• Danny Townsend (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Next season’s A-League is likely to run from October to May, with the competition’s new chiefs also open to joining the wider football world in pausing for international FIFA windows.
Dave Lewis

SBS The World Game
31 May 2021 - 8:26 PM  UPDATED 31 May 2021 - 8:26 PM

In collaboration with new $200 million broadcast partner Network Ten, the Australian Professional League plans to maximise exposure and avoid going head-to-head with NRL and AFL, as their newly-minted five-year TV partnership kicks off.

Whilst Football Australia would prefer a January start more aligned with the rest of Asia, Danny Townsend, Managing Director of the APL and also Sydney FC’s Chief Executive, contends that sticking with a tried-and-tested spring-summer-autumn format is more commercially compelling.

“Our intention is start in October and end in May, it’s the time our content is most valuable to our partners - but we need to work collaboratively with the FA and the rest of the football pyramid to ensure we can set the registration windows appropriately,” he explained.

“It’s the time when kids are on school holidays for a big portion of the season and we have a good crossover with the domestic participation base in the back half of the season.

“That said, the intention is to work with Football Australia to find the right balance and outcome that works for everybody.

“We haven’t arrived at that yet, so let’s see where that lands.”

With clubs like Melbourne City, Townsend’s Sky Blues, Macarthur FC and Central Coast all losing players to Socceroos duty in Kuwait during the forthcoming A-League finals, Townsend is as keen as FA to find a solution. But they’re not there quite yet.

“You can’t say when or if you’ll stop for international windows without knowing (for sure) when the beginning and the end of the season is,” he added.

Though the APL ostensibly runs its own show, FA still holds the levers to the domestic match calendar and a final agreement will need to be reached on start and finish slots.

“Our intention would be to structure our season to ensure we don’t play during international windows, but one thing the pandemic has taught us is that we also need to be flexible,” cautioned Townsend.

“We still haven’t settled on the calendar yet and we are working with FA on that at the moment.”

Townsend also has to weigh financial imperatives in the A-League’s marriage with Network Ten, which has acquired a small stake in the A-League.

“If there’s a point when we need to play during the weekend and the Socceroos are playing at Kuwait at 2am in the morning, we don’t want to lose momentum for football in Australia,” he added.

“You just want to be sensible and have conversations about how we make it work for everyone.  We want to protect the importance of National team fixtures.”

“For the first time in a long time we’re going to put the football fan first and make sure they get what they want also.

“If that means the A-League stopping while international windows take place then great.

“But we need to make sure it’s commercially viable and all hangs together properly and fits with the calendar.
“That’s why we’ve been in positive dialogue with FA.”