A-League, W-League seal historic split from Football Australia

O’Rourke will report to an APL board consisting of five club representatives, one FA representative and three independents, one of whom, with FA’s final approval, will chair the new organisation.

Western Sydney Wanderers owner and interim APL chairman Paul Lederer said it was now time for the clubs to deliver on their vision.

We’re going to deliver something that is absolutely phenomenal and every bone in my body believes in it.

Interim Australian Professional Leagues chairman Paul Lederer

“Let me put it into one word: euphoric,” Lederer said. “It’s an absolute game-changer and a historical moment for our game.

“It’s a monumental change in direction; great for the fans, great for the players, our commercial partners and excellent for the whole game.

Greg O’Rourke is now the commissioner of the Australian Professional Leagues.Credit:Getty

“It’s been a long road and a hell of a long negotiation, but it’s well worth it. We’ve waited years for this; the game has been in this state for too many years to remember.

“The shackles are off. We don’t have to listen to someone about how to do it, when to do it, where to do it … now we just do it. We’re going to deliver something that is absolutely phenomenal and every bone in my body believes in it.”

The split gives the A-League clubs the operational and commercial independence they have been fighting for, but FA will still retain significant regulatory oversight of the professional game, allowing it to set football’s broader strategic agenda.

Under the agreement, FA will have the final say on the timing of the A-League and W-League seasons, expansion, contraction, club licensing criteria and how clubs will be granted access to the top domestic and international competitions – although the intention is for the APL to be involved in a meaningful consultation process on all of those points.

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It means FA will have the ultimate power to implement promotion and relegation in the A-League, although there is no commitment to do so at a particular time, and work is continuing on a financially viable model for a national second division.

While club owners were initially keen on an English Premier League-style split, which would have given them a much broader sense of self-determination, the end result is similar to how the J.League and Chinese Super League function in tandem with their national federations.

“Each constituent now has defined roles and responsibilities, and the ability to make the right contribution to the growth of the professional game,” FA chief executive James Johnson said.

“We have been able to create a unique model, which draws upon global best practice whilst allowing for local specificities.”

FA chairman Chris Nikou said: “Football Australia will now focus its energies and resources on the regulation of the professional game, national teams, grassroots and the overall strategic direction of the game as outlined in the XI Principles for the future of Australian Football, the new 15-year vision for the sport and strategic agenda.

“All parties are committed to ongoing co-operation and collaboration, and we look forward to working closely with the APL this season as we transition to the new model and, more broadly, the future of professional football in Australia.”

Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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