Let clubs chase the marquees - It's their money, after all

Can someone please tell me why Football Federation Australia keep poking their noses into the clubs' affairs by going on a wild goose chase of foreign marquees the A-League cannot afford any more?

I mean, it's bad enough that headquarters control every aspect of the league season and determine who does or does not play in it.

Enquiring about or negotiating with a big name from abroad on behalf of the clubs is just not right.

This approach would not sit well with star players and their agents who are used to dealing with clubs or their representatives.

FFA personnel also would be less qualified than the clubs to assess the technical or economical merits or otherwise of bringing a foreign star to our shores.

FFA have set aside a $3 million fund to facilitate the acquisition of a big name or two who could inject some life in a stagnant league but this does not give them the right to assume a leading role in the league's star trek.

It should not be that way because it is in the clubs' interests to strengthen their team accordingly and how they do it is their prerogative and responsibility, not the FFA's.

FFA helped Sydney FC financially after the Sky Blues obtained the costly signature of Italian FIFA World Cup striker Alessandro Del Piero in 2012 and headquarters played a leading role in Melbourne City's acquisition of Socceroos star Tim Cahill four years later.

However it is fair to say that, despite the considerable interest the two big signings generated, neither the Sky Blues nor City benefitted greatly from a playing perspective.

Sydney were a poor version of the strong team they have become when Del Piero joined them and they would gain much more technically from the subsequent signings of lesser lights Jordy Buijs, Milos Ninkovic, Bobo and Adrian Mierzejewski.

City too derived more benefit from the acquisitions they made themselves such as those of Thomas Sorensen and Bruno Fornaroli.

Which might suggest that clubs are often in a much better position to evaluate the potential of any foreigner who might be interested in plying his trade in the A-League.

Yet clubs cannot have it both ways. If they want to have a free rein in chasing players, and an exclusive say in who they sign, they cannot keep depending on headquarters for assistance.

It's okay for the clubs to seek independence but with more autonomy comes a greater responsibility to make ends meet without assistance from outside.

The clubs should be trusted and allowed to do their maths and determine whether they can afford to sign an Andres Iniesta, a Franck Ribery, a Fernando Torres or whoever might be available and affordable.
Of course, FFA are hell-bent on boosting the image of the A-League that is losing fans in droves due to a plethora of reasons, not least the boredom of the current 10-team set-up.

The television deal with the league's main broadcaster is up for renewal in 2022 and it is no secret that Fox Sports are not exactly thrilled with the product they have paid a lot of money for the privilege to show.

If headquarters are really serious about improving the competition's overall appeal to fans, sponsors and broadcasters, they should come up with better scheduling, stop treating supporters like supermarket customers, give clubs a more meaningful say in the decision-making process, stop playing matches at cricket grounds ... and get rid of that colossal cock-up called VAR.

FFA should sort out the problems that the league faces and leave the chasing of foreign stars to the clubs.

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3 min read
Published 17 May 2018 at 6:50pm
By Philip Micallef