Depressing, embarrassing, mind-boggling and the “darkest day in Australian club football”.
The A-League’s two participants in Tuesday’s AFC Champions League matchday two were hammered, drawing stinging criticism from Fox Sports commentators Mark Rudan and Mark Bosnich.
The pair cited a range of issues behind Australia’s ACL woes, from the A-League’s stalled expansion, transfer fees, grass roots registration fees and the salary cap.
Brisbane Roar lost 6-0 to Korean outfit Ulsan Hyundai, while Western Sydney Wanderers were thrashed 5-1 by Chinese big spenders Shanghai SIPG.
Eleven goals conceded in one night was one thing, but Wanderers’ goal through Mitch Nichols was also the first of an A-League club in this edition’s group stage in five games.
“We want to be the best in the world one day and right now this is probably the darkest day in Australian club football,” Rudan said.
“We’re talking about two teams Brisbane, one of the most successful teams in the A-League competition and Western Sydney Wanderers, phenomenal in the last four years with what they’ve achieved.
“It’s just depressing, it’s mind boggling and we need to address it and the powers that be in the headquarters also need to speak up.”
Former Chelsea and Manchester United goalkeeper Bosnich was typically forthright with his opinions.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s as simple as that, last week was embarrassing, this has gone a step further,” Bosnich said.
“There are a whole lot of other issues, if we had time we could actually go through them. A whole lot of things are happening.”
Bosnich continued: “Too many people are scared to say something. It’s not about upsetting people. Everyone wants the same thing, they want Australian football to go forward
“This has been coming for a long time, it’s going to be coming for the Socceroos team.”
Bosnich took particular aim at the salary cap which he believes is holding the domestic game back in Australia.
“The difference between first and 10th (in our salary capped A-League) is 36 points,” he said. “The salary cap is supposed to be an equaliser, that’s a mirage.
“In the top five non-salary cap leagues, England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France, there’s less points between first and 10th than a salary cap league.
“We’ve got an equaliser, it’s called the top six. It all started with the Wanderers when they won two or three years ago and were punished for their success and came second last.
“Those teams were first, second and third last year. They had the incentive last year when they won it to say ‘right we’re going to the Asian Champions League, this is Australian football, we want to look good’.
“They could’ve gone and spent money, not billions like in China, but just to improve the depth of their squads. But they’re not allowed to, because of these ridiculous rules, it’s archaic.”
Bosnich also claimed the national football curriculum hadn’t worked and called for transfer fees to be introduced to provide the incentive for NPL clubs to develop footballers.
The former Socceroo pointed to the past when Australia’s youth teams progressed to the World Cup knockout stages, comparing to the current situation where sides are failing to qualify at all.
“We have got no transfer fees in this country, it’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
“Who is going to develop players? The National Premier League in the past, when we were growing up, would develop top class players. The maximum they can charge is $7000, it’s a joke.
“What type of incentive is there to pay a coach to develop players. That needs to stop. Transfer fees need to come in for everyone.”
Rudan, who has coached Rockdale City and Sydney United in the NSW NPL, said there was a lack of ambition to expand the A-League, leading to a lack of opportunities for young footballers.
“Absolutely 100 per cent. There are that many kids out there who are working their guts out,” Rudan said.
“I’ve worked at NPL level. I know what it’s like for these young kids who are desperate for an A-League contract and to make something out of themselves.
“Their dreams are stopped because the opportunities just aren’t there for them. Ten teams. It’s about giving players the opportunity and we’re not giving them that.”