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|Why the FFA must ensure Australia’s Harry Kewell returns to the A-League|
Yesterday morning Bernie Mandic, the manager of Socceroo star Harry Kewell, told Melbourne sports radio station SEN that Kewell would not be returning to Australia this year. Despite the willingness of Kewell to play in the A-League, there has been a breakdown in the financial negotiations between the FFA and the player’s management.
The deal that Kewell is pushing for involves his payment being attached to the gate receipts of away matches, a 70-30 split, but the FFA has rejected this proposition. The FFA instead wants to offer Kewell a lump sum deal whereby Kewell will partake in promotional activities for football in Australia.
It would be unprecedented for the FFA to tie their revenue stream in gate receipts to a single player, and it could result in the FFA paying Kewell far over the odds of his actual value. It may also lead to other marquee singings refusing to play in Australia, unless they are able to negotiate a similar deal.
But while this financial decision would be unprecedented, it would also be unprecedented to have a player of Kewell’s stature return home. The A-League has been lucky to have the likes of Dwight Yorke and Robbie Fowler grace the competition, but these players were well and truly past their best when they arrived. Harry may not be the same player that dazzled the supporters of Leeds United once upon a time, but he would be a fantastic addition to the A-League.
The other thing to consider is that if the FFA do end up paying Kewell his small fortune, it would only be on the back of a considerable increase in crowd attendances. Kewell’s success would be linked to the success of the competition if his payments are attached to gate receipts. If Kewell were to flop and attendances dropped, then in fact the FFA would pay him less than the lump sum they are proposing.
Financially it may not be prudent to link your revenue to a percentage sum, as funds that have been generated by the success of the game, should be put back into the game. Instead in this scenario, any financial success the game has, for whatever reason, will end up in the pocket of Harry Kewell.
But financial prudence is not compatible with the sport of football, not in Europe and most certainly not here in Australia. Crowd attendances dropped to an all time low in the 2010/11 campaign, with the regular season matches averaging a dismal 8,393 people per match. North Queensland Fury FC was forced to close down at the end of the season due to financial instability.
The FFA must take action to ensure the ongoing success of the A-League, as if the A-League were to collapse, it would spell immense trouble for Australia football. Signing Kewell would reignite national mainstream interest in a sport that is currently languishing by the wayside.
The ‘Pull’ Factor
If Kewell fails to secure a move back to Australia, what sort of message will that send to his fellow compatriots such as Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer who may be interested in coming back to Australia at some stage in the near future? Conversely, if Kewell does manage to secure a return, the ‘pull’ factor could come into play.
The MLS hoped for a similar effect when LA Galaxy signed David Beckham from Real Madrid, and to a certain extent it has worked. Barcelona duo Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez could almost certainly have found other European clubs to represent, but instead they both opted for the New York Red Bulls.
If Kewell does make a return home, then surely some of his national teammates may begin to consider a move home, and from there who knows what could happen? If the Australian contingent of stars enjoy a successful return to Australia, word will spread in Europe about the viability of playing in the A-League as players get older. But if the FFA can’t make a deal for one of the greatest ever Australian players who does want to return home, then how will the A-League ever attract big names in the future?
It may not be ideal for the FFA to cut a deal that ties gate receipts to Kewell’s pay packet, but the alternative of losing Kewell to Europe forever is surely a lot worse.
Do you agree that the FFA should do everything they can to sign Harry Kewell? Think he is not the answer to the A-League’s problems? SoccerAnchor.com wants to know what YOU think, so leave a comment below…