How the A-League can remove the salary cap but keep things even

Nemesis Roar Guru

By Nemesis, Nemesis is a Roar Guru


156 Have your say

    As 2017 draws to close, football fans in Australia can look forward to significant change in the ensuing 12 months.

    Not only will the sport in Australia be transformed with a new governance structure, but the A-League will undergo a transformation from being owned and managed by Football Federation Australia (FFA) to an independent entity that is fully owned by the clubs participating.

    This independence should not be unfettered. The FFA has full control of football in Australia and must set boundaries for the operation of the A-League.

    Identifying the boundaries the FFA should impose will stimulate vigorous discussion across the football community and should include salary cap, visa players, player availability for international duty, etc.

    Since the formation of the A-League, a cap (and floor) has been used to control wages.

    Broadly, the rationale is thought to be to increase competitive balance, and to maintain financial stability for clubs. However, the administration and auditing of any cap is prone to all the failings that attach to administration and auditing of income.

    Simply, there are too many ways for creative accountants to remove income from prying eyes.

    Even the world’s most advanced governments, with highly resourced forensic auditors who have wide policing powers, are unable to discover hidden money that passes each day. So it defies commonsense to pretend any sporting organisation can accurately monitor income being paid to players.

    If the A-League is fully owned by the participating clubs, it seems likely they will remove the salary cap. If this occurs, FFA should impose regulations to ensure the competition will always be focused on providing a career pathway for Australian football talent.

    I propose instead implementing a player points system (PPS) that will be impossible to cheat, simple to administer and promotes the professional football development of Australian youth.

    A PPS is currently used to regulate the squads participating in the National Premier Leagues (NPL). The NPL PPS is impossible to cheat, however seems unnecessarily complicated. I would prefer a simpler PPS for the A-League.

    My A-League PPS will have two categories: visa and age points. Each player will be assigned player points (PP) valid for the entirety of that season.

    A-League points table

    The total PP for the 11 players in a team on the park at any time during an A-League match must be less than, or equal to, zero.

    (If a player is sent off, his PP will continue to apply towards the total. Hence, if a team with 11 players and total PP of zero had an Australian U21 player sent off, the total PP will be deemed to still be zero, even though the total PP for the ten players on the park will now be ten.)

    For example, during the Melbourne Derby last Saturday, Victory’s starting XI would have had a PP of 15. However, by putting Christian Theoharous (PP = -10) in, instead of Kosta Barbarouses (PP = +5), the team’s PP at kick-off would then be zero, and a young Aussie player would have been given valuable match-time.

    This PPS will be simple to administer, impossible to cheat, and will ensure Australian youth footballers are essential.

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    The Crowd Says (156)

    • December 28th 2017 @ 6:46am
      Waz said | December 28th 2017 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      I love your creative thinking, it’s much better than the combative version.

      There’s no doubt a model like this can work as the NPL manages something similar as you point out.

      I guess the question is, why do we Australians feel the need to have so many rules in an attempt to equalise things?

      The A League must exist to be the best and strongest competition it can be, it’s the only way it can thrive imo, if it’s subordinated in any way the competition is compromised.

      If it is seen as a feeder league for overseas competition, or to provide junior players to national teams, or its role is to develop young Australian players then it will fall short of being the best competition it can be and will be recognised as such by football supporters and the sports community generally.

      Equalisation, of any sorts, demands the sporting impossible, CCM are not equal to City/CFG and regulations should not be introduced to try and make it so. Equally, if Mariners are bought out by a Chinese billionaire in a couple of years and s/he wants to bring a retiring Messi to Australia why should they be penalised?

      FIFA’s democratic principles say a club and player should find their natural level based on ability alone – any equalisation system works against that principle and will hold the game back.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 8:08am
        Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        Waz, whilst the Salary Cap is definitely an “equalization system”, I’d suggest the PPS is not an equalization system but, rather, it’s a system designed to promote a career pathway for Aussie youth.

