How the A-League got it all wrong

Ben Sewell Roar Pro

By , Ben Sewell is a Roar Pro

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    With the ongoing feud between the FFA and A-League owners continuing this offseason, perhaps this has distracted many A League fans from the real issue facing football in Australia today – The A-League’s inability to distinguish itself between a fully fledged independent league or a nursery for bigger European clubs.

    As the dust settles on an offseason which saw many of the A-League’s finest depart to Europe in search of footballing glory, the question must be asked, is this really what’s best for the A-League?

    Should clubs be attempting to build their own rosters in the hope of keeping them together for seasons at a time? Or should the A-League turn into a full-time nursery for bigger European clubs? At the moment, the A-League is stuck in between both of these models and it’s to its own detriment!

    Riley McGree, one of the finest youngsters in the A-League and a member of the Socceroos squad was transferred to Club Brugge. On the surface, this was an excellent move, but Adelaide United were paid a mere $100,000 for the transfer. That’s a laughable number for a player of his pedigree and Adelaide should be ashamed for letting him walk for that money.

    Likewise, the joint Golden Boot winner from last year Jamie Maclaren banged in 40 goals for the Roar in his two seasons with the club. Most analysts had his price tag pegged at over a $1,000,000 in terms of transfer value. Instead, the Roar showed zero urgency in what should be considered a crime to football and didn’t bother re-signing the star striker. As a result, Maclaren was allowed to walk for free this offseason and the Roar were left empty handed.

    Jamie Maclaren Brisbane Roar portrait

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    If the A-League is truly going to become a nursery for the bigger leagues in Europe, then it must place more emphasis on maximising its returns. It cannot just let their best players be poached for cents on the dollar!

    It’s an outrage that Brisbane and Adelaide were left with nothing while losing two very important players. What should be considered an even bigger outrage is the lack of care in the A-League community that these sides were robbed of their stars for basically nothing.

    It’s a growing trend in the A League which cannot seem to identify where it stands on nurturing talent for overseas clubs. Some clubs let players walk too soon in search of receiving a small transfer fee, and some clubs wait for their player to be off contract before seeing them walk for nothing. Most fans are just used to seeing A League clubs completely fail when it comes to transfers, it has become second nature for the League.

    Compare this to the English model. The average footballer would be forgiven for not knowing who on earth Nick Powell is. In 2012, he was having an absolute belter of a season for Crewe Alexandra in Fourth Tier English Football.

    What happened next will shock most A-League fans but when the big club (Manchester United) came knocking, Crewe Alexandra stood their ground and demanded a rightful fee for their star. As a result, they were rewarded with a six million pound transfer fee!

    Powell proceeded to play three matches for United in all competitions but the point stands and Crewe Alexandra should be lauded for their determination to be compensated for losing their star player.

    This is common practice in Europe. If a team works hard to develop a star player, they should be rewarded for that. Instead currently A-League clubs are bending over backwards to accommodate the bigger clubs and it’s just not good enough.

    Six million pounds for a guy who never did much at all for United is an astonishing figure. That could do so much for a club like Brisbane or Adelaide in terms of grass roots funding and player development.

    If the A-League is truly to become a developing league than it needs to place a higher price on its stars heads!

    Start placing in contracts a mandatory higher buy out price. No young player should have a buy out price of below $500,000.

    That number might seem like a big leap but it’s still a drop in the ocean for bigger European clubs. If the player if good enough, they will pay the price for them.

    The A-League has got it all wrong on transfers, right since its inception. It’s time it takes a step in the right direction before it loses the next Tim Cahill or Mark Viduka for nothing!