Independent A-League to turn back on big-name marquees

FFA head of leagues Greg O'Rourke Source: AAP

The days of big-name marquee players in the A-League appear over as the newly independent competition targets the development of local talent.

FFA head of leagues Greg O'Rourke says A-League clubs have made a deliberate effort to move away from star international recruits such as Dwight Yorke, Alessandro Del Piero and Keisuke Honda to instead focus on unearthing young gems such as Daniel Arzani.

With less than a fortnight until the A-League gets underway, the main foreign recruits have been veteran European professionals like Western United's Panagiotis Kone and Alessandro Diamanti, Newcastle Jets' Wes Hoolahan and Western Sydney Wanderers pair Radoslaw Majewski and Alexander Meier.

Melbourne Victory have picked up Socceroos Robbie Kruse and Andrew Nabbout but the lack of a true blockbuster signing is far from accidental.

"It's a different strategy from the clubs to actually move away from paying a reasonable, substantial amount of money to one player but actually to have a support of new heroes and younger players and homegrown heroes inside all the teams," O'Rourke said.

"We're going to have a focus on trying to improve, we'll call them young, but effectively if you had to categorise them it'd be under-23s.

"We're changing some rules and some policies inside the regulations to actually incentivise clubs to have more game-time for under-23s, to have more under-23s available for match day on the park and on the bench and a few other things we're working on in the background, which haven't turned into policy views yet."

Honda's capture by the Victory last season was the first to utilise a $3 million centralised marquee fund to lure big names to Australia.

O'Rourke said that funding - which is tied into the current broadcast deal with Fox Sports - still exists but is being looked at for other options beyond securing big-name players to A-League clubs.

"We're just probably going to choose to use it in different ways to improve the marketing of the game and also looking potentially to see if we can use it for marquee players in the W-League," O'Rourke said.

Matildas captain Sam Kerr is still yet to commit to returning to the W-League this summer, amid reported interest from European clubs, but the FFA have already said a new marquee offer has been presented to the 26-year-old.

The move away from superstar foreigners is just one change already being implemented since club owners successfully took over the running of the competition from the FFA in July.

Replicating the structure common across many of Europe's top leagues, including the Premier League, club owners now have a stake in the domestic competition.

It's a model clubs have been pushing for over the past few years amid several seasons of off-field decline.

O'Rourke said after demanding they be given the reins, it was now up to the clubs to deliver and ensure the long-term status of the competition.

"The last two-and-a-half years prior to this the owners weren't actually communicating with me as the head of the leagues," he said.

"I was working really well with the CEO group but the owners were sort of, they were not part of the communication.

"So what's happening now is much, much better.

"It's important that now the request is going to be met, that the clubs are able to show that the strategy they have in place will be a more successful one for the game than the position where we come from."

Source AAP