Opinion

The positive and negatives of aligning the A-League with Asia

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Moving the A-League to winter will have both positives and negatives consequences when it comes to the transfer market.

When football around much of the world grinds to a halt it, at last, gives time for people to stop and think.

In Australia, the FFA have unveiled ‘The Starting Eleven’, an advisory ‘think-tank’ made up of former players.

And now there is the ‘Golden Generation’. These ex-stars, who hit the heights at the 2006 World Cup, want, as their website says, “to see those achievements replicated and surpassed into the future so every generation of Australian football players - male and female - is a golden one.

The group is also advocating that the A-League move to the winter for a number of reasons but one that stands out is the following: “This is better for participation in Asia, gives players a better time of year to play & helps unite the pyramid.”

To move towards the calendar that is currently used by the big East Asian leagues in Japan, South Korea and China as well as much of Southeast Asia has to be a step in the right direction.

A-League clubs compete in the AFC Champions League and usually have teams from the J.League, the K-League and the Chinese Super League in their groups.

It has long been a source of frustration down under that A-League champions have to wait so long before competing in Asia. A change in the calendar would make this a thing of the past.

Not just that, but the likes of Sydney and Melbourne Victory start the Champions League in the middle of the season.

There can be some early benefit as Korean, Japanese and Chinese clubs start playing continental football before their season starts and can be caught cold. But then when the knockout stage starts - not that many Aussie teams get that far - the A-League is out of season.

There would, or should, be benefits in terms of continental competition but that is the easy part.

If Australia matches with much of Asia, there would have to be deeper changes.

There would be little point coming into sync with the continent from the north when Australian teams rarely look to Asia in the transfer market.

Not following many Asian leagues and the AFC Champions League and adopting the ‘three plus one’ rule has always been a bit of a head-scratcher.

This rule allows clubs to field three foreign players and then one more, as long as they come from a fellow AFC member nation.

It has helped create opportunities around the continent for Australian players but Australian football has yet to repay the favour.

The regular excuses of Asian talent of either being not good enough or too expensive are lazy and outdated. 

If there is a defence then it is the A-League season being out of sync with much of Asia so when Aussie teams are ready to go shopping ahead of a new campaign, then Asian players are in the middle of their seasons.

If the A-League moves to winter then it becomes easier to sign Asian talent with seasons and, often, contracts ended.

If this was to be a reason behind a switch then it would be a major positive for both Australian and Asian football.

Clubs down under have hitherto been overly reluctant to engage with Asia in the transfer market.

A change would provide an opportunity but for this to be taken advantage of, the mindset would need to change and clubs would need to see the continent to the north as a major market to explore. 

Especially as moving towards Asia would mean making it more difficult to sign talent from Europe as leagues there would be in the middle of the season when the A-League is ready to start its campaign.

A winter move would provide many obstacles to be overcome but it would bring many opportunities.

Moving closer to much of Asia and away from Europe would be a symbolic one in many ways and provide an opportunity to really explore the Asian transfer market but it would need a change of attitude.

Source SBS The World Game