        In fact, with the PPS, a club could recruit Messi (+10), Ronaldo (+10), Modric (+10), Kane (+5), Neymar (+5) …

        But, if these 5 foreigners are on the park at the same time their PP will be +40, so it means the other 6 players on the park must have total PP of -40.

        This would require at least
        * 2x Aussie u21 players on the park with them (-20 PP) and
        * 4x Aussies 21-25 on the park (-20 PP)

        or 5 Aussie u21 (-50) and 2 Aussies 30 yrs or over (+10).. or other variation that gives those 6 Aussie players -40 PP to offset the foreigners’ PP.

        So, the PPS allows teams to recruit the best 5 players in the world and have them on the park. However, if they do this, they will need to have young Aussies on the park with them.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 8:31am
          Waz said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

          As I said, it’s good creative thinking (I liked your past work on transfer fees and funding of a second division as well).

          In response to the objective of providing “career pathways” for Australian youth is a noble objective but that should not be the goal of the HAL, rather it should be an outcome of a successful league but not the goal itself.

          What I mean by that is career pathways are best delivered through effective academies, youth leagues, reserve leagues, loan systems, transfer systems, and a football pyramid with pro/rel. not guaranteeing youth players starting positions based on age not on ability.

          If Jets can afford Messi et al in a few years they should also be free to sign several players like Milligan, Broich or Castro to complement them and not be forced to play youth players.

          I know where you’re going with this and I respect the intent; but I’m now at the point where I think the only way the HAL can establish itself and become secure in its own right is for it to raise the standard considerably which is best achieved by letting clubs sign pretty much who they want – SFC are a good example of a team with a very old squad, but there’s no doubting the quality of the three younger players in that team (O’Neil, Grant and Brillante) and there’s even signs Retre might become a better player having to fight his way in to a very good first team.

          • December 28th 2017 @ 8:43am
            Kangajets said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report


            I’m with you to some extent that it should be a free market, but

            What if it goes balls up

            Maybe clubs …city mv sfc New roar
            can survive in a free market

            But what if those 5 clubs have no one to play against ?

            Whose to say ccm or Adelaide or whoever just decided to say , f it , we can’t compete and just fold.

            That’s the risk of no salary cap or points system is the a league competition has 5 or 6 teams left .

            • December 28th 2017 @ 9:21am
              Waz said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

              Kanga – I share the same fears, so a little more thought is required. And I think a 3+1 system on foreign would be appropriate allowing for ACL requirements. Whatever the model is I’m sure we can alleviate concerns.

          • December 28th 2017 @ 8:49am
            Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

            Fair enough.

            I guess this becomes a philosophical discussion about what we’d like for the ALeague.

            I want ALeague to be the 1st step for every Aussie footballer embarking on a professional career.

            I want players like Ninkovic, Bobo, Adrian, Bujis on the park… but I want someone like Ngoy, or Zuvela to come off the bench instead of Matt Simon.

            Given the option of Kosta Barbarouses or Christian Theoharous on the park, I want regulations that make the Aussie kid more valuable.

            In the EPL, clubs have gone from being filled with British players to filled with foreigners. England are world champions at u20 level & champions of Europe at other youth levels. Yet, these world class English youth cannot get match time in their own domestic top tier competition.

            This is a disgrace.

            Remember, the PPS I’ve devised does not stop older players like Maccarone, or Castro. They’re valuable contributors and Aussie kids will learn a lot more playing competitive matches as their team mates rather than just training with them.

            • December 28th 2017 @ 9:08am
              Kangajets said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

              I like your points system, and there must be more opportunities for young Aussie players . Obviously a few more clubs would help , but I would be very concerned if it was a total free market with no points system or cap.

              There is no doubt that all the money spent in the epl has been detrimental to their national team for the last 20 years .

