The A-League is a professional men's soccer league run by Football Federation Australia (FFA). At the top of the Australian league system, it is the country's primary competition for the sport. The A-League was established in 2004 as a successor to the National Soccer League (NSL) and competition commenced in August 2005. The league is currently contested by eleven teams; ten based in Australia and one based in New Zealand. It is known as the Hyundai A-League through a sponsorship arrangement with the Hyundai Motor Company.
|Country||Australia (10 teams)|
|Other club(s) from||New Zealand (1 team)|
|Number of teams||11|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Domestic cup(s)||FFA Cup|
|International cup(s)||AFC Champions League|
|Current champions||Sydney FC (4th title) |
|Current premiers||Perth Glory (1st title) |
|Most championships||Melbourne Victory|
Sydney FC (4 titles each)
|Most premierships||Melbourne Victory|
Sydney FC (3 titles each)
|Most appearances||Andrew Durante (283)|
|Top goalscorer||Besart Berisha (116)|
|TV partners||Fox Sports Australia (Australia)|
Network Ten (Australia)
Sky Sport (New Zealand)
Seasons run from October to May and include a 27-round regular season followed by a Finals Series playoff involving the highest-placed teams, culminating in a grand final match. The winner of the regular season tournament is dubbed the 'premier' while the winner of the grand final is the season's 'champion'. This differs from the other major football codes in Australia, where 'premier' refers to the winner of the grand final and the winner of the regular season is the 'minor premier'.
Successful A-League clubs gain qualification into the continental competition, the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) also known as "AFC Champions League". Similar to the United States and Canada's Major League Soccer, as well as other professional sports leagues in Australia, Australia's A-League does not practice promotion and relegation.
Since the league's inaugural season, a total of seven clubs have been crowned A-League Premiers and six clubs have been crowned A-League Champions. The current premier is Perth Glory, who finished first in the 2018–19 A-League. The current champions are Sydney FC, who won the 2019 A-League Grand Final, equalling the record of four domestic titles held by Melbourne Victory, Marconi Stallions, South Melbourne, and Sydney City. The A-League does not recognise the history of its predecessor, the National Soccer League (NSL) which was the nations premier football competition from 1977 to 2004.
A national round-robin tournament existed in various forms prior to the formation of the A-League, with the most notable being the National Soccer League (NSL). The formation of the NSL came after Australia's qualification for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, which led to discussion of a national league, with 14 teams eventually chosen to participate in the inaugural season of the NSL in 1977.
Under the guidance of the then-governing body, the Australian Soccer Federation (later Soccer Australia), the NSL flourished through the 1980s and early 1990s but then fell into decline with the increasing departure of Australian players to overseas leagues, a disastrous television deal with the Seven Network and the resulting lack of sponsorship. Few clubs continued to grow with Sydney Olympic, Perth Glory, and the newly established Adelaide United the exception in a dying league.
In April 2003, the Australian Federal Government initiated the Independent Soccer Review Committee to investigate the governance and management of the sport in Australia, including that of the NSL. In December 2003, the Crawford Report found that the NSL was financially unviable, and in response the chairman of the sports new governing body, Frank Lowy of Football Federation Australia, announced that a task force would be formed to create a new national competition as a successor to the NSL which dissolved at the conclusion of the 2003–04 season after 27 years of operation.
The A-League was announced in April 2004, as a successor to the NSL. Eight teams would be part of the new national competition, with one team from each city of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle, plus a New Zealand team and one from a remaining expressions of interest from either Melbourne or Sydney. The competition start date was set for August 2005.
By June 2004, 20 submissions had been received and a month later 12 consortiums sent in their final bids for the eight spots. Three bids were received from Melbourne, two each from Sydney and Brisbane, one from each of the remaining preferred cities and a bid from the New South Wales Central Coast city of Gosford. Over the next three months, each bid was reviewed and on 1 November 2004, the eight successful bidders and the major sponsor were revealed, for what would be known as the Hyundai A-League, with the Hyundai Motor Company unveiled as the official naming rights sponsor for the league.
