Despite the revival of Newcastle Jets after being given the last rights, there is no doubt according to many better informed than us that the Hyundai A League is currently in the emergency ward and on life support. As is often the case in such circumstances there can be no visitors, except those charged with its recovery, all we can do is peer through the window and pray for its survival.
There are many who are in the know who say that the League is actually beyond saving, and that it would be better to be closed down and re-started, something that may well happen in the next year to eighteen months. One thing is for sure it has to be restructured, as the current arrangements are not working.
The perfect solution is that the FFA allows a separate body to take control of the competition. Rumour has it such people are waiting in the wings at this time, but it will be vital that they employ people with the knowledge and experience to run a league competition if it is to succeed.
The league must however still fall under the FFA’s umbrella, so that it never falls foul of FIFA and puts Australia’s membership of FIFA at risk. Even a suspension could harm World Cup Qualifying, and that must never be in jeopardy. Membership of FIFA is even more important with the 2015 Asia Cup due to be hosted here in Australia.
Many have said that the FFA since its inception have put the cart before the horse, focusing purely on the elite level of the game and failing to recognize that if the game is to have a future we need good coaches at youth level and more children playing. Therefore lower participation fees for Children and no charge for coaches to be able to become qualified. Sadly the FFA have seen both areas as strong revenue streams and so this area is not reaching its potential.
Based on the premise that they have looked at the game in reverse, here is a radical suggestion, that who knows could actually work.
The actual A league only runs for six months. Not nearly long enough for a professional footballer starting out on a career, but ideal for one coming to the end of his playing days. If this is to stay the same, as the code believes it cannot compete with NRL and AFL, then so be it.
The FFA should as well as the Juniors plough funding into the State leagues around the country in order to raise the standard in what are supposed to be a feeder leagues for the Hyundai A League.
Just as the Rugby Union players are linked to state league clubs so too should A league players. The older ones can be given time off, but should be expected to attend games and training to form a link with the local clubs and the elite club. The younger players should be made to play and should be evenly distributed to the clubs in the leagues around the country. Young players need to be playing football, that is the only way their game will improve. How many young boys taken on by A league clubs have come back worse players than when they were signed, purely because they did not play enough football? These talented boys careers have stalled dramatically as a result.
With a structure such as this the A League club would not need such a big squad, as they could have local players who are linked by an apprentice scheme, and who train with them once the season is under way and attend college or university during other hours.
The added bonus to such a set up is each of the local clubs would have an investment in the A league club, and as a result you would find there was more of a connection between the two. There would be pride that one of ‘their’ players was playing in the A league and as a result crowds would probably increase.
This may sound like an off-the-wall idea, however if structured properly could in fact help save two levels of the game in Australia, and after a couple of years should produce more talented players than are currently coming through.
One thing is for sure all options need to be considered should the respirator on the A League be turned off, as Football cannot afford another League to fall over.