The new A-League season has not yet kicked off but already fans across the country are shaking their heads in disbelief on hearing the news that Tim Cahill is signing for Melbourne City.
The signing of Cahill is news. However it is the deal that is rumoured to have been brokered that has people shaking their heads.
For a start Melbourne City is the richest club in the Hyundai A-League. The club is 80% owned by the City Football Group. “The City Football Group is a holding company established to oversee the creation and administration of a network of linked clubs and other footballing operations under the aegis of Manchester City.” The company is run as a holding company under parent company the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) and in 2015 recorded profits of over GBP32million (AUD55million).
Yet despite this it is believed that the A-League club has convinced the game’s administrators, the FFA, to underwrote a large proportion of the deal. Why?
Not only why should the FFA be underwriting a deal for the wealthiest club in the A-League, but why are they underwriting any deal for any club? Each club is a private entity and should be left to run its own affairs. The FFA administers the league and should not be investing in or owning any individual player or club in that competition. This is in fact a regulation under the FIFA rules and regulations; but the Game’s governing body are in such disarray they are unlikely to worry about a ten team league at the bottom-end of the globe.
It has been stated in some media reports that the FFA have come to the party, as they believe that having the 36 year old Cahill playing in the A-League will somehow enhance their chances of being paid more for the television rights of the league, when the current contract runs out at the end of next season. That is a very upsetting thought process to many.
Not only will the deal see Cahill the highest paid player in the A-League, but the FFA have changed their own competition rules to accommodate the ageing star. A rule change on the day they unveil a new head of the A-League; Interesting to know what Mr O’Rourke thinks.
The FFA’s A- League competition rules in relation to the Guest player position in an A-League squad states:
“Guest Player – A Club can spend an unlimited amount on one Guest Player who must satisfy the prescribed marketability criteria as approved by FFA. A Guest Player is restricted to a maximum of 14 Hyundai A-League matches;”
It is believed that the FFA have extended Cahill’s “Guest Player” position to a whole season. So not only does the player fall outside of the salary cap as a guest player, but it also means that Melbourne City can have two Marquee Players outside the salary cap, one Australian and one foreign. So a total of three players outside of the salary cap.
With Marquee players costing more than the average player, and most A-League clubs struggling to break even financially it would appear that the richest club in the league has been handed a real advantage over their rivals.
Cahill, who in 2014 was estimated to be worth $12million has allegedly signed a deal worth $4million to return to the A-League. This will be dependent on merchandise sales, crowds and additional sponsorship deals.
The FFA has been convinced to buy into the deal so that they can use Cahill in marketing campaigns for the Socceroos and their campaign to qualify for Russia’s World Cup in 2018. If he makes it to the World Cup, it would be Cahill’s fourth finals.
This is again sad from a purists point of view. Fans witnessed the FFA wheel out an over-the-hill Harry Kewell to market the game and the Socceroos. Cahill may come with the tag “Australia’s greatest Socceroo,” but again he is a player well past his peak. Yes, he is a big name that even non-followers of the game know, but his legacy is now behind him rather than in front of him. Why is it the FFA lack the foresight to promote the next generation of Socceroos stars as they approach the peaks of their careers rather than clinging to players who are past theirs?
Tim Cahill, will undoubtedly bring new fans through the gates, but will he keep them coming back week in week out? Or will he, like many of the other big name players before him, be a player fans come and see once to say they saw the great man play, and then stay at home?
Cahill’s form of late has not been great, which will be a concern. At the half-way point of the Chinese Super League season, his club Hangzhou Greentown are two places clear of the relegation zone, a gap of five points. Cahill, who is about to fall out of contract has notched only four goals in 17 games.
It is a big gamble. It is one the FFA should have had no part in. It should be a gamble made solely by the club wishing to sign him. The FFA certainly should not have changed its competition rules for one player, and one at the end of his career.
Their involvement, and the changes made to accommodate Cahill will make some watch his performances with added interest in the coming season, and the FFA will no doubt be judged on whether Cahill is deemed an overriding success or not. He is going to have to set the League alight. Oh, and of course the FFA must obtain a far better television rights deal.
Added 14/7/16 – Have just been advised that the FFA have introduced a new category of player and that Cahill will fall into that rather than the Guest Player. Interestingly they have not updated their own competition rules on their website.
There is now a Centralised Marquee player category. The terms of this player being signed again opens a huge can of worms as it steps outside of the role of a body tasked with administering a competition. There terms and conditions are as follows:
- (a) FFA to engage key intermediaries to target Players based on the prescribed criteria;
- (b) FFA’s internal project team will coordinate all Players put forward by intermediaries and research their credentials against the strict marketability criteria;
- (c) FFA to obtain the Player’s key terms for playing in the Hyundai A-League, including financial terms and preferred markets;
- (d) FFA to determine its investment in the Player, if any (in accordance with the process set out below);
- (e) FFA to communicate to all Hyundai A-League Clubs the Player’s preferred terms and FFA’s proposed investment to assist interested Clubs to table an offer to the Player.
The regulations outline the following:
3. Criteria and Eligibility
- 3.1 FFA financial support of any Player will be determined by applying a points system approach utilising strict marketability criteria that reflects the required market and league wide impact.
- 3.2 The criteria is structured around 3 key categories, namely Football Pedigree, Media & Marketing Impact and Commercial Value to the Hyundai A-League. In addition to whether the player increase broadcast ratings in Australia/ NZ & internationally, other practical considerations such as whether the Player speaks fluent English, the size of their social media following and age are factored into the points system.
- 3.3 The Player must enter into a Marketing Services Agreement with FFA and also commit to play for a full Season (i.e. sign prior to the closure of the First Registration Period).
This is wrong on so many levels. It is not a player’s responsibility to increase broadcast ratings, neither should their social media following have anything to do with whether they are suitable to play for a team. many other sports have come unstuck in recent times trying to ride on the back of players with large social media followings.
Once again is a 36 year old Cahill going to generate much interest overseas? Maybe to some passionate Millwall and Everton fans but outside of that it is unlikely.