2022-23 Liberty A-League fixtures to promote more fan engagement

A-League

The Liberty A-League Women 2022-23 season have been released alongside a new show, free tickets for juniors and kick-off times.

A heap of measures to drive engagement with an expanded Liberty A-League Women’s competition have been unveiled by the Australian Professional Leagues (APL), building on feedback from fans and players in the lead-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The fixture schedule has the majority of games at family-friendly kick off times and many based at boutique venues in a deliberate effort to build atmosphere.

This season, for the first time ever, all registered junior players across the country, boys and girls, will be welcome for free at Liberty A-League games – offering young fans the chance to see current and future Matildas every week as excitement grows ahead of the World Cup.

After consulting with fans and players in the off-season, APL has moved to consolidate kick-off times to make games as accessible to families as possible.

The APL is also announcing its investment in an innovative broadcast format designed to give fans a compelling live experience every week.

As well as showing every game of the Liberty A-League live and free on 10 Play and live on Paramount+, the Saturday afternoon games will feature in a new ‘goal rush’-style show, switching from game to game as the action unfolds and with the host and experts having a two-way live conversation with the audience during the simultaneous games.

Australian Professional Leagues’ Chief Executive Officer, Danny Townsend said in a statement:

“87,000 fans watched the UEFA Women’s Final in July and the English FA Women’s Super League Clubs immediately reported memberships going through the roof. In the year that the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, we are orienting our business to Licapitalise upon that opportunity and ensure a lasting legacy for women’s football.

“This year, we have every single Liberty A-League Women game available live and free for the first time ever, and free access for every participant under season to watch the games in person. We know how our fans are consuming sport and we are better serving that growing audience of young, digitally connected fans.”

Commenting on the Liberty Pass, Liberty’s Chief Executive Officer James Boyle, said via Australian Professional Leagues:

“We’re looking forward to another electric season of Liberty A-League and are delighted to be introducing the Liberty Pass to young football fans, keen to experience the passion and quality of women’s professional football. The Liberty Pass will make football even more accessible, allowing freethinking families to enjoy an exciting live sporting experience at games throughout the season.”

The drive to reimagine the experience for both fans at the games and viewers comes as Western United joins as the competition’s 11th team, adding more games for fans and more match minutes for players.

APL has previously announced that Central Coast Mariners will join the competition next season, taking it to 12 teams with a full home and away fixture list – providing players with the same match minutes as the benchmark women’s leagues in Europe.

The players will also enter the second season of a five-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which mandates the same standards for men and women across areas such as hotels, sports science and training facilities, as part of APL’s sustained and extensive investment in growing women’s football.

Premier League continues talks on cost control and EFL funding

Premier League club bosses are holding further talks regarding cost control measures for clubs competing in European football and additional funding for the EFL.

The top flight is examining the introduction of a model along similar lines to UEFA’s squad cost ratio, which by 2025-26 will cap the spending of clubs involved in European competitions on wages, transfer fees and agent costs at 70 per cent of revenue.

It is understood that clubs in the Premier League not competing in European competitions will be allowed more leeway on spending, with a ratio of around 85 per cent of revenue having been discussed. This is potentially to ensure a more level playing field for mid table Premier League clubs who are struggling to break that barrier.

There is a major roadblock, however, in these talks with relegated Premier League clubs still earning parachute payments in their first season back in the Championship and being able to continue working to the 85 per cent ratio whilst the bottom half Championship clubs are working on a much tighter budget, closer to the 70 per cent UEFA mark.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters spoke about these talks advancing and what it means for the future of both leagues.

“We have some proposals out for consultation with our clubs about moving and aligning more with the UEFA system,” Masters said at the Culture, Media and Sport committee.

“Some of the issues that are still at debate between the EFL and the Premier League and internally within the Premier League itself are about trying to find a resolution on exactly how the financial regulatory system will work in the future.

“There’s an area of disagreement between us on how cost controls are going to work. Because obviously if you’re going to put more money into a system, that system has to be properly regulated. That system has yet to be fully agreed on how Championship clubs, how relegated clubs and how Premier League clubs operate a common system.” he concluded.

In terms of the extra funding agreement being discussed, EFL Chairman Rick Parry announced that his competition was prepared to accept an amount that would equate to 14.75 per cent of the two competitions’ net media revenues, which he said worked out at an extra £125million ($240 million) a year.

Whilst this is a huge positive for the footballing ladder in England, there is still a debate amongst clubs and representatives over how the extra funding to the EFL should be paid out.

Recently relegated sides are already working on a bigger budget, whilst sides in the bottom half are struggling to pay player wages with this disparity being completely unacceptable.

So it definitely begs the question, does majority of the extra £125million ($240 million) a year go towards helping bottom clubs compete in the long term? or would that be a stain on the league’s integrity and fair play values?

Votes were not casted in last week’s meetings regarding cost control measures or extra funding, but reports suggest that a conclusion is being made swiftly with both parties eager to agree on a fair deal.

MLS NEXT Pro continues to expand with Connecticut United addition

Connecticut United FC joins MLS Next Pro

Connecticut (CT) United FC will join the ever-growing MLS NEXT Pro League in 2025, in a move that promises to reinvigorate the US state through investment in football infrastructure.

CT United becomes the fifth independent team to join US football’s third-tier national competition, which serves as a valuable development tool for young players at the 27 existing Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs.

It joins teams from Jacksonville, Florida and Chattanooga – who were recently announced by the MLS NEXT organisation.

Chattanooga FC have been competing at state-level for 15 years, allowing it to join the competition in 2024 alongside fellow independent club, Carolina Core FC.

Jacksonville Armada are expected to enter alongside CT United and a team from Cleveland, Ohio, in 2025.

The nucleus of CT United’s football operation will be based in Connecticut’s capital city, Bridgeport, after its Planning and Zoning Commission approved a project for a waterfront football-specific stadium.

The stadia will be a part of a larger infrastructure plan to create a mixed-use destination for retail, residential, and community zones. Bridgeport’s Mayor, Joseph Ganim, says the city is ready to drive the project.

“Bridgeport is in the midst of a renaissance, rebranding from an industrial city to now the capital of arts and entertainment of Connecticut,” he said via media release.

“I am proud to announce that MLS NEXT Pro will join that landscape in providing entertainment opportunities for Bridgeport residents and the region at large.”

The club’s formation represents the first foray into sports ownership for the Connecticut Sports Group (CTSG), an organisation founded and led by Connecticut local and technology entrepreneur, André Swanston.

Though in its infant stages, the organisation relies primarily upon its partnership with the University of Connecticut, and minor investors within the state.

Swanston, 42, becomes not just one of the youngest principal owners of a football club in the country, but also making a difference as one of the few Black sports owners in US sport overall.

“As CT United FC embarks on its MLS NEXT Pro journey, I want to extend deep gratitude to the incredible fans, community leaders and government officials who have embraced our vision – I am confident that, united, Connecticut can compete against anyone,” he proclaimed via press release.

“We are committed to building the infrastructure – from a free youth academy to a state-of-the-art stadium – needed to propel Connecticut to the highest levels of soccer.”

The formation of CT United represents an exciting prospect for the people of Connecticut, who will be eager to see CTSG deliver on its vision to ‘create unforgettable experiences that inspire communities.’

It also showcases Major League Soccer’s continuing expansion, and intent to re-invigorate communities across North America.

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