The eight founding teams for the league were Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, New Zealand Knights, Perth Glory, Queensland Roar and Sydney FC, with three former NSL clubs taking part, those being Adelaide United, Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory, as well as Queensland Roar and New Zealand Knights who were formed from NSL clubs Brisbane Lions and New Zealand Football Kingz. Each club was given a five-year exclusivity deal in its own market as part of the league's "one-city, one-team" policy. This was intended to allow clubs to grow and develop an identity in their respective region without local competition.
On 26 August 2005, 16 months after the demise of the NSL, the inaugural season of the A-League began. The first season would see Adelaide United win the premier's plate by seven points over Sydney FC with Central Coast and Newcastle filling the final two spots in the final series. In the final series, it was Sydney that took out the title after they defeated Central Coast by a Steve Corica goal to claim the first title on 5 March 2006. The following season saw Melbourne Victory claim the A-League premiers plate when they smashed Adelaide United 6-0 in the final at the Telstra Dome with Archie Thompson scoring five goals in the rout. But the season wasn't without a change with the New Zealand Knights being replaced by the Wellington Phoenix after they got to the point where they was the run by New Zealand Football after the team only got six wins from forty-two games and picking overseas talent instead of local.
Both Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury joined the league in the 2009–10 season. On 12 June 2009, Melbourne Heart was awarded a licence to join the 2010–11 season. On 1 March 2011 North Queensland Fury's A-League licence was revoked for financial reasons. On 29 February 2012, Gold Coast United also had its licence revoked. On 4 April 2012 it was announced that a new Western Sydney-based club, Western Sydney Wanderers, would join the league for the 2012–13 season. In January 2014, Melbourne Heart was acquired by the City Football Group and was renamed Melbourne City ahead of the 2014–15 season. In February 2018, officials announced that the league would expand to 12 teams for the 2019–20 season. Later that year, the league announced that Western Melbourne FC would join the competition in 2019/20 and Macarthur FC would enter the following season (2020/21).
The regular season runs mainly during the Australian summer, from early October to April of the following year. The competition consists of 27 rounds, with each team playing every other team three times. The teams allotted two home matches against an opponent in one season are allotted one home match against that opponent in the following season. Each match sees the winning team awarded three competition points, with one point each for a draw. The club at the top of this ladder is crowned A-League Premiers, and since the 2005–06 season has been entered into the AFC Champions League. The Premier is presented with a trophy known as the Premier's Plate.
At the completion of the regular season the top six placed teams on the league table progress to the finals series. The position of each team is determined by the highest number of points accumulated during the regular season. If two or more teams are level on points, the following criteria are applied in order until one of the teams can be determined as the higher ranked:
- Highest goal difference;
- Highest number of goals scored;
- Highest number of points accumulated in matches between the teams concerned;
- Highest goal difference in matches between the teams concerned;
- Highest number of goals scored in matches between the teams concerned;
- Lowest number of red cards accumulated;
- Lowest number of yellow cards accumulated;
- Toss of a coin.
The top six clubs at the conclusion of the regular season progress to the finals series. The finals series culminates to the A-League Grand Final, where the winner is crowned A-League Champion and receives a place in the AFC Champions League. The club that wins the Grand Final is presented with the A-League Trophy.
The finals series consists of six teams who are placed by rank, as determined at the end of the regular season. The Finals Series runs over three weeks, with all games being sudden death, leading to a sudden-death Grand Final to decide the overall A-League competition. The first and second placed teams at the conclusion of the regular season are rewarded with a bye in the first week of the Finals Series and the advantage of hosting each of their semi-finals in the second week of the finals series.
While deciding the A-League competition with a Finals Series is not consistent with overseas football competitions, it is consistent with the other major football codes in Australia and is also consistent with the A-League's predecessor, the National Soccer League (NSL).
Of the two Grand Finalists, the team that finished higher on the ladder at the conclusion of the Regular Season hosts the Grand Final. The only exception to this is if the FFA deems that team's home ground to be an inappropriate. For example, in 2008, Central Coast Mariners (as the higher-placed team) hosted the Grand Final against the Newcastle Jets at Sydney Football Stadium, due to FFA deciding that Central Coast Mariners home stadium, Central Coast Stadium with a capacity of 20,000, was too small for the event.
