The A-League needs marquee players, but at what cost?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert


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    Andres Iniesta, even at his age, will be a key man for Spain at the World Cup.(AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

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    Andres Iniesta seems about as likely to end up in Australia as Cristiano Ronaldo, but that doesn’t mean A-League clubs shouldn’t consider marquee players.

    There has been some confusion over who exactly is stumping up the $3 million on offer for next season’s so-called marquee ‘war chest’, however AAP journalist Vince Rugari stated on Twitter that the funds will come from Fox Sports as part of their broadcast deal.

    Some fans have already suggested Fox holds too much sway over the competition, but the reality is that without the host broadcaster, there’d be no A-League to begin with.

    And an extra $3 million to spend on some star players is nothing to sniff at.

    The only problem is it’s barely enough to buy even a half-decent house in Sydney, let alone sign some of the world’s most recognisable footballers.

    That fact was brought into sharp relief by the news that Rakuten-backed Vissel Kobe – the Japanese e-commerce giant also sponsor Barcelona – are willing to pay Iniesta an astronomical $AU40 million per season to move to the J.League.

    Perhaps Iniesta could just find himself some cheaper digs in Gosford instead?

    Or maybe A-League clubs will just have to keep being creative when it comes to trying to lure foreign talent to our shores.

    Which makes it hard to understand why so many clubs are so hell-bent against implementing the 4+1 rule to ensure one visa player comes from Asia.

    Not only is it a slap in the face to the Asian Football Confederation, it smacks of a desire to preference lazy recruiting over employing some scouts and actually figuring out who’s who in Asian football.

    Want the name of a single Asian player who could do a job in the A-League, without costing the earth and who has the potential to turn into a cult hero?

    Mike Havenaar.

    But figuring out who Havenaar is, let alone picking up the phone and having a chat with him – he speaks English, of course – would require an A-League coach to do more than simply throw their hands in the air and exclaim “it’s all too difficult”.

    So it’s surprising more A-League clubs haven’t made use of Lou Sticca’s services and his extensive contact book.

    Sticca, of course, is the agent who brokered the deal to bring Alessandro Del Piero to Sydney FC, and he followed that up by procuring Shinji Ono for the Western Sydney Wanderers for good measure.

    Sydney FC's Alessandro Del Piero celebrates scoring against Newcastle Jets (Image: Peter McAlpine).

    (Image: Peter McAlpine)

    He knows what it takes to get star players to Australia – Sticca was also behind Dwight Yorke’s move to Sydney FC – and I asked him a short while ago what needs to be done to help revitalise the A-League.

    “A-League club owners need more control over their investment, and the much-discussed independent A-League must become a reality,” Sticca told me.

    “Once owners feel they have more say in their own future, and crucially more of the revenues that the A-League generates from TV and merchandising, then they will regain the confidence to invest more into their clubs and teams.

    “It is the owners that ultimately have to feel confident about their future so they can invest in big-ticket items such as genuine marquees.”

    And when it comes to marquee players, Sticca believes we haven’t seen enough big names down under.

    “In 13 years of the A-League, we have had only a handful of genuine marquees,” Sticca said. “Yet hundreds have been categorised as marquees (Australian, youth, international) and devalued the original concept of what a marquee player should be, and more importantly what a marquee player should do for the league.”

    And the scattergun approach to signing marquees shows no sign of dissipating now that the FFA has panicked over dwindling attendances and TV ratings.

    The question remains: is signing marquee players a good idea or not?

    I think the A-League needs them. But with so few funds available, it’s clear any potential signings will be moving here for the lifestyle and not the money.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist since December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • May 14th 2018 @ 6:39am
      Onside said | May 14th 2018 @ 6:39am | ! Report

      “A-League club owners need more control over their investment” well that’s it in a 6 yard box.

      There is plenty of money to invest in Australian football,but no investor is going to give FFA
      money to play cards against them.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 14th 2018 @ 6:56am
        Waz said | May 14th 2018 @ 6:56am | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        May 14th 2018 @ 12:18pm
        Cousin Claudio said | May 14th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

        Then why do we have 12 consortiums fighting over just 2 expansion spots?
        Surely the A-League has some attraction for investors.

        Marquees are just one of many ways to get local fans and communiutiues interested in their A-League team.
        Its also about getting results like Jets and Victory have shown us.

        I think club owners and managers can share the love and the blame for not marketing and promoting their teams properly this year.

