FOOTBALL Federation Australia has pledged it will not entertain the prospect of introducing breaks into the A-League for international windows despite 132 games being missed in the last two seasons due to national commitments.
Research by the players’ union (PFA) found that 57 games were missed in the most recent season to international call-ups – 15 to the Socceroos, 36 to the U20s and U23s, and six to the New Zealand national team. The season before the total was even higher at 75 thanks to 34 Socceroos call-ups, including the Asian Cup, 23 to under-age teams, 14 to New Zealand and four to Marc Janko and Daniel Georgievski.
It’s believed that at a recent meeting of the A-League CEOs the international commitments were a significant bone of contention, not least as they run counter to FFA’s strategy of making the A-League the engine room of the game’s growth.
Clubs have been told that call-ups for the Young Socceroos (U20s) and later the Olyroos (U23s) will be scaled back, after the latter had a series of warm-up camps in the build-up to last January’s unsuccessful qualifying tournament.
FFA CEO David Gallop ruled out introducing international breaks that most leagues have, saying the bigger issue was the youth team commitments.
“The numbers show that over 60% of the players who missed appearances last season were in the under-age national teams,” said Gallop. “The outlook for the development pathway of our elite youth players is changing, with the establishment of A-League Academies, the entry of A-League Youth teams in NPL competitions and increasing technical standards in the A-League.
“We’re currently reviewing the program for the Young Socceroos in relation to the upcoming 2016/17 A-League season. We would envisage the number of call ups for under-age national teams would be reduced significantly for next season.
“In relation to FIFA breaks, we’re very mindful of our own and our broadcaster’s desire to deliver weekly matches for members, fans and viewers. Putting the A-League into a recess on three key weekends in October, November and March for what could be a relatively very small number of players would be counter-productive to the commercial growth of the competition.”
But the PFA will continue to lobby for international breaks, believing players are caught between the demands of club and country.
“The A-League’s failure to adhere to the International Match Calendar not only reduces the competition’s ability to attract and retain the best talent, but also reduces the on-pitch quality of the competition,” said a spokesperson. “This was evidenced on numerous occasions throughout the season through the unavailability of International players.
“With the A-League supplying a greater contingent of Socceroos and the league determined to attract top international players in what is an increasingly competitive market, this must be addressed to ensure the continued progress of the game.”
© 2016 Fox Sports | This article was written by Tom Smithies which first appeared in The Fox Sports on May 18 2016.