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New Leagues Working Group report presents future options for A-League
The New Leagues Working Group report, submitted to Football Federation Australia (FFA) today, has presented an alternative model for Australia’s professional football leagues while also acknowledging that broadcaster have given an ultimatum over their organisation of the competition. The New Leagues Working Group report - popularly termed A-League 2.0 - has provided recommendations for an alternative model for the professional leagues comprising of the A-League, W-League and Y-League.
However, the Working Group called Fox Sports' submission to the board (which wasn't published) "sobering reading" while acknowledging the broadcaster’s importance to any new league model.
Fox Sports has held principal broadcasting rights to the A-League since the competition's inception, also broadcasting the majority of Socceroos and Asian Champions League matches in a series of landmark deals with FFA.
However, falling ratings on the pay-television network - from an average of over 74,000 viewers per game in 2012/13 to only 51,000 in 2017/18 - have led to the broadcaster’s concern.
The Australian reported today that Fox Sports has called the current operation of the league, in which FFA holds executive power over each A-League club in a franchise system, unsustainable and threatened a "huge drop" in their offer for the next broadcast rights negotiations if a solution isn't found.
Fox Sports are currently in the third year of a six year, $346 million dollar deal.
In response, the Working Group’s report highlighted the importance of Fox Sports to any new league model, advising “given the significance in terms of revenue contribution and positive impact on the A-League of the existing multi-year FFA - Fox Sports Australia media and broadcast rights contract, the NLWG recognised the importance of inviting a submission from Foxx Sports.
"The submission made for sober reading and the NLWG recognised that under whatever New Professional Leagues Model is adopted, the relationship between the Professional Leagues entity and Fox Sports Australia will be paramount just as will preservation of the respective rights and obligations of the FFA and Fox Sports Australia under that contract."
The ratings figures for last season on Fox Sports are the second lowest in the competition's 13 year history, highlighting the A-League's need for refreshment.
With the release of the report seeing an independent league move one step closer, it recommends that “all parties and stakeholders, through their nominated lead negotiators and advisers, seek to conclude their negotiations for the new Professional Leagues Model as soon as practicable following March 31, 2019 and, having done so, to document and execute all consequential and/or necessary binding long form agreements and do all things reasonably necessary to give effect to such agreements by June, 30 2019 (including submission of any proposed FFA constitutional changes to the Members of FFA).”
The Working Group report also included a section related to Australian youth development, highlighting the pressing need for refocusing in this area.
It was unclear how the new A-League model, which is still only in a draft stage and has to be affirmed by further meetings and an FFA board review, would treat the development of A-League youth.
The current set-up has been widely criticised, as South East Asia's increasing investment into youth development balances with the A-League's comparatively small number of Australian clubs, restricting professional pathways for young Australian footballers.
However in their draft blueprint for an independent A-League released a few weeks ago, the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association called for an annual review with an intention of increasing the league's foreign player allowance.
The key principles in the report included:
• That a new and separate professional leagues entity must have regard to the best interests of Australian football as a whole;
• The new leagues entity would be responsible for the professional football leagues including, but not limited to, the A-League, W-League and Y-League;
• The new entity would be autonomous and separate from Football Federation Australia (FFA);
• The leagues entity would offer the clubs greater responsibility and encouragement to invest in order to commercialise and to grow the professional game as a part of and for the benefit of Australian football; and
• The new Leagues entity should foster the development of the leagues and, through the Leagues, football in Australia by providing the pathway for Australian footballers to an elite level and, ultimately, Australian national teams.
In addition, the Working Group determined that the legal, commercial and regulatory arrangements required to give effect to the various principles involve complex matters which require more time in order to be finalised.
Images: Western Sydney Wanderers in action in 2017 (top, courtesy of Damian Briggs Photography) and NPL NSW 1 Youth action (below)
26th February 2019 - Western Sydney Wanderers agree long-term tenancy at Bankwest Stadium
16th February 2019 - Rejuvenated playing fields set to benefit Melbourne’s rugby and A-League teams
19th January 2019 - Successful A-League bid group unveils new plans for Western Melbourne Stadium
14th December 2018 - FFA approves A-League expansion bids from Western Melbourne and South-West Sydney
15th November 2018 - Sydney FC Chief Executive stresses vital role of fans
2nd October 2018 - New FFA constitution agreed in extraordinary general meeting vote
1st August 2018 - FFA looks to block working group’s governance changes
4th April 2018 - Independent chairperson to lead FFA reform
21st February 2018 - A-League clubs warn of competition collapse
16th July 2017 - AAFC Board kicks off plan for national expansion of FFA competitions
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