What Can The A-League Learn From Other Leagues? Part One

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The A-League is becoming one of the biggest competitions in Australia with record number of crowds and team memberships than ever before. With the growing interest in the sport, and the competition over the last couple of years, surely this would be a sign for the FFA to change or update its Rules and Regulations. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Fans from teams all over the league want change and they want it now. The 28th February 2017, was deemed the “Darkest day in Australian club football” by Fox Sports presenter Mark Rudan. It saw two of the biggest teams in Australia, (Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers) both beaten by other Asian opposition by huge margins. After these two huge defeats, it raised many questions about the way the A-League was heading. “We want to be the best in the world” Rudan explained after the two defeats. If the A-League is to become one of the best leagues in the world or even Asia, it needs to change! After consulting with many fans, and constructing my own research I can clearly see why the A-League is regarded as a laughing stock to other leagues in Asia.

First, the A-League is one of a handful of leagues around the world which incorporates the salary cap ruling. As Mark Rudan explained on Fox Sports “The difference between first and 10th (in the salary capped A-League) is 36 points. The salary cap is supposed to be an equaliser, that’s a mirage.
He later went on to say, “In the top five non-salary cap leagues, England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France, there’s less points between first and 10th than a salary cap league.”
This just goes to show, it may work in other sports such as AFL and Rugby League, but in terms of the A-League this form of “fair ruling” just doesn’t work. It punishes teams who must play in midweek competitions such as the FFA Cup or the Asian Champions League. Professional football clubs need to add depth to their teams in order to be successful, but with capping the amount of money each team can spend, makes it even more difficult to compete. Sports like AFL and Rugby League, do not have to compete in other competitions, such as a domestic cup or international club competitions, as there are none. As this is the case the salary cap works fine for all clubs. If the A-League is to move forward, it needs to abolish this ridiculous ruling. If teams have the money to spend, let them! It will only benefit the league, as teams can bring in more players to compete and bring in more “big name” players, to add to the league. With the increase in money and the addition of more player the league must change its ruling on squad sizes.

At this moment in time to A-League allows a full squad size of 23 players. In that 23 there must be a minimum of 2 goalkeepers, 3 homegrown players aged 20 or under, and a maximum of 5 foreign players. That rule is understandable, as the league wants to develop a lot of younger players for Australian football, and the limit of the number of foreign players allowing the younger Australians more game time. Limiting the squad size to 23, reduces the chances of young players from youth teams or even from clubs in the state, a chance to sign for a professional team. If we take the Premier League for example, they have a squad size of 25, but that is only for players who are over the age of 21. If a player is 21 or under they are not counted in that 25-player squad, and a team can have as many players under the age of 21 as they see fit. The Premier League also incorporates a homegrown player rule, similar to the A-League. It states, that a team must have a minimum of 8 players which fulfil the “Home Grown Player” (HCP) criteria. Now what can the A-League learn from this? First of all, if we take Adelaide United’s 23 player squad for example: Mark Ochieng, Ben Warland, Ben Garuccio, George Mells, Mark Marino, Riley McGree and Jordan O’Doherty would not be include in that 23-man squad. This then leaves 7 players that could be added to the squad for depth, or even 9 players if the squad size was increased to 25. 7, or even 9 players would make a huge difference for teams. This could almost fill a complete back up side, for mid-week games or for injuries and suspensions. If this rule was to change, it would allow more youth players a chance to play and would also help these teams to compete in other competitions. After this rule change the FFA and the Australian Government, need to work on its grassroots football. This will then help to develop the younger Australians who wish to pursue a career in professional football.

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