|Other club(s) from||New Zealand|
|Number of teams||10|
|Levels on pyramid||1|
|Domestic cup(s)||FFA Cup|
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League|
|Current champions||Central Coast Mariners
|Most championships||Brisbane Roar
Sydney FC (2 titles)
|Current premiers||Western Sydney Wanderers
|Most premiers||Central Coast Mariners
Melbourne Victory (2 titles)
|TV partners||Fox Sports
The A-League is the top level association football league in Australia, run by Football Federation Australia. The A-League was established in 2004 as a successor to the National Soccer League and commenced in August 2005. The league is currently contested by ten teams; nine based in Australia and one based in New Zealand. Seasons run from October to April and include a 27 round regular season and an end-of-season finals series playoff tournament involving the highest-placed teams, culminating in the Grand Final game. It is currently sponsored by the Hyundai Motor Company and thus officially known as the Hyundai A-League.
Since the league's inaugural season, a total of 6 clubs have been crowned A-League Premiers (regular season winners) and 5 clubs have been crowned A-League Champions (Grand Final winners). Successful A-League clubs gain qualification into the continental competition, the Asian Football Confederation Champions League. The National Youth League runs in conjunction with the A-League as a national youth developmental and reserve league.
- 1 History
- 2 Competition format
- 3 Clubs
- 4 Organisation
- 5 Players
- 6 Honours and records
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
A national round-robin tournament existed in various forms prior to the formation of the A-League, with the most notable being the NSL. Australia's qualification for the 1974 World Cup led to discussion of a national league, with 14 teams being chosen to participate in the inaugural season of the NSL in 1977.1
Overseen by then governing body for the sport Soccer Australia, the NSL flourished through the 1980s and early 1990s, though with the departure of Australian players to overseas leagues increasing, a disastrous television deal with the Seven Network, and with the consequent lack of sponsorship, the league plummeted into decline.2 Few clubs continued to grow with Sydney Olympic, Perth Glory, and the newly established Adelaide United the exception in a dying league.345
In April 2003, the Australian Federal Government initiated the Crawford Report, with the Australian Independent Soccer Review Committee to investigate the governance and management of football, including that of the NSL, in Australia.6 In October 2003, after the Crawford Report found the NSL was financially unviable, the new governing body's chairman Frank Lowy announced that a task force would be formed to create a new national competition as a successor to the NSL which would dissolve after the conclusion of the 2003–04 season in 2004 after 27 years of operation.
The A-League was established in 2004 as a successor to the NSL. Eight teams would be part of this new national competition, with one team from each city of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle, plus a New Zealand team and one from the remaining expressions of interest. The competition start date was set for August 2005.
By June 2004, 20 submissions had been received and a month later 12 consortiums sent in their final bids for the eight spots. Three bids were received from Melbourne, two each from Sydney and Brisbane, one from each of the remaining preferred cities and a bid from the New South Wales Central Coast city of Gosford. Over the next three months, each bid was reviewed and on 1 November 2004, the eight successful bidders and the major sponsor were revealed, for what would be known as the Hyundai A-League, with the Hyundai Motor Company unveiled as the official naming rights sponsor for the league.7
The eight successful teams were Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, New Zealand Knights, Perth Glory, Queensland Roar and Sydney FC, with five NSL clubs taking part, those being the Perth Glory, Adelaide United, Newcastle Jets, Queensland Roar (who had participated in the NSL under the name Brisbane Lions), and New Zealand Knights (who had participated in the NSL under the name New Zealand Football Kingz). A 5-year city exclusivity deal was ensured to each club as part of the 'one-city, one-team' philosophy to allow clubs to develop an identity in their region.8
The regular season runs mainly during the Australian summer, from early October to early April of the following year. The competition consists of 27 rounds, with each team playing every other team three times. The teams allotted two home matches against an opponent in one season are allotted one home match against that opponent in the following season. Each match sees the winning team awarded three competition points, with one point each for a draw. The club at the top of this ladder is crowned A-League Premiers, and as of the 2006–07 season, will be entered into the AFC Champions League.910 The Premier club is presented with a trophy known as the Premiers Plate.11
