It grants a small but significant advantage to the new teams and is a sign that all stakeholders recognise the A-League’s 11th and 12th teams must be given every opportunity to succeed from the start, with another round of failed expansion likely to have disastrous consequences for the sport.
To a degree the changes also level the playing field, since the new teams are unable to offer loyalty payments outside of the salary cap to players who have been at their clubs for five or more years. There was a loyalty payment cap of $200,000 this season but it is understood that could be removed.
The last new team to enter the A-League, Western Sydney Wanderers, were also afforded special conditions as they built their squad.
The Wanderers were allowed to sign an additional two visa players in their first two seasons. The change allowed them to make a late play for Japanese star Shinji Ono on the eve of their inaugural A-League campaign.
Previous expansion clubs Melbourne Heart, Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury were not given any such concessions and had to play by the rules in place when they joined the A-League.
It’s been a busy week for Western United – they’ve announced the signings of Ersan Gulum, Scott McDonald and James Delianov while also unveiling their logo. However, an announcement on Rudan – the worst-kept secret in the domestic game – probably won’t come until after the A-League grand final.
Just in time for next month’s Women’s World Cup, a new book detailing the history and backstories of the 239 women who have represented the Matildas has been released.
The Encyclopedia of Matildas will be officially launched on Wednesday night at Gleebooks, written by Australian football’s statistical savant Andrew Howe and historian Greg Werner.
Howe also wrote the equivalent book on the Socceroos, which came out last year through the same company, Bonita Mersiades’ Fair Play Publishing. But that proved a much easier task than this one – simply because of the lack of data available from the early days of the Australian women’s team.
Match records from many games in the 1970s and 80s did not exist, and poor media coverage at the time added to the challenge, but Howe and Werner got there in the end thanks to the personal information kept and provided by Heather Reid, Janene Mar, Steve Darby and author Elaine Watson. The result is a comprehensive wrap of facts and figures pulled from the four decades of the Matildas.
Most interestingly, it reveals that unlike the Socceroos – whose make-up has traditionally reflected the country’s ethnic migration and settlement patterns – the Matildas are predominantly ‘home-grown’, with almost all players born here or moving to Australia at a very young age. The majority of players also come from the Sydney metropolitan area – just over one quarter.
Network Ten may be expressing the biggest appetite to purchase the A-League free-to-air TV rights beginning next season but they’re not alone at the negotiation table.
The Hairdryer understands Seven and Nine remain in the discussion to broadcast A-League in conjunction with Fox Sports but as yet have not committed to a fee for the rights.
Fox Sports have been put on notice to expect a potential offer from a network to buy an additional game per round, meaning two games could be screened on free-to-air television as early as next season.
Indigenous football has long been forgotten within the game but first Australians have shown they have a bright future after winning their first international tournament. Last weekend, a women’s indigenous national team won the 2019 Arafura Games in Darwin, beating a Singapore side to take out the gold medal. The men’s team had plenty to celebrate as well, finishing second in the multi-cultural international community tournament after losing the final to the Northern Territory’s minister’s XI. The side included players from all over the country, with families covering the bulk of the costs to compete, including airfares and ground transport.
Despite being an indigenous team, they chose to wear the green and gold kit of the Socceroos, wanting to show unity with the rest of the game while their jerseys carried Aboriginal artwork.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.