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Marquee Lite

Another interesting initiative from the FFA…but this one comes with plenty of relevant questions attached.

First, the old Sydney FC conflict of interest chestnut.

Frank Lowy, of course, remains in an obviously anomalous position in the Australian game, and the cynics have been laughing heartily (or grumbling mightily) today. The point being that two of the most coveted Olyroos still playing in Australia, Mark Bridge and Stuart Musialik, have recently signed lucrative contracts with…Sydney FC. Olyroo marquee? No worries.

One wonders whether Nikita Rukavytsya or Nathan Burns would have been offered rather more incentives not to head for the northern hemisphere had the “Junior Marquee” plan been announced just a little earlier. Issues of fairness certainly arise with the announcement.

And although at first hearing the initiative seems laudable, a few moments’ reflection might lead one to conclude…is it really necessary?

If the cap is to be expanded, why the emphasis on youth players only? In terms of improving the quality of the competition, one of the critical issues to be addressed is attracting a better class of import; our recent experiences in the Asian Champions League have demonstrated this only too clearly (not to mention the disastrous spells down under of the likes of Mate Dragicevic, Brian Deane and Mario Jardel). Part of this is down to the judgement of the individual clubs, of course, but a smidgen of extra cash wouldn’t go astray.

As it is, the cap has been raised significantly, but the clubs will effectively have no more to offer their foreign signings. They may even end up having even less than before, if they take up the Junior Marquee option (and there seems to be an implied moral imperative for them to do so) but find themselves in a straitened wage bill situation despite the cap.

And looking at it from another perspective, should 21-22-year-olds of close to international standard really be playing in the A-League?

I’m on awkward ground here, I realise, but in my view the developmental benefits accruing from a European move (as long as it’s a sensible one…see here) would, from the player’s own point of view, outweigh the supposed “consolidation” which David Davutovic’s source alludes to. Please note: not for 17-18-year-olds such as James Holland, but for those with a couple of seasons of professional football already under their belt.

Artificially boosting the pay packets of the younger brigade might – yes, might – prove attractive to the punters (although, I would argue, not more so than acquiring a genuinely good foreign crowd-pleaser), but in the long term it could prove a developmental disadvantage.

The notion that there is some mad rush to Europe on the part of our younger stars is, in any case, a false one. In fact, the opportunities offered by the A-League have ensured that more youthful talent has remained in the country of late, as a brief glance at the places of employment of the 2008 Olyroos compared with the 2004 and 2000 cohorts would indicate.

Written by Mike Salter

Read more of his thoughts at The Football Tragic

Written by
Real Football

Published on April 22, 2008

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