Grand final host stadium
|Stadium||Location||No. hosted||Years hosted|
|Sydney Football Stadium||Sydney, New South Wales||4||2006, 2008, 2013, 2017|
|Docklands Stadium||Melbourne, Victoria||3||2007, 2009, 2010|
|Lang Park||Brisbane, Queensland||3||2011, 2012, 2014|
|Melbourne Rectangular Stadium||Melbourne, Victoria||1||2015|
|Adelaide Oval||Adelaide, South Australia||1||2016|
|Hunter Stadium||Newcastle, New South Wales||1||2018|
|Perth Stadium||Perth, Western Australia||1||2019|
In 2004–05 Australia was still a part of the Oceania Football Confederation and Sydney FC won the right to compete in the Oceania Club Championship after defeating the Central Coast Mariners in a qualifying tournament.
A-League clubs are eligible for participation in the AFC Champions League competition each season since the 2007 edition of the tournament. Wellington Phoenix are not eligible to compete in the Asian Champions League, nor do they compete in the OFC Champions League. The only Australian side to win the Asian Champions League are the Western Sydney Wanderers FC.
Qualification is determined by league finishing positions and who wins the A-League Grand Final, and the amount of positions determined by the Asian Football Confederation club competition ranking. The ACL is split into West & East Asian halves until the Grand Final, and Australia has generally been 4th placed in East Asia and received two direct entry positions and one qualification play-off berth. It is unlikely the A-League will receive more than 3 positions until the competition expands beyond 10 teams.
Since 2014 clubs also compete in the annual FFA Cup knock-out tournament. Between 2005 and 2008 clubs participated in the A-League Pre-Season Challenge Cup prior to each A-League regular season. In 2013 and 2014 an A-League All Stars Game was also played as a pre-season friendly game between the league's finest players and a high-profile international team.
All A-League clubs have teams in the National Youth League (NYL), which runs in conjunction with the A-League as a national youth developmental and reserve league. All players in the youth teams are between the ages of 16 and 21 as of the start of the calendar year for each new season, while four over-age players from each of the senior teams are also allowed to be selected. In addition, the W-League operates as the top division of women's league with affiliations to men's competition.
The A-League is currently contested by 11 teams: ten from Australia and one from New Zealand. A total of 14 teams have competed at some stage in the league's short history. Only four of these clubs – Adelaide United, Brisbane Roar (as Queensland Lions), Newcastle Jets, and Perth Glory – existed before the A-League was formed. Gold Coast United, New Zealand Knights and North Queensland Fury have formerly competed in the league.
Unlike most leagues from across the world, there is no system for promotion and relegation of teams. The A-League system thus shares some franchising elements with most other professional leagues in Australia, Major League Soccer and other major North American-based sports leagues.
League member Former member Future member
While making a relatively modest start to ensure future stability, both the FFA and the soccer media indicated significant interest in expanding the league. The eight foundation clubs had exclusivity clauses for their respective cities valid for five years, but this did not exclude teams from other areas joining the league.
Before the introduction of the A-League, FFA chairman Frank Lowy speculated that he hoped to expand the league into other cities, mentioning Canberra, Hobart, Wollongong, Geelong, Bendigo, Cairns, Ballarat, Albury–Wodonga, Launceston, Christchurch, Auckland, Sunshine Coast and possibly Darwin and later Singapore.
In February 2018, officials announced that the league would expand to 12 teams for the 2019–20 season. In December 2018, the FFA announced they accepted the bids of Western United who will join the league in the 2019–20 season and of Macarthur FC, who will join the league in the 2020–21 season.
There are several key rivalries and local derbies that have formed in the A-League, including:
"Melbourne Derby" – Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory
The two Melbourne clubs first met on 8 October 2010 in a lively game at AAMI Park in front of 25,897 fans. Melbourne City (known at the time as Melbourne Heart) came out on top with a 2–1 victory. A significant narrative in derby history is the role of Melbourne Victory as a more successful club both on and off the field, having joined the A-League five years earlier than City. The rivalry is one of the most intense and well respected in the A-League, producing noticeable atmosphere and some of the largest attendances in the league.