At the completion of the regular season teams are ranked from one to ten with the top six teams progressing to the finals series. The position of each team is determined by the highest number of points accumulated during the Regular Season. If two or more teams are level on points, the following criteria are applied in order until one of the teams can be determined as the higher ranked:12
- Highest goal difference;
- Highest number of goals scored;
- Highest number of points accumulated in matches between the teams concerned;
- Highest goal difference in matches between the teams concerned;
- Highest number of goals scored in matches between the teams concerned;
- Lowest number of red cards accumulated;
- Lowest number of yellow cards accumulated;
- Toss of a coin.13
The A-League Finals Series is an end-of-season play-off tournament involving the highest-placed teams at the end of the A-League season. The tournament is run by Football Federation Australia (FFA) and was first played in 2006 at the end of the inaugural A-League season. The Finals Series culminates to the Grand Final, where the winner is crowned A-League Champion and receives a place in the AFC Champions League.14
Recently the competition has consisted of 6 teams (previously 4) who are placed by rank, as determined at the end of the regular season. The competition runs in 3 stages, with each match winner progressing to the next stage, eventually leading to the Grand Final between the 2 remaining teams.14 The series has involved three different formats since its inception, but the current format, introduced for the 2012-13 season involves a three-week knockout competition, with the first and second placed teams receiving byes to the semi-finals.15 The sudden-death nature of the current format has drawn significant criticism for a perceived failure to adequately reward the top two teams from the regular season.16
Typically, the team involved in the Grand Final which finished highest on the ladder hosts the championship game, but this is only if the FFA deems that team's home ground to be of appropriate size. For example, in 2008, Central Coast Mariners (as regular season Premiers) should have hosted the Grand Final against the Newcastle Jets. However, the FFA decided that Central Coast's home stadium, with a capacity of 20,000, was too small and moved the event to the Sydney Football Stadium.17
The club that wins the Grand Final is presented with a circular trophy designed by a Sydney design company D3 Design known as the A-League Trophy.18
In 2004–2005 Australia was still a part of the Oceania Football Confederation and Sydney FC won the right to compete in the Oceania Club Championship after defeating the Central Coast Mariners in a qualifying tournament. It has been suggested that the Wellington Phoenix should compete in the OFC Champions League after 2011, as the club will no longer be eligible for AFC Champions League football.
A-League clubs are eligible for participation in the AFC Champions League competition each season19 since the 2007 competition. These teams were determined by finishing positions in the 2005–06 A-League season, the 2008 competition by finishing positions in the 2006–07 season, and so on. The amount of qualification slots and their nature as direct entry to the group stage or a qualification play-off varies based on what the AFC determines for each nation in the competition for that season. Until 2012 for most seasons there were two direct entry positions. Originally the first qualification slot was given to the minor premier winning club, with the second to the Grand Final winning club. Due to the dates of the respective competitions, an entire season passes before clubs compete. For example, Newcastle Jets competed in the 2009 Champions League, even though they finished last in the 2008–09 A-League season.
In 2012 the AFC revised the Qualification process, with A-league spots being reduced from 2.5 to 1.5.2021 The AFC cited lack of a second division, stadia and that the league was not a separate entity to the FFA.22 For the 2013 Asian Champions League, the Premiers (team who finishes top of the ladder) will receive direct entry into the competition. The Champions (Grand Final winners) will enter a play off against another Asian Club for qualification.23
In 2008, the National Youth League was set up in conjunction with the A-League in order to continue to develop young Australian talent into the league as well as into the Australian national team and its affiliates such as the under 17, under 20 and under 23 teams. The league's inaugural season was made up of seven teams, each linked to the corresponding Australian club in the A-League (excluding Wellington Phoenix) and had strong links to players training at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). The 2009–10 season saw the addition of Gold Coast United and a team from the Australian Institute of Sport Football Program. In the 2012–13 season, Gold Coast United were replaced by Western Sydney Wanderers. All players in the youth teams are between the ages of 16 and 21 as of the start of the calendar year for each new season, while four over-age players from each of the senior teams are also allowed to be selected.