              Whatever they done in Germany and Spain by having top class foreigners and lots of local talent seems to be working for them

            • December 28th 2017 @ 9:31am
              Waz said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

              The EPL is an interesting model, the FA – once they realised they couldn’t control the EPL – floundered around for a decade before realising they could invest in things like St George’s Park, development of coaches, and football in the junior development pathways. All that, combined with the foreign owners investment in massive academies, has brought England to having the best young footballers in the world today. And they’re just starting to breakthrough in to the EPL.

              What England did to become the best in the world was to develop youth players and make them good enough. What they didn’t do was insist EPL sides play youth irrespective of whether they’re good enough. There’s a big difference in philosophy there.

              Now Australia is not England so we have to be careful with comparisons.

              We are developing good youth players already but we know we don’t have enough qualified coaches, enough facilities and enough opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of kids coming through. All of which need to be addressed.

              • December 28th 2017 @ 8:00pm
                RBBAnonymous said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:00pm | ! Report


                I share the same philosophy as you in this regard. The A-league should be unhindered in every way with exception to keeping the number of foreigners in the A-league to the current five or even four. Other than that it should be open slather.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 7:47am
      Kangajets said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Waz. “Why do Australians feel the need to equalise things “

      My belief re Australia sport , the salary cap was introduced to nrl to stop clubs sending themselves broke by offering contracts to players they couldn’t afford and also to stop teams like manly buying the good players from poorer clubs . This is in the 1980s period

      That’s how I think a salary cap come about .

      • December 28th 2017 @ 7:58am
        Waz said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Sounds about right Kanga.

        And while the A League was being established it made some sense but after 10-15 years operation there should be a plan to ease it considerably and eventually eliminate it.

        Nemesis gives some good thought as to what might follow but where I have issues with it is the fundamental nature of equalisation – why should a well run club like Victory be “equalised” with Nix?

        The intent of not having clubs go broke or poor owners running up massive debts and walking away is sound, but a cap doesn’t do that nor does this suggestion.

        The best system would seem to be one that rewards financial success ie spend within your means with a turbo-boost from wealthy owners if you have them and not one that shackles everyone to some “average” level.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 10:18am
        Perry Bridge said | December 28th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report


        In the AFL world the Salary Cap was likewise to stop clubs sending themselves broke and to help under pin the draft system.

        It is more important in the AFL world of member owned clubs – as, in a privately owned scenario the owner can throw all the money they want into a bottomless sporting pit – but, at a member owned club you don’t want the current administration burning too many bridges for short term gain.

        So – with the A-League – the danger there of a non-financial capping mechanism is that it still allows a squad to be gathered via chequebook recruiting and nothing else.

        And this then has to balance against the need for the top level to be encouraging if not heavily involved in talent development. It’s a balancing act that each sport wrestles with in their own ways – – no one size fits all.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 10:43am
          Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          “Member owned AFL clubs”… if you believe that you also believe that fat man in the red suit came down your chimney.

          How can any adult believe clubs do not cheat the Salary Cap? It’s as ludicrous as believing people who are not PAYE individuals declare all their income to the ATO.

          • December 28th 2017 @ 11:06am
            AR said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

            All but a couple of AFL Clubs are member-owned.

            The Members vote in the Board.
            The Board appoints a management team – CEO etc – to run the club week to week.
            But the Members have the ultimate say in most major decisions (determined by each club constitution).

            Eg – When the AFL offered North Melb $100M to relocate to the Golf Coast, the members voted no, so the club stayed.

            I think this is preferable for a *club*.

            Others prefer private ownership of franchise licences, where “Members” are really just customers holding tickets to a bunch of games per year. Each to their own.

          • Roar Guru

            December 29th 2017 @ 11:43am
            Redb said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

            By that logic then if the salary cap is so exploited and HAL use the salary cap, how will removing it assist the HAL?

    • Roar Rookie

      December 28th 2017 @ 8:17am
      Grobbelaar said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      One day, the starting XI might be hunky dory points wise, the following day, if a player has his birthday, he won’t be able to play.

      Not sure that is a great set up.

