HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE – A BRIEF HISTORY
After almost two years in the making, Australia’s latest national competition hit the sporting landscape as well as the hearts and minds of the Australian sporting public.
August 26, 2005 marked a significant day in Australian football history, when the first match of the inaugural Hyundai A-League season kicked off in Newcastle.
When new Football Federation Australia (or Australian Soccer Association as it was called then) Chairman Mr Frank Lowy announced in October 2003 that a task force would be formed, the seeds towards a new national competition were effectively sown.
The National Soccer League (NSL) may have been the first all-Australian football competition to grace these shores when it started in 1977, but it was plainly obvious that it needed a major overhaul.
Using the government’s Crawford Report into the sport as its base, Mr Lowy, one of the pioneers of the NSL competition, called together the Task Force, headed by former Sydney City Chairman Andrew Kemeny, to consider a range of issues, including the structure, its name, criteria for participating clubs, competition season (summer/winter) and a timeframe for implementation.
In December 2003, the NSL Task Force Report was handed to the board and released publicly and so began the process of finalising the framework for the new national competition.
After four months of planning, the framework for the new national competition was finally revealed by Mr Lowy and the then newly appointed FFA CEO Mr John O’Neill and at the same time expressions of interest were called for. Eight teams would be part of this new national competition, with one team from the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle, plus a New Zealand team and one from the remaining expressions of interest. The competition start date was set at August 2005.
By June of 2004, 20 submissions had been received and a month later 12 consortiums sent in their final bids for the eight spots. Three bids were received from Melbourne, two each from Sydney and Brisbane, one from each of the remaining preferred cities, plus a bid from the Central Coast of NSW.
Over the next three months, each bid was carefully reviewed and on the 1st November 2004, the eight successful bidders and the major sponsor were revealed, for what would be known as the Hyundai A-League. The eight successful franchises were: Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, New Zealand Knights (since replaced by Wellington Phoenix), Perth Glory, Queensland Roar and Sydney FC.
With Fox Sports already signed on as the official broadcaster, the Hyundai A-League had already achieved many objectives its predecessor had failed to do in its dying years.
However the hard work was only just beginning for the clubs and the FFA, as they only had nine months to get everything together in preparation for the anticipated August start in 2005.
Honour of the first player signing went to former Wollongong Wolves striker Stuart Young, who signed with Perth Glory and from then on the player signings came at steady rate.
While some critics believed that the Hyundai A-League would fail to attract players and coaches from overseas because of the stringent criteria placed on clubs, this clearly did not materialise.
A host of big names were linked with the new competition and with a number of high profile Caltex Socceroos returning from overseas and some 18 overseas imports also calling Australia and New Zealand home, the credibility of the competition was ensured.
Topping the list of high profiles recruits was former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke and his presence always ensured the Hyundai A-League was in the spotlight. On the coaching front, former German World Cup star Pierre Littbarski was hired as Sydney FC coach and former England international Steve McMahon was anointed at Perth Glory.
Australian players to give the new league a big vote of confidence included former and current Australian international players including Ned Zelic, Kevin Muscat, Archie Thompson, David Zdrilic, Steve Corica, Alex Brosque and Richard Johnson.
Crowds exceeded expectations with over one million fans going through the turnstiles during the season at an average of 11,627 per game. Such was the success of the inaugural season, broadcast partner Fox Sports was quick to negotiate a new revised seven-year-deal, which has gone a long way to providing financial stability for the competition and in particular the clubs.
Coupled with the success of the Caltex Socceroos at the 2006 World Cup finals, where they reached the second round, before bowing out to eventual champions Italy, the profile of the sport has never been higher. The success of that first season has continued, with the crowd averages continuing to rise, TV ratings doing likewise and media coverage reaching unprecedented levels.
Such has been the interest in the Hyundai A-League that the FFA has been inundated with expressions of interest from potential new club licensees for entry into the competition.
The competition took another step forward in season 2009/2010, expanding to 10 teams to include Gold Coast and North Queensland Fury, which secured arguably the biggest coup in Hyundai A-League history by signing former Liverpool great Robbie Fowler for its inaugural season.