There are nine clubs from Australia and one from New Zealand in the A-League. Only four of these clubs, Adelaide United, Brisbane Roar (as Queensland Roar), Newcastle Jets, and Perth Glory, existed before the A-League was formed.
Unlike most European leagues, there is no system for promotion and relegation of teams nor will a national knockout cup competition along the lines of the FA Cup commence until at least 2014. The A-League system thus shares some franchising elements with most other professional leagues in Australia, Major League Soccer and other major American-based sports leagues.
On 1 March 2011 the FFA officially announced that the licence held by franchise North Queensland Fury had been revoked for financial reasons.25 On 29 February 2012, Gold Coast United also had its licence revoked.2627
|Current A-League Clubs|
|Adelaide United||Adelaide, SA||Hindmarsh Stadium||2003||2005||Josep Gombau||Eugene Galeković|
|Brisbane Roar||Brisbane, QLD||Suncorp Stadium||2004||2005||Mike Mulvey||Matt Smith|
|Central Coast Mariners||Gosford, NSW||Bluetongue Stadium||2004||2005||Phil Moss||John Hutchinson|
|Melbourne Heart||Melbourne, VIC||AAMI Park||2008||2010||John Aloisi||Harry Kewell|
|Melbourne Victory||Melbourne, VIC||AAMI Park & Etihad Stadium||2004||2005||Kevin Muscat||Mark Milligan|
|Newcastle Jets||Newcastle, NSW||Hunter Stadium||2000||2005||Gary van Egmond||Ruben Zadkovich|
|Perth Glory||Perth, WA||NIB Stadium||1995||2005||Alistair Edwards||Jacob Burns|
|Sydney FC||Sydney, NSW||Allianz Stadium||2004||2005||Frank Farina||Alessandro Del Piero|
|Wellington Phoenix||Wellington, NZL||Westpac Stadium||2007||2007||Ernie Merrick||Andrew Durante|
|Western Sydney Wanderers||Sydney, NSW||Parramatta Stadium||2012||2012||Tony Popovic||Michael Beauchamp|
|Team||Location||Stadium||Founded||Joined||Dissolved||Last Head Coach||Last Captain|
|Gold Coast United||Gold Coast, QLD||Skilled Park||2008||2009||2012||Mike Mulvey||Michael Thwaite|
|New Zealand Knights||Auckland, NZL||North Harbour Stadium||1998||2005||2007||Ricki Herbert||Darren Bazeley|
|North Queensland Fury||Townsville, QLD||Dairy Farmers Stadium||2008||2009||2011||František Straka||Ufuk Talay|
While making a relatively modest start in order to ensure future stability, both Football Federation Australia and the media have indicated significant interest in expanding the league. The eight foundation clubs had exclusivity clauses for their respective cities valid for five years, but this does not exclude teams from other areas. Some have questioned the logic in expanding the league so soon as many clubs are struggling to stay afloat and think by expanding they are only diluting the playing talent even further.
Before the introduction of the A-League, FFA chairman Frank Lowy speculated that he hoped to expand the league into other cities, mentioning Canberra, Hobart, Wollongong, Geelong, Bendigo, Cairns, Ballarat, Albury, Wodonga, Launceston, Christchurch, Auckland, Sunshine Coast and possibly Darwin and later Singapore.29303132
While there are only three local derbies in the A-league, several 'rivalries' have formed. These include:
"The Big Blue" - Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
This match is so named because blue is the main colour of both teams' playing kits, and is also Australian slang for a fight or a contest.33 The rivalry has emerged as a result of a number of spiteful encounters between the teams in recent years, and due to the longstanding historical rivalry existing between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities. The teams have competed against each other in the 2010 A-League Grand Final, with Sydney winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw, and in the same year Sydney FC won the A-League Premiership on the final day of the season by defeating Victory 2-0. A Big Blue match is traditionally played on Australia Day each year.
"The Cross Border Rivalry" - Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory
Contested the 2007 and 2009 A-League Grand Finals, in which Melbourne won 6–0 and 1–0 respectively. The rivalry stems from the traditional rivalry between sporting teams from Victoria and South Australia but was strengthened by incidents in the 2006–07 season, such as the confrontation between Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat and then Adelaide United coach John Kosmina.