      Just let the clubs play, and may the best club win.

      If the aim is to have more younger players exposed to senior football, simply have a list of 23 registered players at the start of the season, and have a rule that 3, 4 or 5 of those players must be U21 at the start of the season. Also, any player U18 does not need to be registered within the 23 and can play at any time.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 8:25am
        Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        “One day, the starting XI might be hunky dory points wise, the following day, if a player has his birthday, he won’t be able to play.”

        Clearly you did not read the detail, or you read but did not understand.

        The Points assigned to a player are the same for the whole season. A Player’s “Age Points” is referenced by his age on the 1st of January on the year the Aleague season ends. So, this season, the reference date for age would be 1 January 2018.

        This is the way age is determined for all FIFA youth competitions.

        So, for the u20 World Cup that was played in 2017, players had to be 19 years old on 1 January 2017.

        There are all sorts of systems available.

        This is my system. If you wish to put forward a different system, no problem.

        I want youth players on the park. Not on a sheet of paper, nor sitting on the bench, nor sitting in the stands.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 10:51am
          Worried said | December 28th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

          I want youth players on the park. Not on a sheet of paper, nor sitting on the bench, nor sitting in the stands.
          Then watch the Youth League, that’s what it is for!
          The A-League is for the best 11 players regardless of age, hence the “A” as in A Grade!

          • December 28th 2017 @ 11:07am
            Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

            Where did I say I only want Youth Players? Don’t be hysterical in your posts.

            The “A” in A-League refers to “Australian” not “A Grade”. Just like the “E” in EPL refers to “English” and doesn’t refer to E Grade.

          • Roar Rookie

            December 28th 2017 @ 2:53pm
            Grobbelaar said | December 28th 2017 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

            Very good point Worried, we want to see the very best out on the pitch.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 8:27am
      Buddy said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      N- If there has to be a salary cap in place then I’m all in favour of your suggested system, assuming that one of the objectives is to promote and encourage young Australian talent. However, the A League does need to live up to its name as well and provide the best quality possible as well as providing a reasonable salary to players that might prevent them from heading overseas to leagues that are certainly no better but appear to have more money to spend on players.
      If the clubs are privately run, and assuming they are run as a business and not for the amusement of wealthy oligarchs or similar then I’d prefer to see an end to salary caps. There will always be inequality in a free economy and a difference of opinion as to how the budget should be carved up. There are plenty of examples of clubs being well supported even though the chances of them winning their respective titles are somewhat remote due to financial disparities.I’d just like to at least see us dip the toe in the water.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 8:30am
        Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Buddy, my system specifically says that I expect the ALeague Salary Cap to be removed as soon as the ALeague moves to an independent entity.

        There is no rational reason for club owners, coaches, or players (PFA), fans, or broadcasters to want a Salary Cap regulating the competition.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 8:37am
        Kangajets said | December 28th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report


        Which clubs are well supported in Australia without a salary cap in place ?

        • December 29th 2017 @ 6:30am
          Buddy said | December 29th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

          Kangajets – missed a lot of this due to Poat Chriatmas duties. I was referring to overseas leagues where there is great inequality, no salary cap but teams are well supported. Teams in uk such as Leeds and Newcastle come to mind but plenty of examples in France, Spain and Germany too.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 9:19am
      Fadida said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      Good article Nemesis. Thought provoking.

      I’m at the stage where I just want a free market, or at least as free as possible so clubs can put out the strongest teams money allows. My only concern with your model is that clubs might have to “shuffle” their squads to allow them to meet the PPS, and in doing so put out weaker team than they could. I want them to be a strong as possible.

      I’m sure you remember when Man U played Barca in the Champions League when the rule at the time only allowed 4 foreigners. United lost 4-0 having played a weaker side then they could have.

      I’d keep the current rules on the number of imports. I’d also have a rule that each match day squad must have 5 Australians 23 and under. I’d increase the bench to 18, so you’d have 5 imports, and 13 Australians, 5 “young”.