"The Original Derby" – Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory
Contested the 2007 and 2009 A-League Grand Finals, in which Melbourne won 6–0 and 1–0 respectively. The rivalry stems from the traditional rivalry between sporting teams from Victoria and South Australia but was strengthened by incidents in the 2006–07 season, such as the confrontation between Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat and then Adelaide United coach John Kosmina. The rivalry between both respective sets of fans remains strong.
"Sydney Derby" – Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
The derby was contested for the first time in the 2012–13 season with the introduction of the second Sydney-based club, Western Sydney Wanderers, into the league. Sydney FC grabbed bragging rights by winning the first derby 1–0 at Parramatta Stadium, however Western Sydney Wanderers won the return match at Allianz Stadium 2–0. A Sydney Derby held early in the 2015 season broke the Allianz Stadium record for attendance during a regular season in any football code, dating back to the stadium's opening in 1988. A match in 2016 between the two teams broke the record A-League crowd with 61,880 fans attending the match at ANZ Stadium. Sydney Derby is intensified by the geographic distinction between the two clubs within Sydney, as well as historical grievances related to the foundation of Sydney FC.
"The Big Blue" – Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
This match is so named because blue is the main colour of both teams' playing kits, and is also Australian slang for a fight or a contest. The rivalry has emerged as a result of a number of spiteful encounters between the teams in recent years, and due to the longstanding rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities. The teams have competed against each other in three grand finals; in 2010 & 2017, with Sydney winning 4–2 on penalties after a 1–1 draw on both occasions and in 2015, with Victory winning 3–0. In 2010, Sydney FC won the A-League Premiership on the final day of the season by defeating Victory 2–0. A Big Blue match is traditionally played on Australia Day each year.
"The F3 Derby" – Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets
Named after the former name of the freeway that connects the cities of Newcastle and Gosford, this match features the only two clubs in the A-League that are not based in state capital cities. The two teams' stadiums are just one hour apart, and the derby was intensified when they competed against each other for the premiership in the 2007–08 A-League season and eventually met in the Grand Final, which was won 1–0 by the Jets.
"The Distance Derby" – Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Named the distance derby due to these teams being the furthest away from each other, with Perth located on the west coast of Australia and Wellington located in New Zealand. Although not official recognised by most fans in the league, fans of both Wellington and Perth both like to recognise it as a derby, albeit, not the most important one. Their most notable encounter was in the 2009–10 A-League season when they met in the 4v5 semi-final. Scores finished 1–1, thanks to goals from Chris Greenacre, and Scott Neville, before Wellington advanced 4–2 on penalties.
Logo and trophiesEdit
The current A-League logo was unveiled in January 2017 by Football Federation Australia. The logo formed part of a wider rebranding branding of the A-League and its subsidiary competitions, the W-League and Youth League. The logo design was "inspired by football's three outstanding features – atmosphere, diversity and unity" and has colour alterations tailored to each of the 10 A-League clubs. The changes came into effect before the 2017/18 season. The original A-League logo (see image to the right) was designed by Coast Design Sydney. It was the inaugural logo of the league. The two-toned ochre colours represented the sun, earth and desert while the 'glow' emanating from the centre of the logo depicted the playing season's spring and summer time span. The eight 'A' figures that made up the ball shape represented the eight foundation clubs of the league.
