A-Leagues facing financial oblivion, or just spiteful anti-football media seeking an easy kill?


If you were to ask an outside observer on Saturday night whether the A-Leagues appeared in danger of extinction and on their knees financially, they would have looked at you oddly and thought you may have been a little mad.

To the untrained eye, the A-League Men Grand Final went off like a firecracker in Gosford; a storming game of football that went into extra-time and an orgasmic conclusion for the home side and its fans in claiming a third championship and second in succession.

The fans flocked to the ground and then onto the pitch come the eventual conclusion of the second period of extra-time. Victory players and the thousands of fans that had made the journey north hung their heads in disappointment and gallant losers they were, on a night that, once again, seemed to be written in the stars for Central Coast.

Yet what was another glorious night for the league and one that presented the domestic game in an apparently healthy and affluent shape, has been undermanned by murmurings about potential financial restrictions to be placed on the clubs next season, with funding to each reported to be slashed, as the APL battles with a bottom line that reportedly does not have the accountants in a happy state of mind.

As a long-term A-League follower, I’ve heard similar warnings many times before. Although the numbers being quoted this time around and the recent financial moves made by APL in an effort to tend to the imbalance on the financial spreadsheet do bring a new and seemingly real fear.

In 2024, the A-League lost a broadcast company and was forced to scramble at the 11th hour, APL cancelled the end-of-season glitz and glamour of an awards night to recognise the game’s best and slashed its workforce considerably, with millions also wasted on a poorly executed website that nobody appeared to enjoy.

The chain of events and now the ever-developing story of the less money to be made available to the clubs next season presents a picture of jeopardy at best and disaster at worst.

Should things actually be even more dire than the numbers appearing in the trickle of information being leaked to the media, the competition may be in danger of folding.

That is certainly what the Murdoch press are suggesting, yet the emotive phrase “brink of financial disaster” that featured in The Daily Telegraph recently could be just another overstated, panic-inducing shout from a key player in the media that has always been rather hopeful that the beautiful game would just go away.

Or, if the numbers being cited are correct and A-League clubs will indeed be whacked with cuts upward of a million dollars, the question of survival will be a real one.

Whilst sections of the press have remained anti-football for seemingly forever, even the most positive and ardent A-League fan must be concerned about the recent events, the breaking financial news and most disappointingly, the silence emanating from APL, a body that exists in something of a secret vacuum.

Nick Garcia is not exactly the most visible Commissioner (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for APL)

The actual state of the game and its domestic finances is something of an unknown.

I spoke with a Network 10 executive last week and like the person I communicated with, I still have no way of knowing just how many Paramount+ subscribers came on board primarily for the coverage of domestic football.

Where the millions spent on the defunct KeepUp website were flushed down the gurgler has still not been made clear and the flawed decision to sell off Grand Finals to Destination NSW suggests in retrospect that the reported $10 million price tag may have been money that APL simply could not do without.

Unless the APL’s reported financial challenges are simply fear-mongering from media sources that appear to enjoy harming football, the A-Leagues look to be facing their biggest hurdle since inception.

The COVID-19 pandemic loomed as a circuit-breaker for the competition, yet a slashed salary cap and plenty of cutbacks saw the clubs scrape through the disaster and emerge out the other side.

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Certain people seem convinced that this time around, things are even more dire and football in Australian could be about to take its most significant step backwards since the NSL crashed and burned early this century.

Until we know the full story, if and when that is provided, I guess we will all be guessing around just how serious the situation has become.

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