"The F3 Derby" - Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners
Named after the freeway that connects the cities of Newcastle and Gosford,34 this match features the only two clubs in the A-League that are not based in state capital cities. The two teams' stadiums are just one hour apart, and the derby was intensified when they competed against each other for the premiership in the 2007-08 A-League season and eventually met in the Grand Final, which was won 1–0 by the Jets.
"Melbourne Derby" - Melbourne Heart v Melbourne Victory
The two Melbourne clubs first met on 8 October 2010 in a lively game at AAMI Park in front of 25,897 fans. Melbourne Heart came out on top with a 2–1 victory. A significant narrative in derby history is the role of Melbourne Victory as a more successful club both on and off the field, having joined the A-League five years earlier than Heart.35 The rivalry is one of the most intense and well respected in the A-league, producing noticeable atmosphere and some of the largest attendances in the league.
"Sydney Derby" - Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
The Sydney derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers FC was contested for the first time in the 2012–13 season with the introduction of the Western Sydney Wanderers FC as an expansion club. Sydney FC grabbed bragging rights by winning the first derby 1–0 at Parramatta Stadium, however Western Sydney Wanderers won the return match at Allianz Stadium 2–0. The Sydney Derby is intensified by the geographic distinction between the two clubs within Sydney, as well as historical grievances related to the foundation of Sydney FC.
The A-League logo, designed by Coast Design Sydney, is a three-dimensional sphere. The two-toned ochre colours represent the sun, earth and desert while the 'glow' emanating from the centre of the logo depicts the playing season's spring and summer time span. The eight 'A' figures that make up the ball shape represent the eight foundation clubs.36
The A-League has been promoted using a number of different advertising slogans and strategies since its inception. At the start of the inaugural season, a A$3 million dollar advertising campaign was launched, with the television and film advertisements produced by Ridley Scott's production company. The theme for the campaign was: "Football, but not as you know it". A new television advertisement was created for the start of the 2007–08 season, which debuted on Foxtel's program Total Football. It was filmed at Bob Jane Stadium in Melbourne. Other campaigns include the "90 minutes, 90 emotions".37 which was used for two seasons from 2007–09 and was accompanied by the music track "My People" from Australian act The Presets.
The A-League has been featured in the FIFA series by EA SPORTS since the 2008 edition of the game, as well as the Football Manager series by SI Games and the Championship Manager series by Beautiful Game Studios.38
From the start of the inaugural 2005–06 season to the 2012–13 season, television coverage within Australia has been restricted to the subscription-only Fox Sports channel, to which only 7% of Australian residents have access.39 These exclusive rights preventing A-League matches from free-to-air viewing saw much opposition, limiting the growth of the league and the reach of football within Australia. On 19 November 2012, free-to-air Australian public broadcasting television network SBS secured the shared rights, alongside long-time A-League broadcasters Fox Sport, to the A-League from the 2013–14 season with a A$160 million four-year broadcast deal.40
The growth of the A-League outside Australia has seen the league broadcast in 65 countries around the world.41 Full match broadcasts are available in the United States, China, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Singapore and Myanmar.41 In addition to the full match broadcasts, highlights of A-League matches can be viewed in 53 countries throughout Asia and the Middle East, including Japan and South Korea.41 Every A-League match is also live streamed globally, allowing games to be viewed online through a subscription service provided in a partnership with FFA.42
The A-League also features some of Australia and New Zealand's top match officials.43 Referees include:
|Chris Beath||Queensland||FIFA listed44|
|Strebre Delovski||New South Wales||FIFA listed,44 AFC Elite Panel45|
|Jarred Gillett||Queensland||FIFA listed44|
|Peter Green||Queensland||FIFA listed,44 AFC Elite Panel45|
|Kris Griffiths-Jones||New South Wales|
|Tim McGilchrist||New South Wales|
|Peter O'Leary||New Zealand||FIFA listed46|
|Regis Queffelec||South Australia|
|Ben Williams||Australian Capital Territory||FIFA listed,44 AFC Elite Panel45|
A-League football has been played in 27 stadiums since the inaugural season of the A-League in 2005. Hindmarsh Stadium, the home of Adelaide United, is currently the only football-specific stadium used in the A-League. Docklands Stadium, home of Melbourne Victory, has the greatest seating capacity (53,359) of any stadium used by an A-League club, although it is only the third biggest stadium in Australia by capacity.