The A-League has two trophies which are competed for during the season: the Premier's Plate and the A-League Trophy. The Premier's Plate is awarded to the A-League Premiers, the regular season winners, and the A-League Trophy is awarded to the A-League Champions, the winner of the Grand Final. Both pieces of silverware were designed by Sydney design company D3 Design. The A-League Trophy is nicknamed the "Toilet Seat" due to its shape. Where as the Premier's Plate follows a traditional trophy design, the A-League Trophy differs. In 2005, John O'Neill, FFA CEO commented during the unveiling of the A-League Trophy, "We have a new national league and we feel it is important to re-define the conventional view of a trophy to reflect this". Clive Solari of D3 Design explained the trophy's design, saying "We wanted our trophy concept to embody the historical significance of sport in a contemporary design. So we looked to history to see how great achievements have been rewarded across all types of games for thousands of years. The winners of the world's original sporting competition, the Olympic Games, were presented with a laurel wreath on their heads. We used this model as a basis for a unique, cutting-edge design – our trophy is a modern and versatile translation of the wreath. The winners can hold it above their heads as a symbol of success".
The A-League does not award prizemoney.
Squad formation and salary capEdit
The A-League match-day squad includes the typical 11 players, and five substitutes of which one must be a goalkeeper. Prior to the 2013–14 season, just four substitutes including one goalkeeper were allowed to be named in the starting line-ups for the teams.
An A-League squad must comprise a minimum of 20 players with a maximum of 26, subject to several limitations. Within the squad there can be a maximum of five "foreign" or "Visa" players, from outside Australia (and New Zealand, in the case of Wellington Phoenix), that hold a temporary working-visa. Three players in the squad must also be under 20 years of age. In addition to these three under 20 players, clubs are allowed to sign an additional three youth players onto full-time contracts at a lower pay rate than the rest of the squad. The A-League had initially proposed that the quota of five visa players per A-League club be reduced to four in the 2015–16 season, with the limit of four possibly become "3+1", which means three imports from anywhere and one from Asia (following regulations in the AFC Champions League). However, after opposition to the proposal by both players and managers, the move was placed on hold.
Although A-League clubs have restricted salaries (salary cap), the league allows each club to have two "marquee" players whose salaries are exempt from the cap, plus a number of other 'exemptions' or 'allowances' to incentivise clubs to spend in specific areas. Guest players are also excluded for up to a maximum of 14 league matches. From the formation of the league, clubs have been allowed to sign one international marquee player. From the 2008–09 season, A-League clubs have been permitted a junior marquee player; one that is under the age of 23. Now known as the 'Homegrown Player allowance', clubs can spend up to a collective $150,000 on 3 Australian players aged 23 or younger that have come through the club's youth system. On 19 April 2010, the A-League announced that, in addition to the international marquee and junior marquee, clubs would be allowed an Australian marquee player from the 2010–11 season. Notable marquee and guest players in the A-League have included Alessandro Del Piero, William Gallas, Dwight Yorke, Emile Heskey, Robbie Fowler, David Villa and former FIFA World Player of the Year Romário. Famous Australian Marquees include Harry Kewell, John Aloisi, Brett Emerton, Joshua Kennedy and Tim Cahill.
The A-League salary cap is $3.063 million for the 2018–19 Season. Clubs must spend at least the salary floor which is $2.756 million (representing 90% of the salary cap). The salary cap applies to the 20 to 23 players that clubs have registered to their A-League player roster. Unless specifically exempt, all payments and benefits (eg. cars, accommodation, etc) provided by a club to a player are included in the club's salary cap.
Commencing in the 2015–16 season, players who have played at their club for 5–10 years will be covered by a "loyalty player allowance", allowing up to $200,000 of their salary to be exempted from the cap. Additionally, clubs are now permitted a mature-age rookie whose wages are outside the salary cap.
The 2016–17 season saw the introduction of a third 'Full Season Guest Marquee' spot, designed to attract high-profile players on short-term deals.
|Season||Marquee player||Australian marquee||Junior marquee||Mature-aged rookie||Salary cap||Minimum salary|
A-League games have been played in 33 stadiums since the inaugural season of the A-League in 2005. Hindmarsh Stadium, the home of Adelaide United, is currently the smallest used in the A-League, with a capacity of 16,500. Stadium Australia, the temporary home of the Western Sydney Wanderers, has the greatest seating capacity (83,500) of any stadium currently used by an A-League club; the largest permanent home stadium is Docklands Stadium, the home ground of Melbourne Victory FC, with a capacity of 56,347.
