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How A-League clubs handle the scholarship contract merry go round

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Roar Guru
13th July, 2023

With preseason now underway in professional footballs longest off season, A-League clubs are starting to make moves when it comes to squad management.

New players are being signed; existing players are renegotiating, and talented teenagers are being upgraded to scholarship contracts.

A-Leagues clubs have the difficult task of trying to fit 20 plus players under the leagues $2.6 million salary cap. There are ways around this with concessions for marquee, loyalty and homegrown players.

Not all teams use the full salary cap though, several work to a budget, with Central Coast & Adelaide heavily reliant on scholarship contracts, with 10 and 9 players respectively.

Each club can sign up to 16 players on scholarship contracts, each of whom is outside the cap if they are paid the agreed minimum wage.

If a teenage player performs well whilst on a scholarship contract, there is the real likelihood of a European side paying a transfer fee to sign them. It is a low risk, but potential high financial return for the club.

There is no better A-League side at extracting maximum value for their scholarship players than it smallest club – the Central Coast Mariners.

Nestory Irankunda of Adelaide United and Scott Robert Galloway of Melbourne City during the round 19 A-League Men's match between Adelaide United and Melbourne City at Coopers Stadium, on March 03, 2023, in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)


It is a business model that has seen other clubs finally start to take scholarship contracts more seriously as an investment – with young players now not afraid to sign for a rival.

As a club the Western Sydney Wanderers have one of the league’s most maligned academy set ups, with an endless number of players signing for other sides each year.

The sheer exodus of players directly to the Central Coast Mariners in recent times has hurt financially, with over a dozen transferring to Gosford and some now moving to Europe for fees.

Western Sydney have tried to combat this by starting to recruit from their direct rivals Sydney FC – in years gone by, this never would’ve happened; but loyalty is long gone in today’s age of football.

This type of raiding of other team’s young players has now become a common occurrence, with even the league’s best developer of teenage players, Adelaide United, becoming a target for the circling vultures this offseason.

One of South Australia’s stand out defenders, Kane Vidmar son of Socceroo’s legend and current Olyroos coach Tony has been poached by Western United.


Vidmar’s slaloming runs from defence and ability to contribute to the attack have been a highlight from his time in the SA NPL, and a move to the side which was the oldest last season is a peculiar one, given his high standing in Adelaide.

Nathan Amantidis, star of the recent Joey’s campaign and the latest jewel from Adelaide’s endless supply of attacking talent, is negotiating a contract with Sydney FC.

Besides his displays on national team duty, Amantidis has been in blistering form in the SA NPL this season. A truly 2-footed player coupled with an exceptional burst of pace, as well as the necessary arrogance required in a young winger.

Similar to Kane Vidmar, if this move goes through it is another puzzling one, as Sydney FC has never integrated young players well into their A-League side.

They may not be the only 2 players lost, as there are several more talented teenagers that Adelaide United is fending off interest from interstate rivals.

Part of this problem is there are only 12 professional clubs. This will change with new franchises and the national second division in the coming years but until then, young players will find playing minutes scarce unless they are prodigious talents.

This is why teams like the Mariners, Adelaide, Brisbane and Wellington have proven popular destinations – purely because they provide a chance to play, rather than constantly sitting on the bench.


While A-League clubs are used to the never-ending recycling of senior players every off season, they also now need to deal with this type of merry go round when it comes to teenage players on cheap scholarship contracts.