Time running out for a new A-League
NEGOTIATIONS to design an independent A-League in time for next season will go to the wire, after a new deadline of June 30 was recommended to have a final blueprint signed off and ratified.
Two months of exhaustive talks between FFA, the A-League clubs and the nine state federations, the final report establishes "key principles" for the new league, but admits that extensive negotiation is still needed over the precise share out of TV revenue, commercial rights and structure of the new competition.
The report from the so-called New League Working Group (NLWG) sets out a whistlestop timeline to have that detail agreed, and all legal processes completed, by the end of the financial year.
That is the point when A-League player contracts end for this season, and would give the clubs less than four months to prepare for next season under a new, self-governed model.
That includes establishing a new free-to-air TV deal, as well as exploiting the extra commercial opportunities clubs will take over from FFA.
The NLWG only began meeting in January under independent chair Judith Griggs, a London-based sporting consultant and former Grand Prix executive.
The report that Griggs submitted on Sunday highlights the large areas of agreement between all the parties involved, including much of the formal detail involved in changing the ownership of the league, but acknowledges that significant differences remain.
Many of the "key principles" fudge the major areas of disagreement, such as clubs having to release players for national teams at all times.
FFA's board must now decide whether to accept the report's recommendations, which include the new A-League being run by a board of directors nominated by each club and an independent chair.
Some figures involved in the NLWG fear the clubs will play a game of brinkmanship over the next weeks and months, if they don't get agreement over the EPL-style model they want, but the clubs' own blueprint has met with opposition from the FFA's member states - the ones who will vote on a new model in the end.
Having consulted figures in the US, in Britain, Ireland and Scotland, the grassroots bodies - who see themselves in a role of "custodians of the game" - have refused to rush into agreement over what the A-League looks like and most importantly, who pays for it.
The states, who say they are united on this, don't believe the A-League can be completely separate from the rest of the game here.
In the background the clubs and the operations staff at FFA have begun planning for next season, with working groups looking at areas like designed a fixture list with 11 teams and then 12 the year after.
But key figures say that if agreement isn't in place for the A-League's new structure by July, the lack of time until next season will quickly eat away at the commercial opportunities the clubs have been seeking for years.