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The A-League is the premier Australasian domestic football competition. Run by Australian governing body Football Federation Australia, it was founded in 2004 following the collapse of the National Soccer League and staged its inaugural season in 2005-06. It is sponsored by Hyundai Motor Company Australia, and is therefore officially known as the Hyundai A-League.

The league is contested by ten teams: nine located across Australia and one from New Zealandmarker. Related leagues include a National Youth League for youth development, and the Women's Westfield W-League.

Format

Pre-Season Cup

Prior to the 2009-10 season, a pre-season competition was held in August, as a precursor to the main season. In the Pre-Season Cup, the teams were evenly placed into two groups. Each team played the others in the group once over three rounds.

Beginning in 2006, an additional bonus round was then held, with each team playing a cross-over match with a team from a different group. In addition to the standard points (3 for a win, 1 for a draw), there were special bonus points on offer for the bonus round matches:
  • 1 bonus point for 2 goals scored by a team,
  • 2 bonus points for 3 goals scored by a team, or
  • 3 bonus points for 4 or more goals scored by a team.
  • 4 bonus points for scoring 5 goals by a player.


This format was edited for the 2007 competition. The bonus round was removed, and the bonus points system introduced into each of the first three rounds. All eight teams then entered a knock-out round, culminating in the final in late August.

The Pre-Season Cup was removed from 2009-10's A-League schedule in order to give the clubs more control over their own pre-season training.

Regular season

The regular season runs mainly during the Australian summer, from early August to February of the following year. The competition consists of 27 home-and-away rounds, with each team playing each other team three times – twice at one team's home stadium and once at the other's. The teams which are allotted two home matches against an opponent in one season are allotted one home match against that opponent in the following season. Each match sees the winning team awarded three competition points, or in the case of a draw, the teams receive one point each. At the end of the season, the teams are ranked firstly in terms of competition points accumulated, then goal difference, total goals scored, head-to-head records between tying teams and finally the number of cards each team has received. The club at the top of this ladder is crowned A-League Premiers, and as of the 2006-07 season, will be entered into the AFC Champions League.

At the completion of the Regular Season teams are ranked from one through ten with the top six teams progressing to the finals series. The position of each team is determined by the highest number of points accumulated during the Regular Season. If two or more teams are level on points accumulated, the following criteria are applied, in order, until one of the teams can be determined as the higher ranked:
  1. Highest goal difference;
  2. Highest number of goals scored;
  3. Highest number of points accumulated in matches between the teams concerned;
  4. Highest goal difference in matches between the teams concerned;
  5. Highest number of goals scored in matches between the teams concerned;
  6. Lowest number of red cards accumulated;
  7. Lowest number of yellow cards accumulated;
  8. Toss of a coin.


Finals series

The top six-ranked teams at the end of the regular season are entered into a finals series, where the top two ranked teams in the regular season compete over two legs (with ties decided by the away goals rule), the winner progressing straight to and hosting the Grand Final.

On the same weekend, the third and sixth ranked teams play against each other; the same for the fourth and fifth ranked teams. The winner of each of these matches play against each other, the winner of which goes ahead to play in a Preliminary Final against the loser of the two-legged match between the top two teams. The winner of this match progresses to the Grand Final. As of the 2006-07 season, this team will also contest the AFC Champions League, although if the team that wins the Premiership goes through to the Grand Final then the other Grand Final competitor will be awarded the second spot in the competition, win or lose.

Promotion

The A-League logo, designed by Coast Design Sydney, is a three-dimensional sphere in the shape of a football. The two-toned ochre colours represent the sun, earth and desert while the 'glow' emanating from the centre of the logo depicts the playing season's Spring and Summer time span. The eight 'A' figures that make up the ball shape represent the eight foundation clubs.

At the start of the inaugural season, an AU$3 million dollar advertising campaign was launched, with the television and film advertisements produced by Ridley Scott's production company. The theme for the campaign was: "Football, but not as you know it".

A new television advertisement was created for the start of the 2007-08 season, which debuted on Foxtel's program, Total Football. It was filmed at Bob Jane Stadiummarker in Melbournemarker. The theme of the current campaign is "90 minutes, 90 emotions". This promotional campaign continued into the 2008-09 season, along with music track "My People" from Australian act The Presets.

The A-League has been featured in the FIFA series by EA SPORTS since the 2007 edition of the game, as well as the Football Manager series by SI Games and the Championship Manager series by Beautiful Game Studios.

