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Independence could turn A-League into a one-team competition

Scrapping the salary cap as part of an independent A-League would risk turning the league into a one-team competition, according to one of the world’s leading football finance experts.

With momentum building behind calls to separate the A-League from FFA, Sheffield Hallam University football finance expert Dr Rob Wilson has likened the campaign to the establishment of the English Premier League in 1992.

Both, he says, stem from a groundswell of support to bring the competition up to speed with other professional leagues in terms of commercial exposure.

“It works. The Premier League is a fine example, from a commercial point of view, moving to a separate body (can) make many, many more millions,” Dr Wilson told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin.

“The downside of that is the bigger teams become very, very powerful… one or two or three of those clubs always competing for the title,” he said.

In February, the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association released its blueprint on how to separate the A-League, W-League and youth competitions from the governing body.

But Dr Wilson warns this could open the way for Melbourne City’s rich owners to cash in on the new open market, awakening a new super club in Australian football.

“Opening a new system, providing a new competition can be really good commercially, but do it with real caution,” Dr Wilson said.

Dr Wilson argues raising the salary cap by a significant margin could satisfy the demand for greater investment in the game, without the risk of turning Melbourne City into an unmatched behemoth.

“Raising the salary cap, even doubling it in some instances so you have a degree of market competition, I think that middle ground is the way to go,” Dr Wilson said.

Melbourne City’s owners, UAE-based City Football Group, are pouring millions of dollars into the seven clubs it owns around the world.

The most important of those, Manchester City, is the reigning Premier League champion. They currently sit atop the EPL, a solitary point ahead of Liverpool.

Since 2014, CFG has added one club to its network every year – the most recent being its joint acquisition of Sichuan Jiuniu, a club in the third tier of Chinese football.

But Melbourne City is yet to experience the full force of the Group’s financial might. CFG’s owner Sheif Mansour is a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and said to boast a net worth of around AU$7 billion.

These few wealthy, successful clubs also attract the greatest interest from sponsors, leaving the remaining clubs to compete for leftovers.

“If you skew competitive balance, that threatens the whole integrity of the league system,” Dr Wilson said.

“Less people are interested, less people will turn up and watch the game, TV revenues will tend to drop. That’s exactly what we’ve seen in La Liga with Real Madrid and Barcelona, in Serie A with Juventus, in Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germaine and in Germany with Bayern Munich”.

“Those competitions are almost failing in economic terms… you get big winners, but you get lots and lots of losers. That’s not good for longer-term sustainablilty,” he said.

Listen to the full interview here. Tune into the Weekend Warm-Up with Cam Reddin – Saturday and Sunday mornings from 4.00-7.00am.