The Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United proved that it is possible to be successful in the A-League and give a fair crack to the next generation. With the Mariners Academy and Adelaide perennial churning grounds for talent, with more Australian A-League teams joining the action, Australian footy fans have plenty to look forward to. Instead, the league is waiting for more insight into how Australian football will be shaped in the coming years before it gets its youth arms back up and running.
Instead of looking so closely at the Australian youth development model, Australian football should look towards Holland as an example of how a league should appropriately operate as a competition whose primary focus is the development of domestically produced talent. By creating a league system that draws this talent into a global competition, instead of overspending on overseas assets, which rarely yield dividends to the wider footballing community, Australian football can become an ideal destination for young men and women with raw athletic talent. These players had significant spells in high-quality, high-competitive leagues, which is evidence Australian A-League is fertile soil for emerging Australian-bred talent.
Young players are much more likely to develop in leagues than in semi-professional levels in National Premier Leagues (NPL). Australian junior academies frequently play in the NPL2 or three stories in New South Wales and Victoria. With just 12 professional clubs playing in the A-League, it seems like more opportunities will be available for younger players and those within the NPL. Because eventually, there will be more opportunities for talented teenagers and NPL stars to earn scholarships or secure a senior professional contract in the A-League. Players now have a competition which provides meaningful work, professional pathways, and a robust, stable league which will nurture Australia’s next generation of talent.
A-League clubs and Professional Footballers Australia are not convinced about the merits of DTS in Australia, where clubs on a local level were prohibited from exchanging players with each other for years for cash. Professional Footballers Australia, in particular, would not agree to a DTS without removing the A-League salary cap. Whatever happens with any potential relocation system, the A-League clubs are running their races right now, curiously coming at a time when most people agree that the soccer pyramid needs fixing. There was considerable opposition among stakeholders to the reinvigorated DTS, including some of the clubs in the A-League, as well as Professional Footballers Australia, the players union.