In 2008 and 2009 a Fox reality show, Football Superstar, offered as a prize, to the winner, a contract with an A-League club.

Clubs

There are currently ten clubs from Australia and New Zealand playing in the A-League. Only three of these clubs, , Newcastle United Jets, and existed before the A-League was formed.

Unlike most European leagues, there is no system for promotion and relegation of teams nor a national knockout cup competition along the lines of the FA Cup. The A-League system thus shares some franchising elements with most other professional leagues in Australia, as well as Major League Soccer and other major American based sports leagues.

Wellington Phoenix replaced the at the start of the 2007-08 season.

 




Location: Adelaidemarker, South Australiamarker

Founded: 2003

Period: 2005-06 — present

Ground: Hindmarsh Stadiummarker (16,500)

Coach: Aurelio Vidmar

Captain: 13.
Travis Dodd
 



Location: Brisbanemarker, Queenslandmarker

Founded: 1957

Period: 2005-06 — present

Ground: Suncorp Stadiummarker (52,500)

Coach: Ange Postecoglou

Captain: 4.
Craig Moore
 



Location: Gosfordmarker, New South Walesmarker

Founded: 2004

Period: 2005-06 — present

Ground: Bluetongue Stadiummarker (20,119)

Coach: Lawrie McKinna

Captain: 18.
Alex Wilkinson
 



Location: Gold Coast, Queenslandmarker

Founded: 2008

Period: 2009-10

Ground: Skilled Parkmarker (27,400)

Coach: Miron Bleiberg

Captain: 10.
Jason Čulina
 



Location: Melbournemarker, Victoriamarker

Founded: 2004

Period: 2005-06 — present

Ground: Etihad Stadiummarker (56,347)

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Captain: 2.
Kevin Muscat




Location: Newcastlemarker, New South Walesmarker

Founded: 2000

Period: 2005-06 — present

Ground: EnergyAustralia Stadiummarker (26,164)

Coach: Branko Čulina

Captain: 8.
Matt Thompson
 



Location: Townsvillemarker, Queenslandmarker

Founded: 2008

Period: 2009-10

Ground: Dairy Farmers Stadiummarker (26,500)

Coach: Ian Ferguson

Captain: 9.
Robbie Fowler
 



Location: Perthmarker, Western Australiamarker

Founded: 1996

Period: 2005-06 — present

Ground: ME Bank Stadiummarker (18,156)

Coach: Dave Mitchell

Captain: 7.
Jacob Burns
 



Location: Sydneymarker, New South Walesmarker

Founded: 2004

Period: 2005-06 — present

Ground: Sydney Football Stadiummarker (45,500)

Coach: Vítězslav Lavička

Captain: 10.
Steve Corica
 



Location: Wellingtonmarker, New Zealandmarker

Founded: 2007

Period: 2007-08 — present

Ground: Westpac Stadiummarker (36,000)

Coach: Ricki Herbert

Captain: 22.
Andrew Durante


Expansion

While making a relatively modest start in order to ensure future stability, both Football Federation Australia and the media have indicated significant interest in expanding the league. The eight foundation clubs have exclusivity clauses for their respective cities valid for five years, but this does not exclude teams from other areas.

Before the introduction of the A-League, FFA chairman Frank Lowy speculated that he hoped to expand the league into additional areas, mentioning Canberramarker, Hobartmarker, Wollongongmarker, Geelongmarker , Far North Queensland and possibly Darwinmarker.

A Townsville-based group first assembled a bid when it was announced that the would not continue after the first two seasons. The Knights were instead replaced by but the momentum from the bid process continued. In November 2007, it was revealed that the name of the club, if and when accepted, would be North Queensland Thunder FC, and Dairy Farmers Stadiummarker would be the team home ground.

Gold Coast based club Gold Coast Galaxy FC announced in December 2007 that they were ready and able to join the league upon expansion. The team proposed to play its home games at Skilled Parkmarker.

After considerable media speculation about the teams from December 2007 onwards, it was announced in February 2008 that and had been tentatively admitted to the league for the 2008-09 season - pending the provision to FFA of additional financial criteria. However expansion was later delayed for at least another season.