    • Roar Rookie

      May 14th 2018 @ 6:56am
      Waz said | May 14th 2018 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Fox Sports and football, it’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome. And somehow football is made to feel guilty about being held captive.

      Let’s be clear, Fox Sports do nothing for football that Optus couldn’t do or a social media broadcast partner more aligned to our target demographic could do. Fox’s coverage of football is quite frankly below average and getting a little worse year on year.

      And Fox won’t be paying for marquees – the club owners will. And the last time Fox selected a “marquee” we got Timmy Cahil – and if the measure of success is crowds and tv ratings that was an epic fail with both falling the two seasons Timmy was involved. I look forward to who Fox have in mind next because one things for sure, the club owners aren’t interested in this, and why would they be with the ffa making it clear they don’t want any change in the model.

      And the +1 thing, the clubs need more time and some reasoned logic as to why it makes sense. Is +1 the most important thing facing the HAL right now, hell no, so how about we sort the big stuff out first before moving on to the trivia and nice-to-have stuff?

      And what the heck has happened to that FIFA committee that was meant to sort this all out, not one article on the most important event in our recent football history. What is the delay in starting work??

      • Roar Guru

        May 14th 2018 @ 8:00am
        Griffo said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        Last I heard Waz they couldn’t agree on an independent committee chair although that may have changed.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 14th 2018 @ 8:07am
          Waz said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

          The Chair is key. But if the FFA is playing games the clubs, PFA, States and AAFC should walk away and force FIFAs hand. This mess can not be allowed to continue, if it goes on much longer it will contaminate next season as well.

      • May 14th 2018 @ 1:14pm
        Mark said | May 14th 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

        Your suggestion that football is captive to Fox is utter nonsense. Football doesn’t have to take Fox’s money, it could have accepted the bid from…wait, did anyone else actually bid?

        Sure, Optus or other providers could bid. But they didn’t, or they weren’t willing to put the same money on the table as Fox.

        Only in the bizzaro world of Australian football fans could the broadcaster that has bankrolled and promoted the competition over its life be the “bad guys”, while companies that have paid millions for overseas leagues while not putting a cent into the domestic game be the “good guys”.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 14th 2018 @ 6:15pm
          Waz said | May 14th 2018 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

          and there it is:

          “Only in the bizzaro world of Australian football fans could the broadcaster that has bankrolled and promoted the competition over its life be the “bad guys”

          Fox Sports have made millions out of football, they haven’t “bankrolled” anything – they’ve purchased the rights to broadcast a product and made a handsome profit out of it. Time they behaved that way, let’s drop the “bankrolled” narrative, it’s false.

        • May 14th 2018 @ 9:08pm
          Rolly said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:08pm | ! Report

          Problem with fox sports it has such a small audience it is hinderng the game .over seventy percent of the population does not subscribe to pay tV .thats a huge junk of the audience that never sees our game .the game needs expesure its not getting it with the game being tied down to pay tV .secondly none of news limited print media support our game .you would think if fox sports had the best interests of the game at heart it would make sure that its print media like the courier mail the daily tele and so on would actually cover the game better .show it more prominently in their their newspapers instead its impossible to find anyhting on the A league in news limited print media .news is not bankrolling the game their must be bucket loads of money in it for news limited otherwise they would not be involved in our game the game needs FTA and streaming service like fetch tV not fox sports .

      • May 14th 2018 @ 5:30pm
        Jordan said | May 14th 2018 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

        Optus cant produce the coverage. Everything they have shown so far is someone else’s coverage.

      • May 14th 2018 @ 5:56pm
        LuckyEddie said | May 14th 2018 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

        FOX bought football because it needed a summer filler in it’s TV guide. FOX also realised that football is the only game that could challenge their ‘big’ products AFL, NRL and Cricket. So they did what all big companies do when they see something that is going to upset their plans, buy it out for a small price and then basically shelve it.

        The last thing FOX wants is for HAL to be successful and prospering, to them it just fills a bit of space in summer and is now no threat to their business plan.

        • May 14th 2018 @ 7:47pm
          Fadida said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:47pm | ! Report

          Nonsense LE. A ridiculous conspiracy theory

    • Roar Guru

      May 14th 2018 @ 8:04am
      Griffo said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      Did the FFA convince Foxsports to use the extra money for expansion to pay for a marquee?

      I’d rather that $3M go towards one of the new expansions teams, existing NPL or otherwise.

