A-League clubs in radical move to sign five marquee players each

Up to 60 marquee players could be playing in the A-League next season as part of a proposal for the most significant overhaul of the A-League salary cap in the competition's history.

The 12 clubs in the A-League next season could be free to sign five marquee players each should a bid to have all foreign players exempted from the competition's salary cap be approved. The proposal is one of many changes to the A-League salary cap being discussed by club owners, the players' union (The PFA) and, to a lesser extent, Football Federation Australia, aimed at improving the quality of football and making the competition more attractive to viewers.

Italian international Alessandro Diamanti is one of the few foreign stars in the A-League this season.Credit:Getty Images

Sources involved in the talks said there was growing appetite among several stakeholders to have foreign players exempted from the salary cap to allow clubs to sign better quality players.

As part of that proposal, the A-League would retain its minimum salary spend but that sum would account only for the wages of Australian players. Under this season's regulations, clubs must spend at least 90 per cent of the A-League's $3.2 million salary cap on their playing squads. The proposed salary cap would include a salary floor, likely to remain at 90 per cent to ensure the most frugal clubs remain competitive.

While clubs can currently have two players outside of the salary cap each season, the move to have all foreigners exempted from the cap relaxes several other significant constraints on signing high-quality visa players who aren't designated players (marquees).

Under current regulations, agent fees, accommodation, some relocation costs, vehicle allowances and other benefits must be included in the salary cap, along with a foreign player's earnings. Those rules make it difficult for Australian clubs to compete in an international market where it is common for clubs in other countries to provide accommodation and other comforts for foreign players.

The A-League's collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of this season and while discussions are said to have been highly collaborative between club owners and the PFA, there has been no agreement yet on the form the next salary cap will take. Some clubs are concerned that taking foreign players outside the salary cap could further distance the big spenders from the smaller clubs next season.

Central Coast Mariners are one of the clubs spending only the salary floor this season and have four foreign players on their books. Should rules be introduced requiring the salary cap floor be restricted to locals with foreigners exempted, it's highly unlikely they would be able to sign many foreign players next season.

Sources involved in the discussion told the Herald the Mariners had requested they be able to sell visa-player spots to other clubs should the proposed changes be adopted.

As part of their suggestions, by selling a limited amount of foreign spots, clubs could open up another revenue stream to improve their competitiveness, while also ensuring there is no overall reduction on Australian players in the A-League.

As of yet, the club owners and the PFA – who were sought for comment – have led the discussion around the new salary cap which will be rubber-stamped by the FFA, which has relinquished control of the competition to the clubs.

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