Why the A-League Men isn’t producing world-renowned stars

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Australia has been slowly inching its way up the worldwide ladder of football over the years. But there is no such thing as an Australian Lionel Messi, and there may simply never be.

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Now, this isn’t to say that there are no successful Australian footballers, because there certainly are. But most of the Aussies who have made a name for themselves globally, have most likely done it via a European club and not an Australian one.

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With the ALM unable to keep up with the top leagues in the world, Australia is struggling to hold onto its home-grown names, and here’s why.

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A lack in development pathways

One of the main differences between the A-League Men and some of the top leagues across the globe is the strength of the support systems surrounding said league. If a country wants to help build, and then hold onto a player, it all starts from the very beginning.

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The most successful leagues in the world are reinforced by a network of youth academies and accessible pathways for rising stars. These systems work to provide players with stability both in their performance and their finances. Australia’s pathways are still under development and remain miles away from even beginning to chase this standard.

Unfortunately, questions have been raised surrounding Australian football academies and whether they’re searching for players or profits.

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Take the English football league system for example. The complex series of interconnected leagues form what is known as the football pyramid. It is a hierarchical structure with the Premier League sitting right at the top, which gives all clubs, no matter what level they’re at, the dream of climbing up the ladder to play at the highest level possible.

In Australia, we have the National Premier Leagues as a second tier below the A-League Men and not much else. This leaves room for Australia’s best players to go and capitalise on their career elsewhere.

The European network of development is something that Australian football should be aiming towards if we want to hold onto our Sam Kerrs and Maty Ryans before they become more known for their time overseas than their time in Australia.

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Issues in funding

There’s no point in ignoring the fact that the success of a league all comes down to funding.

With Australia’s success in the World Cup, and upcoming involvement in the Women’s World Cup, it is expected that there will be more money around.

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And while there seems to already be some money in the air for the ALM, there’s a worry that it’s not necessarily being used for the right reasons.

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Funds should be flowing down to the development levels of Australian football, not just being used to prop the A-League up.

What needs to happen?

Ultimately, the dream of the A-League Men should be to become big enough and financial enough to hold onto our star players so that it will no longer be their dream to head off to play in Europe.

Feature image credit: A-Leagues

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Neve McGavock
Neve McGavockhttps://everneve.com/
Studying a Bachelor of Journalism and Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. Covering Sydney FC for the 2022/23 season.

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