Australian Professional Leagues to be unbundled from Football Australia

Football Australia and the newly formed Australian Professional Leagues (APL) today announced that terms have been agreed to ‘unbundle’ the A-League, Westfield W-League and Y-League (‘Professional Leagues’) from Football Australia.

This unbundling of the Professional Leagues from Football Australia means that the Australian football structure will be in line with global best practice in football, separating Football Australia as the regulatory body from the operation of the Professional Leagues.

In accordance with the FIFA Statutes, the Professional Leagues will operate under the umbrella of and recognised by Football Australia as the top tier of domestic league football competitions in Australia.

APL will take over the operational, commercial, and marketing control of the Professional Leagues and all revenue generation responsibilities.  

Football Australia will retain regulatory functions in respect of the Professional Leagues, including matters relating to on-and-off-field disciplinary and integrity matters, the registration of Clubs, Players and Officials, the transfer system, and the domestic match calendar. 

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The regulatory functions of Football Australia also include a new club licensing framework for the Professional Leagues and control over access to the Professional Leagues (whether by expansion, contraction, or promotion/relegation), the AFC Champions League, FFA Cup and all other domestic and international competitions.

Football Australia will also retain ‘good of the Australian game’ rights in respect of the Professional Leagues, which apply to a variety of matters that are aimed at ensuring the ongoing growth of the Professional Leagues.

As part of the unbundling, the APL will also obtain the exclusive right to use the intellectual property rights associated with the E-League brand.

This agreement, approved by Football Australia’s Board and the Board of each Club, is in line with the in-principle agreement reached in 2019 and endorsed by the New Leagues Working Group (‘NLWG’), the body mandated by the Congress of Football Australia to make recommendations for a new model for the Professional Leagues.

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The new model for the Professional Leagues will be implemented throughout the course of the A-League 2020/21 and Westfield W-League 2020/21 Seasons.

The APL Board will comprise of five (5) directors from the Clubs, three (3) independent directors, and one (1) person appointed by Football Australia. An independent Chair to be elected by the Clubs and ratified by Football Australia, will have a casting vote on the APL Board.

Greg O’Rourke, currently Head of Leagues at Football Australia, will take on a new role as Commissioner of the Professional Leagues for APL.

James Johnson, CEO of Football Australia, said:

“The unbundling of the Professional Leagues from Football Australia is a key milestone in the ongoing transformation of Australian football and fulfils our commitment outlined in Principle VIII of our XI Principles. It represents the culmination of a process, which ramped up following the completion of the A-League 2019/20 season, that ebbed and flowed over the course of what has been a difficult 2020. 

“The new model respects the fundamental aspects of the global football pyramid and highlights the importance of strong governance principles as Football Australia retains its regulatory functions in respect of the A-League, Westfield W-League and Y-League and the APL takes control over the operational and commercial direction of the Leagues, in turn triggering the ability for significant new investment in the quality and marketing of the Leagues. Each constituent now has defined roles and responsibilities and the ability to make the right contribution to the growth of the professional game.

“We have been able to create a unique model which draws upon global best practice whilst allowing for local specificities. Significantly, the model establishes a framework for a strong partnership between Football Australia and the APL which recognises the value of a thriving domestic professional league to the ongoing growth of the game in Australia.”

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Paul Lederer, Chair of APL, said:

“This is an historic moment for the future of football in Australia – for the fan, for the player, for the whole game.

“It’s now time to earn and deliver the future our game deserves.

“The handbrake on the game is off; owners can finally invest in what they own and create value for the entire footballing ecosystem.

“Players can plan their careers in Australian football, fans can reconnect with the game that they love, and clubs can create meaningful moments for the whole Australian football family.”

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Chris Nikou, Chair of Football Australia, said:

“There is unprecedented unity amongst football’s key stakeholders with Football Australia, Clubs, and the Members of Football Australia, being the group making up the NLWG, that paved the way to the unbundling of the A-League, W-League and Y-League from Football Australia.

“Football Australia will now focus its energies and resources on the regulation of the professional game, national teams, grassroots and the overall strategic direction of the game as outlined in the XI Principles for the future of Australian Football, the new 15-year vision for the sport and strategic agenda.

“All parties are committed to ongoing cooperation and collaboration and we look forward to working closely with the APL this season as we transition to the new model, and more broadly, the future of professional football in Australia."

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