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It’s a good idea for fans of young leagues in countries where soccer is not the number one sport to keep an eye on each other’s progress and ideas. Perhaps more than aping long-established leagues where soccer is a sunk in part of a country’s culture, those like myself who want Major League Soccer to grow could do worse than look at the developments in Australia’s A-League, for example: at both its successes and its failures.
The A-League launched in 2005 with a rule MLS would soon introduce under a different name as the Designated Player rule: in Australia, each club was allowed to sign one “Marquee Player” outside the salary cap.
Now, like MLS this year, the A-League is expanding the number of Marquee Players a club is allowed, though with an interesting twist: the second Marquee Player slot for each team is designated for an Australian player. Football Federation Australia CEO Ben Buckley said:
“There is a wealth of Australian talent overseas with over 140 players currently playing in 15 of the top leagues in world football. Australian players are competing at a high level in Europe, Asia and America and what we have created is a viable option for these players to return to the Hyundai A-League and compete in what is becoming a very strong and competitive league.”
It would allow a club like Sydney FC to keep hold of Marquee Player Robbie Fowler while also signing a homegrown talent like Nicky Carle back from Britain, as has been the hot rumour for some time.
It’s also intended to increase the signing of high-profile foreigners as Marquee players, with some Australians currently designated as such moving to the local Marquee spot.
Reaction has been a little mixed, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports:
However, not all clubs will be thrilled about the new changes, given that several are struggling to stay afloat and cope with the rising financial pressures of competing in the competition.
The FFA will argue that the changes will create a surge of new interest, particularly if clubs are able to sign a player who enjoyed a prominent role at the World Cup.
The news comes as a timely shot in the arm for the A-League after a season of waning attendances – a period FFA chairman Frank Lowy described last year as a ”plateau” after four consecutive years of growth. Subsequent news of trouble at Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury has shown how tough some clubs are finding the marketplace.
Rules on “guest players” have also been clarified, another change MLS might consider looking at: clubs can now sign a guest player for up to 10 matches, and significantly, these players are now eligible to play in the A-League finals, an issue that reportedly stopped Luis Figo signing on with the league last year.
Are these rules worth consideration for MLS to both assist clubs in retaining top domestic talent, whilst also allowing short term infusions of foreign buzz into the league? (Discuss, students!)
- Liverpool fans wonder if their plans were taken into consideration this week with UEFA’s decisions on games going ahead in the Europa League: “We (fans) are always the forgotten people in this but it’s nothing new,” said Garreth Cummins, a Liverpool fan and international officer at the Football Supporters Federation. “I can’t remember a single time when UEFA have made a decision and thought about the fans or at least overtly made some consideration to them,” he told Reuters.
- Portsmouth might be riding high on the field to the FA Cup Final, but off the field, Soccernet says their financial situation is (somehow) even worse than feared, with the club in debt to the tune of “£119 million owed to various creditors – including astonishing amounts to agents.”
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.