especially games in Asian competitions) broadcast.

Talking of football broadcasting, it has also been great to see Setanta Sports truly enter the Australian market through their transmission on Foxtel. Live coverage of international games, and games from several European leagues has seen Australia finally get up to standard as far as football coverage goes - there is still a lot of room for improvement though. Fox Sports also deserves a lot of credit for it's coverage of the English Premier league - the 'press red' feature and viewers choice has been very welcome, hopefully it won't be too long and every EPL game will be live on Fox Sports. It would be nice to see a little more coverage on FTA television, as that is really a requirement to continue growing the game - hopefully the rumors about Socceroos games being put back on FTA TV are true. It would also be nice to see the A-league (and prehaps EPL) highlights shows on FTA one day.

The A-league kicked off again for Season 3 in August. The first season of the A-league had the novelty factor of being season 1, and the second season was played only a couple of months after the 2006 World Cup - so Season 3 was always going to be a more difficult year for the A-league. Despite this, crowds are up overall - as are TV ratings and media interest. The Wellington Phoenix have replaced the NZ knights, and have impressed - although they will not make the finals, they have got some good results, played some good football and pulled in some big crowds. The quality of the football has prehaps been a bit lacking in season 3 of the A-league, but this is partly because the competition is more even this year. Sydney FC's 5-4 victory over the Mariners on Saturday was the best game the A-league has ever seen, so prehaps the trend of low-scoring matches is over. The season is delicately poised going into next year, hopefully we'll have a few more classic games as we get close to the finals.

The international football for the year concluded in November with the final round of Euro 2008 qualifying. Scotland came very close to knocking Italy - the World Champions - out of the tournament before it began, but in the end Italy had a little too much class. Class is something England ran out of as they crashed out at the hands of Croatia, thanks to some terrible defending and goalkeeping.

The European club season has been exciting and memorable as always. I look forward to visiting London next weekend to take in Chelsea v Newcastle. As always, the real drama will start occuring next year when trophies are on the line.

So what should we be looking forward to in 2008? There will certainly be some interesting developments around the A-league. Expansion is on the cards, and the Gold Coast Galaxy look set to be playing in the A-league next season. There is also a possibility that the Townsville Thunder will see a 10 team league in 2008/2009. New teams will be exciting, and hopefully they will both draw big crowds, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding how the 10 team league will work. I would love to see the season going 27 rounds into March/April and overlapping the champions league, but will there be problems with ground availability? Also, will international breaks be recognised? Will we have a few more midweek games? Will more games be played around the Christmas period? It will be a year of change for the A-league, and personally - I am excited.

A revamp of the Asian Champions league will also be considered next year, it is possible that we may see 3 A-league teams in the ACL for 2009, with the format of the ACL tinkered with - this is certainly necessary as the tournament does have it's problems - but it has a lot of potential.

2008 will again be a big year: World Cup qualifiers, Euro 2008 and the Olympic Games will be 3 highlights - let's hope it's a good year.

Bye for now,