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An insight into the impact of the A-League’s marquee signings

Ever since the inaugural A-League season, clubs have been consistently on the lookout for marquee players. Players that are no longer in their primes, but are enough of a household name for fans to recognise.

It’s a simple, yet smart method of putting butts in seats and in most cases, genuinely adding to the quality of your side. It also puts the A-League on the map and helps to generate worldwide interest.

In the midst of rumours that Liverpool striker and Premier League star Daniel Sturridge could make a move Down Under this offseason, now’s as good a time as any have a look at the impact marquee players have made in the past.

It’s also a good opportunity to analyse whether the consistent use of such players has impacted on Australian football in a positive or negative manner.

We don’t need to look too far back to see who some of the biggest marquees were. Alessandro Del Piero, David Villa, Emile Heskey and most recently, Keisuke Honda.

These players amongst more are some of the best footballers their countries have produced, making their names in the biggest leagues in Europe. It’s no surprise that at least financially, they were a success in the A-League.

Del Piero, a World Cup winner and genuine legend of the game signed for Sydney in 2012. After over 500 appearances for the Bianconeri, he made the move to the Harbour City. Bear in mind that at the time, he turned down a move to Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

So it wasn’t as if his absolute best was behind him. He still had a lot to give.

He subsequent 24 goals from 48 games in the A-League goes a long way to proving that. He was still a star.

Emile Heskey joined the Newcastle Jets that same season and his impact, safe to say, left a little to be desired.

A solid first season was followed by a dismal second season, which saw him depart the club with a goal to game ratio twice that of Del Piero’s.

David Villa had the shortest stay of the four, managing four games at Melbourne City whilst out on loan from MLS club, New York City FC.

Despite his brief run, Villa garnered a following from all fans of Australian soccer, simply because he was still seen as a player in his prime. It was a real shame to have him leave so soon, but it will have done no harm to anyone or anything.

Finally, Keisuke Honda played at the Melbourne Victory this season and in short, he made a massive impact. One of Japan’s greatest ever, someone’s who’s travelled the world and been good wherever he’s been. Victory were lucky to have him.

But one has to think that with all these successful marquees, what’s the flip side of the coin?

Massimo Maccarone wasn’t the worst marquee in A-League history, but he was far from the best. He had been a modest striker at clubs like Empoli, Siena and Middlesborough.

However, as someone most fans won’t know, someone who was 37 when he arrived at the Brisbane Roar, some if not most may think that he, along with other marquees who had limited impacts, take away opportunities for youngsters.

In the past, we have seen numerous players who have been on A-League rosters move to NPL clubs across Australia, due to lack of opportunity.

One player we can pinpoint is current Avondale FC player Joey Katebian.

At just 23 years old, Katebian still has his best years ahead and for any A-League club, his ability and his age would present a great asset. But that’s not how the Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar saw it.

Katebian was forced to reevaluate after limited opportunities at the A-League clubs, with a mere five appearances combined from 2015-2017. He made the move to the NPL before the start of the 2018 season.

In 2015/2016, during his time at the Victory, Katebian was forced to compete with marquee players Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler. Whilst those two helped the Victory achieve good results in the league and abroad, Katebian didn’t seem to be in future plans for Kevin Muscat’s side.

It was much the same at the Roar. Katebian joined prior to the 16-17 season and was made to compete with seasoned attacker, Spaniard Manuel Arana.

Arana managed 18 games with no goals to his name, whilst Katebian was barely sighted.

Now we don’t know the full story behind why Joey wasn’t played too often by his A-League clubs, but it is fair to assume that the marquees were considered before him at just about every opportunity.

Now averaging a goal every two games and a proven talent at the level, A-League clubs should be looking at Katebian.

And he isn’t the only one who has been overlooked by A-League clubs in favour of marquees, despite their potential.

Jake Brimmer of Perth Glory is a great example of when prolonged gametime helps develop a young player into a pivotal member of a footballing side. In the case of Perth, he helped them make a Grand Final this season.

When done right, signing marquee players can do wonders for an organisation. But when done wrong, it can set the future of the club back several years.

