Socceroos coach argues against A-League clubs
A BATTLE is looming over the number of foreign players to be allowed in an independent A-League, with the clubs seeking up to seven per team but Socceroos boss Graham Arnold warning that current limits are already harming the Australian team.
As a taskforce designs the new model seen as essential to save the A-League, with clubs to run the competition themselves, they have already demanded the right to expand the current limit of five foreign players per squad.
But in a presentation to the New Leagues Working Group (NLWG) that is due to report by the end of March, Socceroos boss Graham Arnold revealed the relatively meagre number of A-League players who are available for the Socceroos thanks to the existing level of imports.
Admitting the game needs a "mature discussion" about the competing priorities, FFA chairman Chris Nikou said that increasing the number of visa players could block opportunities for young Australian players, despite the clubs claiming that expanding the A-League will actually need more foreigners to fill clubs' rosters.
"The clubs would actually like to shift the pendulum the other way (towards more visa players)," Nikou said.
"Graham Arnold presented to the NLWG on Monday, and the basic tenet was that when he goes to an A-League game as national coach, by the time you take out the international foreigners and those who for whatever reason aren't a Socceroos candidate, it starts to be a very small pool to look at.
"The clubs have made it very clear they're not prepared to reduce it from the current five (per team).
"We haven't philosophically taken a position of increasing the visa spots, only because we want to give local talent more of an opportunity."
FFA CEO David Gallop said that Arnold had already queried how the salary cap meant clubs' fourth and fifth visa signings are often substandard.
"The other thing starting to bubble to the surface is the intersection between (visa limits) and the salary cap, because Arnie will tell you when he looks at the fifth foreign player on each roster at the moment, they're not good enough to be worth taking that spot," Gallop said.
"If there wasn't a salary cap, you can start to explore the quality of foreign players, and the quality of Asian player, that you have in the 3+1 scenario (of three overseas players and an extra from Asia). All of these things start to intersect."
Nikou joked that the clubs are "greedy bastards" for their demand to receive up to 90 per cent of the Fox Sports broadcast revenue, but signalled strongly that FFA would resist losing any greater share.
"It goes back to the over-riding philosophy of come up with a model that empowers the clubs to invest and take the game to the next level, but doesn't compromise the ability for us to grow the whole sport and the national teams," he said.
"Maybe it's a stepping stone, not going to the end station on day one. As this grows and becomes more successful then more money can come off the table and the clubs are better off, the FFA can do more.
"We can all sit round the table with a blank canvas but we don't have the abundance of riches. That's why it's important not to leave any part behind."