The A-League has one of the most generous foreign player allowances in Asia, with up to six imports permitted per side. But does our league’s quota raise the quality of Australian football, or deny opportunities to Aussie youth?
In contrast, the A-League currently allows five foreign players per side, which will change to a 4+1 rule – four imports from any country and one from Asia – for the 2018/19 season. This is in addition to exempting one Australian citizen per club, who has chosen to represent another national team, e.g. Daniel Georgievski.
So why is Australia comparatively generous to foreign footballers? Given our lack of a professional second division, surely allowing up to six foreigners per side is denying opportunities to young Australians.
Firstly, there are obvious benefits to attracting overseas talent down under. Foreign imports have had an enormous impact upon the A-League, and can have a significant mentoring effect on Australian youth.
They bring different styles and experiences that young Australians can’t recreate. This translates to increasing interest in the league, higher attendances and a trickle down effect that strengthens Australia’s domestic competition.
A club like Central Coast Mariners – which has traditionally struggled to attract marquees – has previously relied on hand-me-down imports the ilk of Fabio Ferreira to stay competitive.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing; emphasising foreign scouting networks over youth development can further disadvantage smaller clubs, which can’t afford scouting expenses. But other benefits to retaining Australia’s current system are less obvious.
While many think that foreign players are more expensive than Australians, A-League clubs have been clever in attracting superb imports for relatively cheap salaries.
Restricting the foreign player quota to 3+1 increases demand for quality Australians, which raises the salaries of Australian footballers.