Soccer is the most popular sport amongst youths in Australia. We should be giving them the most opportunities.

Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

$1.5 million in fee relief provided to Football NSW Associations and Clubs

Football NSW

To help consolidate losses related to the premature cancellation of the 2021 Winter Football season due to COVID-19, Football NSW has announced $1.5 million in fee relief for its Associations and Clubs.

The Football NSW Board identified the need to provide support to its Associations and Clubs to ensure their ongoing solvency and assist them through these challenging times.

And in spite of the difficult circumstances for all stakeholders involved in the game, Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge credited the strength of football in coming through previous Covid-enforced lockdowns.

“As we have stated previously, our player numbers can only continue to grow, and football can only remain the most popular participant sport in NSW, if there is sustained financial viability at each tier of the game,” Hodge said.

“The sustainability of a healthy Association and Club framework is fundamental to our continued development and maintaining our capacity to progress and achieve our lofty ambitions.

“With this in mind, and on the recommendation of management, the Board resolved to provide a discount on the Football NSW Capitation Fee for the 2021 Winter season.

Hodge acknowledged the hardworking efforts of each of the Associations and Clubs who have been resilient in the face of the COVID-affected season.

“I want to acknowledge the dedication of our volunteers, administrators, players, referees and coaches that enabled us to still deliver part of a football season,” he said.

“Once again, the Football NSW community has come together to support each other and keep our participants and their families safe, something I feel that’s been truly inspiring.

“Football is a vital part of the lives of our players and other participants, but also vital to our communities.

“Thank you all for your work to keep things going through this period of disruption.”

Football in NSW played a leading role in ensuring the community, and sport as a whole, did their bit in fast tracking a return to sport via the recent NSW Health initiative, ‘Super Sport Sunday’.

“Our collective commitment to a safer community was evident in our recent initiative to offer our facilities as vaccination hubs to the NSW Government,” Hodge said.

“What started as an offer of facilities quickly evolved into a request from NSW Health for football to mobilise its community in certain regions where vaccination rates were desperately needed to be increased.

“Answering the call, we led a campaign for football participants in those regions to get vaccinated and engaged other sports to join as we created a ‘Super Sport Sunday’ for vaccinations at Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA).

“We have since been briefed that the campaign helped set a new single day record of vaccinations at SOPA, with many people wearing the jerseys of their favourite football clubs.

“This is another good example of how, as a code and a football family, we are leaders in our communities and, when we work together, we can achieve great things.”

Rachel Williams appointed to Football Tasmania Board

Football Tasmania have welcomed long-time Tasmanian football contributor Rachel Williams to their Board.

Joining with a background in sports media, Williams cited the possibility of hosting training camps for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and a potential increase in A-League and W-League content as exciting opportunities for the state heading into the future.

Football Tasmania President Bob Gordon believes Williams’ media expertise and strong ties with the northern Tasmanian community would help support Tasmania’s most popular team sport as it continues to grow.

“As the mother and chief supporter of three football-mad boys, Rachel has a great understanding of the World Game in Tasmania and what our sport means to so many people across the state,” Gordon said.

“We’re delighted to have Rachel join the Tasmanian football family in an official capacity and lend her expertise to seeing football realise its full potential with improved facilities and opportunities for young players as the sport continues to grow.”

FT

Williams was excited to be underway in her role and to represent the passionate and talented women working in and around football.

“As a former sports journalist I have watched with keen interest the significant growth, development and recognition of the sport in Tasmania, particularly for women, and I am really excited to help continue that progress,” she said.

“I believe it is vital for there to be a strong and secure pathway for our young men and women to play at the highest level and it is exciting to see Tasmania forge a future involvement with the A-League and W-League.

“I am passionate about ensuring every child has the opportunity to be involved and be given opportunities to succeed.”

Gordon also paid tribute to outgoing Board member Fiona Reynolds.

“On behalf of the Tasmanian football community I’d like to thank Fiona for her contribution and dedication to our sport,” he said.

“Fiona joined our team at a very challenging time for all community sports when COVID first reached our shores and was instrumental in helping us get the game up and running safely so Tasmanians could again enjoy playing football.”

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