Saturday, December 16, 2006

A-League still suffering financial growing pains

With a A$130 million pay-TV deal, crowds up to a tick over 120,000, a staggering 50,333 - a record for a club soccer match in Australia - turning out to watch Melbourne Victory play Sydney FC and media interest at an all-time high, the A-League should be allaying fears it would be a one-season wonder, Ray Gatt commented in The Australian. A little over 15 months since it kicked off amid much fanfare, the national competition has seemingly set its roots in an Australian footballing culture once dominated by the AFL and rugby codes. However recent revelation that the eight A-League clubs lost A$16 million between them last season and the fact that Perth Glory and New Zealand Knights are without owners has exposed the fragile nature of the league.

Football Federation Australia took control of the Knights on Thursday over alleged breaches of the Participation Agreement and claims it is owed in excess of $800,000 by the New Zealand club. The federation has also had to prop up Perth Glory and also holds a stake in Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory. Sydney FC won the inaugural title last season but it came at a huge cost with the club losing close to A$ 6million - a debt that is almost wiped it out. Had it not been for the intervention of the Lowy family, whose head Frank Lowy is chairman of FFA, the club would have struggled to survive.

Despite the financial concerns, it has not scared off potential investors with regional consortia from the Gold Coast, Wollongong and Canberra expressing interest in joining the A-League.

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