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The AFC has announced that this year’s Asian Champions League will be played in centralised hubs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group stages of the competition are scheduled for April 14 – 30 for the West Asian side of the draw and April 21 – May 7 for the East Asian groups.
For the first time ever the 2021 edition of the tournament will feature 40 teams, with the final to take place over two legs on November 21 and 27.
Dato’ Windsor John, the AFC General Secretary, said: “The AFC is most grateful for the support of the AFC Competitions Committee, the Member Associations and the participating clubs in producing this schedule for the biggest and most inclusive AFC Champions League in history.
“Once again, the AFC will put the safety and welfare of all its stakeholders as its overriding priority, but we demonstrated with the successful AFC Champions League in 2020 that the unity, solidarity and strong leadership of the AFC can deliver its club competitions in the most challenging of times.”
Sydney FC are the only Australian side to have automatically qualified for the tournament this year, with Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar needing to advance through a play-off to reach the group stages.
A draw for the 2021 Asian Champions League will take place later today.
Football NSW in conjunction with ‘The Grants Guy’ are set to premiere a free Grants Zoom online webinar next Wednesday (September 22) at 6:30pm – 7:30pm.
FNSW clubs and associations will be provided with valuable information through the grants webinar, especially for applying for funding which have assisted many teams in the past in their pursuit of seeking facility upgrades amongst various other beneficial elements.
The webinar will provide a practical guide to grant writing for any football club seeking to attain funding by applying for the Greater Cities Sport Facility Fund and the Regional Sport Facility Fund in particular.
Both grants will be explained through the practical step by step webinar, and guidance will be provided as to how to apply for the Grants.
Sentiment is well and truly up for A-League players, according to the annual Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) report.
This time last year, only 33% of A-League players felt confident about the direction of their football careers.
According to the PFA’s latest annual report, that number is now 56%.
Of the A-League’s 312 players, 200 responded to the 2020/21 A-League survey, capturing 70% of the current cohort, with the results proving that even despite the ongoing turbulence and uncertainty of COVID-19, the majority of players feel much more confident about their futures within the game.
The report highlights that Australian players actively want to remain in the A-League, as opposed to seeking opportunities overseas.
The key numbers that demonstrate this include:
55% of players said they would like to stay playing in the A-League next season, up from 45% last year.
56% of players are confident about the direction of their football careers, compared to 33% in 2019/20.
Only 4% of players would move to an overseas league even if it was for similar money and/or playing standard.
Only 16% of players who would prefer to move to an overseas league would only do so if the money and standards were better.
Other highlights of the report include that the average A-League player is getting younger.
Over the last 14 years, the average age of the A-League player has consistently trended upwards.
In 2020/21, however, this changed and the average age trended downwards, dropping from 27.6 to 25.1.
The number of players utilised in the A-League who were aged 21 and under came in at 107, representing 35% of the 300 players who received A-League minutes during the 2020/21 season.
The youngest squads on average belonged to Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United, with average ages of 23.6 and 23.9 years respectively.
Another highlight was the fact that of the league’s 312 contracted players, 300 received A-League minutes.
“These reports have been immensely valuable, helping the PFA and the players better understand the industry in which they are employed, monitor the application of high-performance standards, assess technical progress and survey the players’ experience,” PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch said of the report.
“For the last five years, we have been able to utilise these reports to formulate evidence-based positions to improve the environments in which our members work through collective bargaining.
“Promisingly, after a period of significant uncertainty, the players have indicated that they are more confident in the direction of their careers and the future of the competition than this time last year, signifying a positive shift in the perception of the A-League.”
The report also highlights the fact that A-League attendances were the lowest ever in the competition, thanks in large part to COVID-19, with an average attendance of 5,660.
Foreign players in the league reduced by 12 to a total of 51, whilst the average salary in the A-League is $136,791.