      If clubs go bust, so be it. There are numerous bidders waiting to come in to replace them.

      • December 28th 2017 @ 9:30am
        Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        I’d see clubs having to shuffle players to meet the PPS to be an opportunity, rather than a threat.

        It also means clubs will need to have more u26 and u21 players in their match day squads, presuming they always have 4-5 foreigners always in the match day squad. Youth players will be given more chances than ageing Aussies who currently get passed from one club to another just to make up the numbers.

        I know lots of people want more players on the bench. I can’t see the point. Each additional player adds more to each club’s travel expense &, it’s highly likely, the same players will sit on the bench for 27 matches without ever taking the park.

        • December 28th 2017 @ 1:01pm
          Fadida said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

          I see your points. I want to see cashed up clubs like City be able to recruit unchecked, force other clubs to try to keep up

          • December 28th 2017 @ 1:32pm
            Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

            “I want to see cashed up clubs like City be able to recruit unchecked, force other clubs to try to keep up.”

            Totally agree. That’s why the PPS has nothing to do with wages.

            City (or any club) could have this Starting XI right now & not breach my PPS.


            —————Maty Ryan




            • December 28th 2017 @ 1:46pm
              Kangajets said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

              Why no slots for Hoffman and koutrombis, ugarchovic and kantarovski??

              The fab 4

              • December 28th 2017 @ 1:57pm
                Nemesis said | December 28th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

                No doubt, Jets will never let them go. 😉

              • December 28th 2017 @ 5:01pm
                Kangajets said | December 28th 2017 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

                Victory v jets tomorrow night

                Who wins it ?

    • December 28th 2017 @ 9:29am
      j,binnie said | December 28th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      Equalisation, a word used extensively in these comments,but what exactly does it mean.?
      How does one go about equalising talent in a player,after all the really big guns in world football have already admitted defeat in that department and use cheque books to solve any perceived problem they may have in their team structure , more or less admitting that improving a players talent is someone else’s problem.
      In world terms we are still regarded as a football backwater and for the last 40 years our young talent have increasingly ventured elsewhere in an attempt to “make the big time”,”earn bigger money”, “play with better players”, or whatever excuse you like to put forward. Even since the advent of the HAL this exodus of talent has not diminished.
      Realisticly we have something in place that is a huge help in assessing how our “pathway for young talent” is progressing and that of course is the FFA Cup Competition.
      Even that worthwhile cause has it’s share of “equalisation” with the draw being manipulated to ensure lower league clubs have a better chance of getting through to the last eight or four.
      This has had some success of course and has created brief excitement but in the last resort the HAL has continually provided the ultimate performances.
      But lets get back to what the aims of ‘equalistion” hope to achieve. Overall ,if it is to improve the standard of our football at playing level then”equalisation” has very little to do with “making” a Tommy Rogic or an Aaron Mooy. As has been proven before it is how these young men have applied themselves to their dreams that has equipped them for the task in the future, not the hoped for increase in money, or points, they may get when playing with “Woop Woop Rangers”.
      So how does one marry “equalisation ” to overall improvement of our major football ,it’s teams, and it’s players?.
      It is obvious that Nemesis and others have put a lot into the designs of schemes that will hopefully increase our standard but surely the most obvious one has been ignored, allow the HAL franchises to import as many “foreign” players as they want, so that the Sydney FC’s and Melbourne Victories could no doubt have the best teams in the league and, in return, throw down that age old challenge to our local youngsters,’if you are good enough you’ll make the grade” .no plans ,no gimmicks, no protectionism, just a straight out challenge.
      After all our friends in NRL are facing exactly the same challenge with more and more of their top players being sourced from outside Australia to play in their top competition. jb

      • December 28th 2017 @ 12:08pm
        Footoverhand said | December 28th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        I think foreign player count should be reduced to the 3+1 imho, there are some average visa players that get game time and don’t offer a substantial improvement than a local, but their visa status ensures they get more playing time.