Opinion

A-League 'foreign policy' deserves a vote of no confidence

The A-League's drive to allow its clubs to each have no fewer than six foreigners as early as in the forthcoming season is misguided, self-centred and should not be allowed to happen.

The independent body that will take over the running of the league is hellbent on raising the level and appeal of the struggling competition by pushing for six visa players.

There also is a plan in place for seven - yes, seven - imports when the league gets to 14 teams which could be in 2023 if expansion goes well.

The game's stakeholders who are deeply concerned about the dearth of emerging local talent would be appalled by this development. 

At the moment the quota of foreigners is five.

The Australian Professional Football Clubs Association and Football Federation Australia are locked in discussions over the financial issues and general technicalities surrounding the momentous hand-over.

It is unclear at this stage where the FFA's power and responsibility might end in terms of the country's flagship competition but it is hoped that the supreme governing body strongly opposes such nonsense in the interests of the game at large, for which it is ultimately accountable.

The clubs' association, which strangely has no designated spokesman, wants six foreigners in the forthcoming competition that will include new entity Western United from Melbourne. Sydney's Macarthur will join the following season.

This means that on any given round the 132 spots in 12 starting line-ups could be taken up by 72 foreigners.

The leaves Australians with a meagre 60 positions or - to put it more bluntly - possibly just 48 outfield positions.

No wonder Aussie players yearning for an opportunity to shine on the biggest domestic stage are pulling their hair in despair and looking abroad to further their careers.

Even the current level of five imports is regarded by many as unsatisfactory because it damages our promising kids' prospects of taking the next step up. Four foreigners are more than enough.

Any reasonable football fan would see from a million miles that this 'foreign policy' is shortsighted and detrimental to the general welfare of our game.

This quota issue is a ticking timebomb that needs to be defused with balance and compromise.

Nobody disputes the right of clubs to mount as strong a squad as possible in order to be as competitive as can be in such a costly and results-driven sport.

And let's be honest about this, there is simply not enough talent in the National Premier Leagues to make up for the A-League's perceived shortfall in quality and appeal.

Yet if the A-League clubs seek to balance their books by looking predominantly abroad the national team would become the big loser in the long run.

If the Socceroos were to hit the doldrums for a lengthy period and not qualify for, say, two straight FIFA World Cups interest in the A-League would take a massive hit. Alternatively, if the Matildas were to become world champions the W-League's appeal would sky-rocket.

It is therefore in the clubs' interest not to be too self-centred and to look at the bigger picture of which they form only a part (albeit a significant one).

The A-League may be football's bread and butter but it will never gazump the Socceroos and more recently the Matildas in the hearts and minds of the fans.

Which is why the interests of our national teams should always come first.

Australian football is at the crossroads ... again ... and decisions made today will shape our game tomorrow.

We're running out of chances to get it right.