First A-League championship won by Sydney FC

Sydney FC is the A-League's champion team. The 'big city' club of Australia's fledgling football competition ended Central Coast's fairytale run in today's Championship grand final, beating the Mariners in front of an A-League record crowd of 41,689 at Aussie Stadium (1-0). The win capped off a great first year in existence for Sydney which also, mid-season, beat Al Ahly, the champions of Africa, in their FIFA Club World Championship match in Japan in January.

"Sydney skipper Dwight Yorke, the competition's marquee player who flew halfway across the world and back the past week, fittingly lifting the A-League's inaugural championship trophy after proving the catalyst behind the home side's triumph," the Sydney Morning Herald reported. The former Manchester United star set up the winner in the 62nd minute by laying a perfect ball back for Steve Corica, whose thumping strike from 15 metres beat diving goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.

Adelaide United was crowned the A-League's Premier club before the Championship play-offs by finishing the season at the top of the standings. When Australia is admitted to the Asian Champions League in 2007, it will be represented by its Premier and Champion clubs.

Prior to the grand final, a television interview with Football Federation Australia CEO, John O'Neill, projected a massive increase in television income for the eight A-League clubs. "We are in a better position to renegotiate with people like Fox Sports and we are in earnest dialogue with them at the moment. We started off modestly and now, having been successful ourselves, Fox Sports see the merit of a long-term investment in football as a mainstream sport in Australia," he told ABC TV's Offsiders program.

According to Roy Masters in tomorrow's Sydney Morning Herald, consistent ratings for the A-League rivalled viewership for Rugby Union's SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia) Super 14 competition, with its average audience only 3,000 per game less than SANZAR's.

"O'Neill confirmed his organisation was close to a deal with broadcaster Fox Sports which would see annual grants to the A-League wipe out the existing debt per club of A$1.5 million to A$2 million per year. The revised contract would represent arguably the biggest rise in TV income for any sport in the country at any time," Masters reported.

"FFA's current deal, struck at a time when Fox Sports had no genuine bidding rival, is only A$750,000 a year for three years. The new arrangement could see FFA earn A$20 million a year over a longer period. It is understood World Cup matches and Asian league games would be bundled with the existing A-League season to provide more product," he wrote.

See also: Sensational finish to A-League's inaugural season (2 Mar)