Professional Footballers Australia unveil 2021/22 A-League Men’s Report

PFA

Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), the body that represents professional male, female and elite junior soccer players, has officially released its annual A-League Men Report for the 2021/22 season.

The report revealed that the A-Leagues men’s competition has rebounded from the financial impact of COVID-19 due to an increase in investment from clubs, improved player contract stability and a sustained focus on youth development.

These are among the key findings in the PFA’s annual A-League Men Report, which provides an overview of the 2021/22 campaign and assesses the employment framework and workplace conditions for Australia’s professional footballers.

With the 2022/23 season beginning next week, the Report indicates that the A-League Men competition has solid foundations to build and capitalise upon.

The report identifies that the A-League Men leads all rival Asian Football Confederation (AFC) domestic competitions for fielding players aged 21 or under and sits eighth on a list of 60 leagues from around the world. The League’s average age has been the lowest in competition history during the past three seasons, dropping from an average of 27 to 25. Across the season, 42% of match minutes available were occupied by players under 25.

In addition, the A-League Men is the most competitively balanced league in the Asian Football Confederation. The A-League Men has the closest level of quality among its 12 teams and the tightest points spread recorded in the past decade, delivering more competitive tension within matches and across the season than any other top Asian league.

Clubs invested $52m in A-League Men player payments in the 2021/22 season, demonstrating a rebound in investment following the financial impact of COVID-19 on clubs, up from $38.1m (2020/21).

Moreover, the percentage of players coming off contract at the start of the 2021/22 season was the lowest recorded in eight seasons, decreasing from 68% last season to 48%. The current contract length of Australian players in the A-League Men is among the highest in comparator leagues from Africa, South America, North America and Asia, and the highest in the AFC region.

PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch explained the report underlined the positive impact of the five-year CBA and underlined the resilience of a competition that was severely impacted by COVID-19.

“The objective of agreeing to a five-year CBA was to provide both a genuine partnership between the players and the clubs and crucially to provide the professional game with a stable platform to rebuild the industry,” Busch said in a statement.

“Encouragingly, we continue to see a range of positive trends in relation to increased investment in players, the emergence of a host of talented players and improved contractual stability.

“Whilst these are welcomed signs, there remains much to do to establish the professional game in this country and this report provides the evidential basis to assess our progress as a football nation and benchmark ourselves against our international rivals.”

Click here to download and view the Report.

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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