Since its formation, the A-League has been sponsored by an official naming rights partner. In 2004, the Hyundai Motor Company was announced as the sponsor for the first three seasons of the league, known for commercial purposes as the "Hyundai A-League". In 2008, Hyundai renewed its initial contract with FFA for another four seasons until 2012, and that contract was further extended by four seasons until 2016.
As of the end of the 2018–19 regular season, 13 different clubs have competed in the league, with six having won the trophy, and seven winning at least one premier's plate.
|Sydney FC||4||2006, 2010, 2017, 2019||3||2009–10, 2016–17, 2017–18||7||14|
|Melbourne Victory||4||2007, 2009, 2015, 2018||3||2006–07, 2008–09, 2014–15||7||14|
|Brisbane Roar||3||2011, 2012, 2014||2||2010–11, 2013–14||5||14|
|Central Coast Mariners||1||2013||2||2007–08, 2011–12||3||14|
|Adelaide United||1||2016||2||2005–06, 2015–16||3||14|
|Western Sydney Wanderers||–||1||2012–13||1||7|
Besart Berisha holds the record for the greatest number of A-League goals, with 116 goals, playing for Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory. The A-League record for most goals in a single match is held by Archie Thompson, scoring 5 goals against Adelaide United on 18 February 2007, during the 2007 A-League Grand Final. Besart Berisha has scored the most A-League hat-tricks with 5, playing for Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory. Smeltz and Bobô are the only players to have scored hat-tricks in consecutive matches. In 2015, Austrian striker Marc Janko broke the record for scoring in consecutive matches when he scored in seven games for Sydney FC.
From the start of the 2005–06 season to the 2012–13 season, television coverage of the A-League in Australia had been restricted to the subscription-only Fox Sports channel, to which only 7% of Australian residents have access. On 19 November 2012, free-to-air Australian public broadcasting television network SBS secured the shared rights, alongside long-time A-League broadcasters Fox Sports, to the A-League from the 2013–14 season with a A$160 million four-year broadcast deal. SBS's coverage ended in the 2016–17 season, with Network Ten securing free to air broadcast rights. Ten will simulcast the Fox Sports coverage of the Saturday night fixture along will all Socceroos fixtures on its digital multichannel Ten Boss. In New Zealand the league has been broadcast on Sky Sport since its inaugural season.
The growth of coverage of the A-League outside Australia saw the league broadcast in 65 countries around the world in 2013/14. Full match broadcasts are available in the United States, China, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Singapore and Myanmar. In addition to the full match broadcasts, highlights of A-League matches can be viewed in 53 countries throughout Asia and the Middle East, including Japan and South Korea. In 2014, a three-season deal with Sony TEN allowed the league to be broadcast live in Asian nations including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Every A-League match is also live streamed globally, allowing games to be viewed online through a subscription service provided in a partnership with the FFA. All games also broadcast live in the United States on ESPN+. Most games in the United Kingdom are broadcast by BT Sport but use Fox Sports' live feed for every live game. For the 2014–15 Season, the A-League was broadcast in 173 countries.
The A-League has been promoted using a number of different advertising slogans and strategies since its inception. At the start of the inaugural season, a A$3 million dollar advertising campaign was launched, with the television and film advertisements produced by Ridley Scott's production company Scott Free Productions. The theme for the campaign was: "Football, but not as you know it". A new television advertisement was created for the start of the 2007–08 season, which debuted on Foxtel's program Total Football. It was filmed at Bob Jane Stadium in Melbourne. Other campaigns include the "90 minutes, 90 emotions", which was used for two seasons from 2007 to 2009 and was accompanied by the music track "My People" from Australian act The Presets.
|New Zealand and other Oceanian countries||Sky Sport|
|International||Sport24 (in-flight and ship only)|
YouTube (unsold markets only)
|Antigua and Barbuda||Digicel SportsMax|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Trinidad and Tobago|
|African countries||Kwesé Sports|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Arena Sport|
|China||China Sports Media|
|Estonia||Viasat Sport Baltic|
|Japan||Australia Plus (Highlights)|
|Middle East and North Africa||Dubai Sports|
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