The Australian Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) has unveiled its model for the creation of an Australian Premier League (APL), with a desired kick off date of November 2004.
The APL would be a totally new competition initially consisting of 10 teams to be owned and fielded by APL Club Shareholders.
The APL Teams will be located as follows:
• one in each of Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane;
• 2 in Melbourne;
• 3 in Sydney; and
• 2 further will be selected from other markets in Australia or New Zealand, based on business merit.
The APL would run over 36 rounds with each team playing once another four times during the season. A four-week finals series will culminate with the APL Grand Final.
Socceroos and Leeds United star Harry Kewell has already thrown his weight behind the APL model, which he feels is crucial for the game to achieve its potential in Australia.
"I believe that the work done by the PFA in developing the model for the Australian Premier League is exactly what the Australian game needs if it is to achieve its potential," Kewell said in a statement.
"While I have been very fortunate, for players to have the best chance of succeeding in the big leagues it is important that Australia has a quality league where players can develop professionally and mature personally before they decide to try their luck overseas.
"I hope the APL will finally tap into the enormous support the game has as I have seen, first hand, while playing for the Socceroos back home."
Kewell is not alone in his endorsement of the APL with Stan Lazaridis, former Socceroos Charlie Yankos, Steve Horvat and Joe Marston, one of Australian soccer's pioneers, also supportive of the PFA's initiative.
Perth Glory is the first NSL club to voice its opinion on the APL, giving the PFA model the thumbs up.
"Perth Glory is delighted with the concept," said Chief Executive Officer Jeff Dennis.
"The APL model presents an exciting opportunity to create a commercially viable, marketable national competition. Most importantly of all it is based on credible research and not gut instinct."
PFA Chief Executive Brendan Schwab explained the rationale for the PFA's $750,000 investment in developing a business model for the APL.
The model for the APL was developed by the PFA's commercial arm, PFA Management Limited, which commissioned expansive market research into the state of soccer in Australia and engaged industry experts in all relevant fields, including marketing, finance, law and media rights.
"The players have for some time understood that the well being of the game is a precondition to their own welfare," Schwab said.
"We needed to obtain the necessary knowledge to determine whether a fully professional national competition can be viable in this country and, if so, how.
"Our research findings categorically tell us that if we correctly position, structure and capitalise the APL, Australian soccer can boast a national competition that will generate sufficient crowds, television audiences and, in turn, revenues to underpin a sound business model."
The PFA has strongly supported the recommendations of the Crawford Report into the governance and structure of the game, and believes that at a time where reform is
being undertaken at the top level, the same should occur with Australia's premier soccer competition.
"The PFA has chosen to reveal its model today because it believes time is of the essence," Schwab added.
"In order for the APL to be established in time for the 2004/2005 playing season, Soccer Australia will need to begin the establishment phase by 30 June 2003.
"However, the APL will only succeed if we have a governing body that enjoys not only the confidence of the game's existing stakeholders, but also corporate Australia and the game's millions of fans.
"In addition, the APL will require unencumbered access to its key media and commercial properties, and the opportunity to package those with the game's leading brand – the Socceroos. This means that existing contracts will need to be revisited.
"We are confident that with the right leadership, this can be done as the APL offers media and commercial partners an average crowd of 10,000 and an average national television audience of more than 750,000."
The cost for the getting the APL up and running is $10million although the model does propose a unique opportunity for one or more investors to secure a key investment in the league, without the obligation to field a team. The League Shareholder will, collectively, own 25% equity in the APL at a cost of $2.5million.
In addition, each APL team will be licensed to participate in the league at a cost of $750,000. Each will be exclusively owned by a Club Shareholder who will, through its team, enjoy a 7.5% stake in the League.
Schwab revealed that by the PFA's estimations, each APL would need an annual budget of $4million - which is more than double what some NSL clubs are currently operating at.
The PFA has been in consultation with Soccer Australia to make the APL a reality and has tabled three conditions, which it believes must occur for the new league to succeed.
1. The reform of the national competition and the establishment of the APL to be vested in the hands of an independent commission.
2. The APL "5 Pillars" Strategy must be integral to the competition, for without it, the new league will fail in the market place.
3. The APL, in consideration of the transfer of intellectual property, repays PFA Management's investment in the development of the new league. The PFA is happy for the quantum of its investment to be independently audited.
"We are therefore delighted that the Crawford Report has recommended an independent board to run the national competition independently of, but under licence to, Soccer Australia," Schwab said.
"We would be happy for that board to refine the APL model on matters such as finance, provided it remains true to the "5 Pillars".
The "5 Pillars" being:
1) Quality: The APL will work strategically with all teams to ensure that the playing standards are of a world class quality standard while the initial emphasis in discussions with potential APL broadcast/media partners will be to ensure the quality of the television product, as opposed to seeking to immediately maximise rights fees.
2) Atmosphere: Boutique stadiums, including the targeting of young adults predisposed to soccer (mainly males, aged 18 – 24) will promote an atmosphere in APL stadiums on match day that only soccer can create.
3) Community: The APL teams will embrace their local communities through grass roots campaigns, including through schools featuring star APL coaches and players and a commitment to local social issues, especially those facing young people and children.
4) Local Brands: It is the power of the fan/club relationship that lies at the heart of the world's great soccer leagues. Each APL team brand will be defined by its own distinct personality and geography.
5) Visibility: Will follow the successful execution of each of these strategic pillars by a high quality, centralised and well-resourced administration. The APL will invest strategically in targeted marketing, promotion and advertising initiatives, to create high levels of awareness in each of the key target markets. The APL's free to air broadcast/media partner will, of course, also play an important role.
Click here to download the PFA's comprehensive APL model.