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Ditching a monetised A-League salary cap for a points system

Melbourne Victory would have more chance retaining Ben Khalfallah under a points system salary cap. (Source: Wiki Commons)
Roar Guru
30th April, 2015
57

The merits or otherwise of the use of a salary cap within a professional football competition always attracts plenty of discussion on The Roar, judging by a few articles on the subject which have appeared in recent times.

The idea of a points system as a proxy for a salary cap has been flouted a few times, and during one discussion I was alerted to the fact that this system was used in the National Premier Leagues.

I decided to research the topic, and stumbled across this useful web page.

I think most Roarers will find this information interesting. I will briefly summarise how the points system operates within the National Premier Leagues (NPL), and I will then run through a possible scenario of how a similar system could work within the A-League.

The basic premise is that an NPL club carries a list of 20 players, all of whom carry a certain points value, and the total sum of those points must not exceed 250 points at any time during the season.

The starting value for a player is ten points. This value can then be discounted or inflated depending on a range of different characteristics.

Standard player
One point is added for each year the player is over 25 years of age (no maximum appears to apply, and that would merit some discussion in the context of the A-League). For example, if the player turns 30 before December 31 of that relevant year, then the player is valued at an additional five points, or a total of 15 points.

Visa player
Any player who is not an Australian citizen or who does not have permanent residency status is valued at an additional ten points (or 20 points in total). A maximum of four visa players is allowed. Once again, in the context of the A-League, a number of options are available in terms of the maximum used, if one is even required. Given the inflated value of a visa player (double the standard), this has the added benefit that clubs must be sure they are signing players of quality.

Home grown player
The points value of a player is reduced by one point per season in which the player played more than 15 matches (below seniors, right down to Under-12s), to a maximum of five points. In the A-League context, you would be focusing solely on games played with the youth team, meaning, realistically, a player would be able to earn a discount of three or four points maximum.

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Loyalty player
A discount of one point per year is earned where a player has played at least five continuous seasons for the first team squad, up to a maximum of five points. For example, a player may have earned a discount of three points after three years in the youth team, has now been on the first team list from the age 20 to 24, so that at 25 he is earning a further discount of one point (meaning he is now worth just six points).

From the age of 26, and for the next four seasons, the loyalty point will offset the additional point being added for being over 25 years of age. At the age of 31, he would have used up the maximum discount in loyalty points available, and he would start adding an additional point to his value from that age onwards, for each year he remains on the senior list.

Rising star player
Additional discounts are available for players under 18 who are on the senior list. Minus three points for an 18-year-old down to minus five points for a 16-year-old. Since A-League clubs are allowed to use youth players as back-ups without penalty, such a scoring system would not work precisely like that.

But you could consider giving a discount of, say, three points for an 18-year-old who has signed a professional contract and is on the senior list, a discount of two points for a 19-year-old, and a discount of one point for a 20-year-old.

Switching player
A player who played more than five games for another club the previous season earns an eight-point penalty. A player switching clubs who played five or less games earns a four-point penalty.

Marquee player
One player who played in a fully professional league the previous season and then signs for an NPL club attracts no penalty.

In the A-League context, you would expect to see the 23-man squad continue to apply, with supplementation available from the youth squad without penalty, as currently exists. It would make sense that something like 300 points would apply with a 23-man squad.

Using Melbourne Victory as an example, and with some of the tweaks I suggest above, let us see how the 22 players on their senior list would come out in such a points system.

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Nathan Coe (standard player): 10 + 5 = 15 points
Mark Milligan (standard player): 10 + 4 = 14 points
Leigh Broxham (standard player): 10 + 2 = 12; minue 4 points for loyalty = 8 points
Rashid Mahazi (standard player): 10 points
Kosta Barbarouses (standard player): 10 points
Lawrence Thomas (standard player): 10 points
Jesse Makarounas (standard player): 10 points
Michael Turnbull (standard player): 10 + 9 = 19 points

Carl Valeri (standard player): 10 + 5 points = 15 points (could add extra points here because he switched from another club)
Archie Thompson (standard player): 10 + 10 = 20 points (I’ve capped it at 10 points), minus loyalty of 5 points = 15 points

Connor Pain (one year as a youth player): 10 – 1 = 9 points
Andrew Nabbout (one year as a youth player): 10 – 1 = 9 points
Jason Geria (one year as a youth player): 10 – 1 = 9 points
Scott Galloway (one year as a youth player): 10 – 1 = 9 points
Dylan Murnane (one year as a youth player + rising star): 10 – 1 – 1 = 8 points
Nick Ansell (two years as a youth player): 10 – 2 = 8 points
Jordan Brown: (two years as a youth player + rising star): 10 – 2 – 3 = 5 points

Gui Finkler (Visa player): 20 points
Besart Berisha (Visa player): 20 points
Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Visa player): 20 points
Daniel Georgievski (Visa player): 20 points
Matthieu Delpierre (Visa player): 10 points

Total points for 22 players on senior list: 273 points

If the rules were such that Carl Valeri was penalised eight points for coming from another club, there would be an additional penalty of eight points, pushing up the total to 281 points.

This would allow the Victory to sign one more player to make up the maximum 23-man squad, as long as the player was worth 19 points or less. So they could not sign another visa player, or a mature player carrying a switching penalty.

You will note that the Victory has been able to earn a total of 21 points in discounts from having former youth players on the list, or players with more than five years of continuous service (Thompson and Broxham), as well as two players aged 20 or less who are on the senior list.

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This is the interesting aspect about this system. Those 21 points in discounts pay for a visa player (in a manner of speaking). Clubs are forced to seek a balance between experience and youth. The more youth used, the more points available (and the lower the salary bill).

One anomaly which becomes apparent is the high price (in points) the Victory would have to pay for a 34-year-old back-up goalkeeper (Turnbull). The obvious solution? Seek out younger back-ups and free up 10 points. There are massive incentives in this system for clubs to rely on their youth systems as much as is practical.

Finally, a major attraction of this system is that from the opening game of the season, the FFA would know definitively whether all the lists of the respective clubs comply with the points allowed. From the start, it would be about the football played on the pitch, and not about the bean-counters.