AT a time when Australian soccer - sorry, football - fans are entitled to be giddy with excitement, untimely news from the other side of the Nullabor has provided a touch of perspective.
As millions of parochial Aussies jump aboard the Matildas' bandwagon during a World Cup tournament in our own backyard, spare a thought for former Perth Glory owner Tony Sage.
Sage, an English-born entrepreneur who made his fortune in the Western Australian mining industry, announced last weekend that he was relinquishing his A-League franchise licence after experiencing financial difficulties.
"I've run out of funds," Sage explained.
"Everything I've got at the moment is poured into my business. I can't take it out of my business.
"I want the players to be paid on time, which they weren't this month, which I greatly regret.
"It's the first time in 18 years they haven't been paid on time, but they've been paid now."
Sage first obtained a part stake in the Glory in 2007 and, two years later, bought out co-owner Brett McKeon to assume full control of the club.
Over the ensuing 15 seasons, he estimates he has lost in the vicinity of $50 million of his own cash in bankrolling the franchise. Since COVID, in particular, the financial hemorrhaging has increased exponentially, as Perth were effectively unable to host home games for the best part of two seasons.
Unlike so many other former owners of A-League franchises, Sage won't be remembered as a shonk who bought a club as an ego trip, ran it into the ground and was eventually exiled, leaving behind an enormous mess.
The Glory have been placed into administration and Sage has been working with the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) - the A-League's governing body - to help clear a path for his successor.
"I just want to make it clear, the licence wasn't stripped off me," Sage said. "It was a decision made with the APL to put it in a position to find a really good owner.
"I couldn't do it by myself ... unfortunately every avenue that I've had to use, we've used."
Sage's demise represents a major dilemma for the APL, who have already spent more than two years funding the Newcastle Jets on an interim basis, in the hope that the franchise can eventually be sold.
Suddenly the APL, which is basically a group comprising the owners of the A-League's 12 clubs, has another franchise that will likely need charity to stay afloat financially, at least for the time being.
And I suppose the obvious question is how much longer can this continue?
At what point do the other A-League club owners decide that it is no longer feasible to continue propping up failed franchises?
Another concern for the Jets is that now they are no longer the only A-League team on the market. Now there is a competitor, and it could be argued that the Glory are a more attractive proposition, given that they hold a monopoly in Western Australia, whereas Newcastle are one of five clubs based in NSW.
What the issue highlights - ironically at a time when turnstiles have been spinning furiously during the women's World Cup - is the tenuous state of the round-ball code in Australia.
The A-League was struggling even before the coronavirus pandemic decimated its crowds, and while other sports were quick to resume normal service, football's recovery has been a painstaking process.
Last season only four A-League clubs averaged crowds of more than 10,000, while three others had an average turnout of fewer than 5000.
The average home crowds for the championship winners of the past two seasons, Central Coast Mariners and Western United, have been 7604 and 3616 respectively.
Judging by the bums on seats, or lack thereof, it's hard to see how all this is financially sustainable.
Yet at a time when you would assume the APL should be rationing every cent, they seem to be intent on proceeding with plans to expand the A-League.
Meanwhile, Football Australia is forging ahead with a proposed second-tier competition, which - if it ever gets off the ground - will possibly lead to the creation of a promotion-relegation system.
All of which sounds unbelievably far-fetched, even at a theoretical level.
It's all well and good to be ambitious and aspirational, and hopefully Australia can benefit from a World Cup legacy, on a number of fronts.
But regardless of how the Matildas perform during the tournament, it is unrealistic to hope they can be the saviours of the game in this country. Just ask Tony Sage.
WE'LL be returning from England as the world Test champions and with the Ashes urn safely secured, regardless of the result of the fifth and final Test at The Oval.
But for some reason I am more concerned than excited about the future of the Australian cricket team.
Retaining the Ashes in England might be a case of "mission accomplished", but by the same token the result largely flatters to deceive.
Australia rode their luck to win the first two Tests, were soundly beaten at Headingley and in all likelihood would have been hammered at Old Trafford, if not for a fifth-day washout.
Without wanting to dignify their shameless whingeing, the Poms would appear to have some sort of valid argument, given that the home team have dominated for large parts of the series.
There has been a sense of deja vu as I've watched this Australian team in the Old Dart.
I find myself reflecting on two fairly bleak periods in our cricketing history - after the retirements in the mid-1980s of champions Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh, then two decades later when Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer pulled up stumps, followed soon after by Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden.
This is not a young Aussie team.
Of the XI playing at The Oval, only three - Todd Murphy (22), Marnus Labuschange (29) and Travis Head (29) - are aged under 30. Given that openers Usman Khawaja and David Warner are 36, first-choice spinner Nathan Lyon is 35, and Steve Smith is 34, it won't be long before major changes are looming on the horizon.
And good luck to the men who hand out the Baggy Greens as they go searching for replacements.
Judging by the fact that Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw are the reserve batsmen in England, and Peter Handscomb played during the recent series in India, it is hardly a glowing advertisement for the Sheffield Shield's next generation.
The national selectors can only hope some young talent emerges in a hurry, or that Smith and co play into their 40s.
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