The Hyundai A-league got its first true derby in season 2010-11, as Melbourne Heart entered the expanded competition. North Queensland Fury found the going tough, however, and were forced to close at the end of the season. But the competition remained as strong as ever, with Brisbane Roar setting the league alight with a record 32-game unbeaten run, as the quality of football on display continued to improve.
The 2012-13 season saw a trio of stars arrive down under as Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono played their maiden seasons in the Hyundai A-League. The season also saw the inauguration of the Western Sydney Wanderers who took their first season in the league by storm. Crowds packed out Parramatta Stadium week in and week out as the Wanderers steadily climbed to the top of the table to eventually claim the Premiers Plate. The side from Sydney’s west made it through to the Grand Final but were unable to overcome the Central Coast Mariners who won their first final after four attempts.
HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE COMPETITION RULES SUMMARY
The Hyundai A-League consists of a Regular Season and a Finals Series (featuring the top six (6) Clubs from the Regular Season), the winner of which will be crowned Hyundai A-League Champions.
COMPETITION FORMAT – REGULAR SEASON
The Hyundai A-League Regular Season is played over twenty-seven (27) Rounds with each Club playing each other three (3) times.
The following points will be awarded for Matches during the Regular Season:
- Win = 3 points
- Draw = 1 point
- Loss = 0 points
The complete draw is available under the fixtures and results section of the Hyundai A-League Website.
PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE PLACINGS AFTER REGULAR SEASON
At the completion of the Regular Season Clubs are ranked from one (1) through to ten (10), with the first six (6) Clubs progressing to the Finals Series. The position of each Club will be determined based on the following criteria:
- Highest number of points accumulated during the Regular Season;
- If two (2) or more Clubs are level on points accumulated, the following criteria is applied, in order, until one (1) of the Clubs can be determined as the higher ranked Club in respect of:
- Highest positive goal difference;
- Highest number of goals scored;
- Highest number of points accumulated in Matches between the Clubs concerned;
- Highest goal difference in Matches between the Clubs concerned;
- Lowest number of Red Cards accumulated;
- Lowest number of Yellow Cards accumulated; and
- toss of a coin in the event of a tie of two (2) Clubs or drawing of lots in the event of a tie of three (3) or more Clubs.
COMPETITION FORMAT – FINALS SERIES
The top six (6) Clubs at the conclusion of the Regular Season will progress to the Finals Series.
The Finals Series format will be as follows:
- Clubs ranked 3 & 6 (Match A) and 4 & 5 (Match B) will play-off with the winners from each of these Matches to advance to the Semi Finals of the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
- Clubs ranked 3 & 4 will be considered the ‘home’ Club for Matches A & B.
- Club ranked 1 will play the lowest ranked winner of Matches A & B (Match C).
- Club ranked 2 will play the highest ranked winner of Matches A & B (Match D).
- Clubs ranked 1 & 2 will be considered the ‘home’ Club for Matches C & D.
- The highest placed Club to advance to the Hyundai A-League Grand Final (Match E) will be considered the ‘home’ Club.
- The Hyundai A-League Grand Final will be contested between the winners of Matches C & D (Match E).
- The Club who wins the Hyundai A-League Grand Final will be crowned the Hyundai A-League Champions and will be awarded the Championship Trophy.
The selection of Venues, dates and kick-off times for all Finals Series Matches, including the Grand Final, will be at the sole and absolute discretion of FFA and a decision to allocate a Venue, dates and kick-off time may be made based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, venue availability, broadcaster preferences, player welfare, security, commercial, marketing and financial considerations.
PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE THE WINNER OF THE FINALS MATCHES
If, at the conclusion of the regular period in any Match in the Finals Series, the scores between the two (2) Clubs are tied, then extra time of two (2) equal periods of fifteen (15) minutes will be played. The conditions of the Laws of the Game will apply.
If scores remain equal at the conclusion of both periods of extra time, penalty kicks will be taken, in accordance with the FIFA Laws of the Game, to determine the winner of the Match.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE SALARY CAP?
The Salary Cap facilitates competitive balance and parity between Clubs by ensuring that the playing talent is distributed amongst the Hyundai A-League Clubs. In doing so, this increases the attraction of the competition to fans, sponsors and broadcast partners.