      • Roar Guru

        May 14th 2018 @ 3:34pm
        Cameron Kellett said | May 14th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

        No. Included in the tv deal is $3 million annually for marquees. Last year it was agreed by both clubs and ffa to not put into marquees but rather each club got 300k to spend on marketing.

        • Roar Guru

          May 14th 2018 @ 10:44pm
          Cousin Claudio said | May 14th 2018 @ 10:44pm | ! Report

          $3 million is peanuts and worthless for a wold famous marquee these days, wouldn’t even buy you a 30 minute press conference with Ronaldo and his agent.

          Spend the money on local communities and getting local people and kids to the games like Lawrie McKinna did.
          How much would a few free A-League tickets for local junior clubs cost?
          A billboard on a local main road?
          A-League teams visiting local schools, McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Bunnings etc and running free football clinics and goal shooting competitions.
          Partneships with local licenced clubs, businesses
          Football talent competitions and gala days, ladies days (all ladies free entry), pink T-shirt days.
          A-League scholarships.
          Etc., etc . . .

          Geez, do we need to do their jobs for them?

    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:11am
      lesterlike said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      Marquees are a waste of money for any serious team that actually wants to win titles and challenge in Asia. I’ll take a well balanced squad anytime over a player bought to boost Facebook likes.

      • May 14th 2018 @ 9:30am
        Kris said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        Agreed. One of the causes of the demise of the marquee was some clubs making football decisions instead of marketing ones.

    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:15am
      peeko said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      good article looking at an interesting issue. Mike back on my reading list

      • May 14th 2018 @ 8:27am
        Fadida said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report


    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:17am
      fadida said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      What to make of this?

      We need to define “marquee” for a start. If there are players in Asia that we haven’t heard of they aren’t marquees in the bums on seats sense that’s for sure.

      Lazy recruiting? Broich, Berisha, Adrian, Ninkovic, Fred, Bobo, Absolonson, Flores etc were all unheard of and they’ve been brilliant. This is surely creative recruiting, forced by our inability to spend millions?

      The article acknowledges we don’t have tens of millions to spend on the biggest names who’ll bring bums on seats, and lesser names like Robert Koren won’t either, nor will they add much quality. The sensible approach is to then recruit lesser names who will improve a side and the quality of the league.

      Who are the marquee names that you think we can attract Mike? They have to be both affordable and still very good players, ie not 38 years old

      • May 14th 2018 @ 9:15am
        AGO74 said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Spot on. Unless there is a big name footballer willing to come out here and sacrifice millions for purely altruistic reasons we shouldn’t even look at the top shelf. The players you mention that have been brought out here theough smart recruiting have given me far more satisfaction as an A-league fan than any of the headline marquees have. The football world is so big and so cut-throat that there are good to great players out there. A-league clubs just need to get better at finding them – and they are.

        The Asian “+1” player issue I think has a relatively straightforward answer. Firstly those leagues are a bit more stable compared to those from where we’ve generally found our best imports in Europe and/or Middle East (this is part of the reason why those successful imports love our comp). And if Korea/Japan is stable why would a decent Korean or Japanese player upend their family and play for less money here than what they earn back home?? ((This statement generally includes other second tier Asian leagues such as Thailand etc)

      • May 14th 2018 @ 9:38am
        Kris said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

        “Lazy recruiting” – can you imagine the cost of properly scouting Asia? Or Europe? A-League clubs don’t have that sort of cash.

        We will continue to use old boys networks, agents, video etc.

        • Roar Guru

          May 14th 2018 @ 2:50pm
          Griffo said | May 14th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

          Kris I think that is a point Mike was making – make an effort to be introduced to some agents and networks with Asian league knowledge.

          ‘Old boys’ type networks only go so far and unfortunately few have J-League knowledge, let alone Asia/AFC knowledge from playing and coaching days..

          Networking would save time and effort in implementing scouting networks in Asia…

      • May 14th 2018 @ 9:48am
        Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        We need to define “marquee”.

        Yes Fad! At the moment the word marque is a misnomer. Look for foreign quality players at an affordable price.

        • May 14th 2018 @ 5:02pm
          Fadida said | May 14th 2018 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

          The biggest change we need is a scrapping of the cap, let clubs buy as much talent as they can afford. I’d rather Jets got 5 new players than a 38 yo Didier Drogba or Berbatov for instance.