Monday, January 22, 2007

Records fall in A-League's second regular season

Melbourne Victory was presented with the Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate during the closing round of the 2006/07 season. It was handed to coach Ernie Merrick and captain Kevin Muscat by Football Federation Australia CEO Ben Buckley surprisingly four weeks after the club clinched the Premiership title and in front of the Newcastle Jets home crowd. Melbourne Victory will represent Australia in the 2008 Asian Champions League while the second team will qualify through the Finals Series for the Australian Championship which will be played over the next few weeks by the four top-finishing sides of the 8-team League. The Final Standings: 1. Melbourne Victory (45 points); Adelaide United (33), Newcastle Jets (30), Sydney FC (29), Queensland Roar (29), Central Coast Mariners (24), Perth Glory (20), New Zealand Knights (19).

Version 2 of the Hyundai A-League significantly surpassed the standards set by the inaugural season. Despite difficulties in New Zealand, Australian match crowds were so high that overall attendances for the regular season increased by almost 20% year on year. The highlight was the largest crowd ever at an Australian domestic football match with 50,333 fans filling Telstra Dome for Melbourne's home game against Sydney. The A-League broadcast figures also dramatically increased by 44% year on year – with over 4 million people tuning in to the Pay-TV provider, Fox Sports, to watch the games.

The kick-off for the final game of the weekend, Central Coast Mariners against the Adelaide United was delayed due to a raging bush fire that cut the main north-south freeway near the Mariner's home city of Gosford. But not a pre-match ceremony recognising Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna’s and his wife Barbara's naturalisation as Australian citizens. Both were born in Scotland, and each received their Australian citizenship from Bob Graham, Mayor of Wyong Shire Council. Lawrie McKinna has spent nearly half of his forty-five years in Australia, having first arrived on Australian shores as a two-year-old and then returning after his schooling years to begin a playing career with Box Hill in the Victorian Premier League.

One A-League record was beaten elsewhere during 2006/07. The Perth Glory versus New Zealand Knights fixture used to be the longest road trip in global domestic football with a distance of 5,345.72 km between the cities. But that title was handed over to the Russian teams St Petersburg and Vladivostok who travel 6,536.4km between home grounds.

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