The Salary Cap also safeguards the economic viability of the Hyundai A-League by ensuring that Clubs are not put in a position where they are forced to spend beyond their financial capabilities in order to stay competitive on the field.
- For all Matches, Clubs must select five (5) Players as substitutes on the ‘Starting List’, including one (1) nominated Goalkeeper.
- For all Matches played during the Hyundai A-League Regular Season and the Hyundai A-League Finals Series, up to a maximum of three (3) Players (including a Goalkeeper) may be replaced at any time during a Match, up until the conclusion of normal playing time or extra time, if played. The Replacement Player must be one of the substitutes selected on the ‘Starting List’ as directed above.
WHAT IS THE SALARY CAP IN THE HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE?
The Hyundai A-League Salary Cap is $2.928 million for the 2017/18 Season. Clubs must spend at least the Salary Floor which is $2.635 million (representing 90% of the Salary Cap).
The Salary Cap applies to the 20 to 23 Players that Clubs have registered to their Hyundai A-League Player Roster. Unless specifically exempt, all payments and benefits (eg. cars, accommodation, etc) provided by a Club to a Player are included in the Club’s Salary Cap.
WHAT CAN PLAYERS RECEIVE OUTSIDE THE SALARY CAP?
Players can receive payments from Clubs outside the Salary Cap in certain circumstances as approved by FFA. These ‘exemptions’ or ‘allowances’ incentivise Clubs to spend in specific strategic areas such as attracting marketable world class players to the Hyundai A-League (Designated or Guest Players), retaining long-serving Players on multi-year contracts (Loyalty Players), encouraging the development of young Australian Players (Homegrown Players) or identifying late-developing Players that may have missed the traditional player pathway (Mature Age Rookie).
The following discretionary payments are outside the Salary Cap:
- Designated Players – A Club can spend an unlimited amount on two Players (Foreign or Australian) it nominates as Designated Players;
- Guest Player – A Club can spend an unlimited amount on one Guest Player who must satisfy the prescribed marketability criteria as approved by FFA. A Guest Player is restricted to a maximum of 14 Hyundai A-League matches;
- Homegrown Players – A Club can spend up to a collective $200,000 on 4 Australian Players aged 23 or younger that have come through the Club’s youth system. Any payments to such Players above the $200,000 allowance are included in the Club’s Salary Cap;
- Loyalty Players – A Club can spend up to a collective $200,000 across any number of Players that have given 5 or more consecutive seasons of service to the Club. A portion of a Loyalty Player’s contract value is excluded from the Salary Cap based on a progressive scale from 25% (5th continuous season) to 50% (10th10th continuous season onwards);
- Mature Age Rookie – A Club can register an Australian Player that is aged 21 or older who last played in an Australian competition (eg. PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues) and has not played in a fully professional league for at least 18 months;
- Scholarship Players – Each Club can contract up to 6 under 20 Australian Players on the national minimum wage. Any payments above the national minimum wage to these Players are included in the Club’s Salary Cap;
- Salary Cap Banking – A Club can access any underspend from the previous two Seasons to be utilised in the current Season, up to a maximum of 105% of the Salary Cap for that Season; and
- Relocation Expenses – Clubs can reimburse Players for bona fide relocation expenses (eg. airfares, temporary accommodation, storage) outside the Salary Cap up to prescribed amounts in order to assist a Player relocating to a new region for football employment.
HOW MANY PLAYERS DOES A CLUB HAVE ON THEIR HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE ROSTER?
At all times during the Season, a Club’s Hyundai A-League Player Roster must have:
- a minimum of 20 Players;
- a maximum of 23 Players;
- a minimum of 2 Goalkeepers;
- a minimum of 3 Australian Players aged 20 or under;
- and a maximum of five foreign players.
Guest Players, Designated Players and Mature Age Rookie Players sit outside the Club’s Hyundai A-League Player Roster. Players on a Club’s Foxtel Y-League Player Roster, including Scholarship Players, are also eligible to participate in the Hyundai A-League.
WHAT IS THE MINIMUM SALARY FOR A HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE PLAYER?
The minimum salary for Players in the Hyundai A-League in the 2017/18 Season is:
- Under 20 – $45,686 (excluding superannuation); and
- 20 and over – $61, 287 (excluding superannuation)
References: A-League Official