Stadium attendances are a significant source of regular income for the A-League and its clubs. The average and total attendances are listed below.
|Season||Regular Season Average (Excludes Finals)|
|Bold denotes clubs highest A-League season attendance.47|
Bold denotes highest A-League season attendance.47
The match-day squad in season 2013–14 includes the typical 11 players, and 5 substitutes, of which one must be a goalkeeper. Prior to season 2013-14, just fourteen players are allowed to be named in the starting line-ups for the teams, with only 4 substitutes including 1 goalkeeper.
An A-League squad must comprise a minimum 20 players with a maximum of 26, subject to several limitations. Within the squad there is a maximum of 5 players from outside Australia (and New Zealand, in the case of Wellington Phoenix). Of the 26 players, three must be under 20 years of age. In addition to these three under 20 players, clubs are allowed to sign an additional 3 youth players onto full-time contracts at a lower pay rate than the rest of the squad.484950
For the 2013–14 season, each club has a salary cap of A$2.5million (excluding Marquee, guest and replacement players) on top of Third Party Agreements. The minimum salary is A$50,000 although the 3 National Youth League contract players receive A$40,000, with their payments not included in the salary cap.
Current Foreign players in the A-League include:
The following do not fill a Visa position:
1Those players who were born and started their professional career abroad but have since gained Australian citizenship (and New Zealand citizenship, in the case of Wellington Phoenix);51
2Australian citizens (and New Zealand citizens, in the case of Wellington Phoenix) who have chosen to represent another national team;
3Injury Replacement Players;
4Guest Players (eligible to play a maximum of ten games)
The league allows each team to have one "marquee" player whose salary is exempt from the salary cap. Notable marquee players in the A-League have included Dwight Yorke and Alessandro Del Piero, who signed for Sydney FC, on a two-year four million dollar deal, beginning in the 2012–13 season. Since the 2008–09 season, A-League clubs have been permitted a Junior Marquee player; one that is under the age of 23. The Junior Marquee can be paid up to A$150,000 above the salary cap. On 19 April 2010, the A-League announced that, in addition to the marquee and junior marquee, clubs would be allowed an Australian marquee player from the 2010–11 season.52 Current Marquee players in the A-League include:
|Club||Australian Marquee||International Marquee||Junior Marquee player||Captain||Vice-Captain|
|Adelaide United||None||None||None||Eugene Galeković53||Cássio53|
|Brisbane Roar||Matt McKay54||Thomas Broich55||None||Matt Smith56||Shane Stefanutto56|
|Central Coast Mariners||None||None||None||John Hutchinson57||Michael McGlinchey|
|Melbourne Heart||None||Orlando Engelaar||None||Harry Kewell58||TBA|
|Melbourne Victory||Archie Thompson59||Pablo Contreras 60||None||Mark Milligan||Leigh Broxham|
|Newcastle Jets||None||Emile Heskey||None||Ruben Zadkovich||TBA|
|Perth Glory||None||William Gallas||None||Jacob Burns61||Travis Dodd|
|Sydney FC||Brett Emerton62||Alessandro Del Piero63||None||Alessandro Del Piero64||Brett Emerton|
|Wellington Phoenix||None||None||None||Andrew Durante65||Ben Sigmund|
|Western Sydney Wanderers||None||Shinji Ono66||None||Michael Beauchamp67||Nikolai Topor-Stanley|
Matt Thompson, who has played for Newcastle Jets (2005–2010), Melbourne Heart (2010–2013), and Sydney (2013-today) holds the record for number of A-League appearances. Shane Smeltz, who has played for Wellington Phoenix (2007–2009), Gold Coast United (2009–2011) and Perth Glory (2011–present), holds the record for number of A-League goals.
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