Tuesday, March 13, 2007


State League Merry-Go-Round

My Well-Informed Covite friend, well-known on these pages, is an endless source of information (or perhaps I should say corrections, since he has disabused me of many misconceptions over the years).

Like me, he follows Sydney Olympic while the A-League is in abeyance. Like me, he has groaned at their fortunes in recent times. Unlike me, he has a very clear understanding of the issues affecting state league (and lower league) clubs.

On Sunday evening, we watched Olympic founder against Wollongong at Belmore, their midfield showing pitifully little cohesion, their defence even less. Taking a quick look at the team sheet, W.I.C. commented to me that there was only one player on the park in blue and white who had been at the club last season. The lone man - quite significantly - was Kosta Lagoudakis, a player of Greek descent.

Although it's a similar story throughout the NSW Premier League, that's a wretched statistic.

Why is it happening? Because of a current regulation whereby (to the best of my knowledge) state league teams in NSW can only sign players on one-year contracts. Under such circumstances, team cohesion is surely difficult to maintain, when there are always better offers coming in from elsewhere.

It certainly helps when you have players who feel particular attachment to a club, either for geographical or, as is often the case, community reasons. From last year's title-winning side, Sydney United have managed to hang onto the likes of Ante Juric, Joe Vrkic, Peter Markovic, Milan Bosnar and Ben Vidaic; even Mile Jedinak has taken some time off from the Mariners to help out his old club. All the above players are of Croatian heritage.

Otherwise, it seems to have become something of a free-for-all.

But W.I.C. told me something interesting (and I've no reason to doubt him, as he is usually right on such matters); the clubs are apparently in favour of the rule.

And, try as I might, I cannot understand why.

It just seems to hurt them in so many ways. On-field stability becomes far more difficult, budgets are harder to balance, long-term plans for the team are impossible...and, most importantly, they are unable to make any decent money on transfers (particularly to the A-League).

There is a durable myth that clubs can only receive a mandated maximum of $3000 when "selling" a player to the A-League. Not so: this is the so-called "training compensation" payment, which is not a transfer fee (see here). However, the one-year limit to contracts means that the whole question is rendered academic.

Having said that, the calculations now used to determine maximum transfer fees mean that the sums involved would not be substantial anyway (see here).

Can anyone with contacts in the NSWPL world enlighten me? I find the clubs' position quite inexplicable, if the situation is as my well-informed friend has outlined it.

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