In May 2008, FFA announced their intention to add as many as four teams to the league for the 2009-10 season. Both Townsville and the Gold Coast also saw the appearance of competing bids - by former Thunder backer Melissa Fischer-Massa and billionaire Clive Palmer On June 6, 2008, the FFA announced that Clive Palmer had signed a provisional agreement to enter a franchise, to be named Gold Coast United Football Club, in the 2009-10 season. The success of this is expected to rely on the acceptance of the tenth franchise's inclusion for this season. It was officially announced on August 28 that Gold Coast United and North Queensland FC will be joining the league for season 5. In September, 2008, FFA awarded a second Melbourne team exclusive negotiating rights to enter the league in 2010-2011.

On September 29 West Sydney were given an A-League license for the 2011-12 season. Furthermore, on October 2, the club was officially named Sydney Rovers FC.

Squad and salary cap

The minimum number of players on each squad is 20. Each club has a salary cap of AU$2.1 million for 19 players - much less than the millions of dollars a year that individual star players (including some Australians) earn in Europe's top football leagues. The 20th player is exempt from the salary cap, and therefore can be paid an unlimited salary (see Marquee Player below) The squad must include at least three under-20 players. Clubs may also only have a maximum of five players from outside Australia and New Zealand in their squad, and may now have one additional player from the Asian Football Confederation.

Marquee player

In order to combat fears that the salary cap would reduce the capacity of the clubs to attract crowds through big-name players, the league allows each team to have one "marquee" player, whose salary is exempt from the salary cap, and is quite well-paid. The best-known example of a marquee player in the A-League was the prominent English Premier League player Dwight Yorke, who played for Sydney FC in the inaugural season. For the 2008-09 season, A-League clubs are able to have a Junior Marquee player who is under the age of 23. The Junior Marquee's wages can be subsidised with $AU 150,000 outside the salary cap.

Club Marquee player Junior Marquee player Captain Vice-Captain
None None Travis Dodd Lucas Pantelis
Craig Moore Michael Zullo Craig Moore Danny Tiatto
None None Alex Wilkinson John Hutchinson
Jason Culina Tahj Minniecon Jason Culina Michael Thwaite
Archie Thompson None Kevin Muscat Rodrigo Vargas
Fabio Vignaroli Adam D'Apuzzo Matt Thompson Adam D'Apuzzo
Robbie Fowler None Robbie Fowler Robbie Middleby
Mile Sterjovski None Jacob Burns Chris Coyne
John Aloisi Mark Bridge Steve Corica John Aloisi
None None Andrew Durante Tim Brown


Youth league

Before the A-League 2008-09 season, a national youth league was set up in conjunction with the A-League in order to continue to blood young Australian talent into the league as well as into the Australian national team and its affiliates such as the under 17, under 20 and under 23 teams. The league's inaugural season was made up of seven teams, each linked to the corresponding Australian club in the A-League (excluding ) and had strong links to players training at the Australian Institute of Sportmarker (AIS). Some changes were implemented for the 2009–10 season, including the addition of the and a team from the AIS. Wellington Phoenix and do not have teams in the youth league.

The original format of the youth league was similar to the previous A-league, made up of 21 rounds (18 games each plus three byes) corresponding with the A-League fixtures and occasionally used as curtain raisers. The new format has 27 rounds, however each team has three byes over the season.

Stadiums

Primary venues used in the A-League:
Docklands Stadiummarker Lang Parkmarker Sydney Football Stadiummarker Westpac Stadiummarker Robina Stadiummarker
Capacity: 56,347 Capacity: 52,500 Capacity: 45,500 Capacity: 36,000 Capacity: 27,400
Willows Sports Complexmarker Newcastle International Sports Centremarker Central Coast Stadiummarker Perth Ovalmarker Hindmarsh Stadiummarker
Capacity: 26,500 Capacity: 26,164 Capacity: 20,119 Capacity: 18,156 Capacity: 16,500


Other venues used by A-League clubs include:

Stadium Capacity Details
Stadium Australiamarker 83,500 Used by for a friendly game against Los Angeles Galaxy on November 27, 2007
Lancaster Parkmarker 36,000 To be used by for an A-League match against on 30 January 2010.
Adelaide Ovalmarker 33,597 Used by for two A-League matches against on 28 December 2007 and 3 January, 2009
Canberra Stadiummarker 25,011 Used by for an A-League match against on 4 September 2009 and again for an A-League match against on 31 October 2009.
North Harbour Stadiummarker 25,000 Used by in the 2005-06 season and 2006-07 season
Parramatta Stadiummarker 21,487 Used by for an AFC Champions League game on 25 April 2007 and will be used in an A-League match against on 7 February 2010
Olympic Park Stadiummarker 18,500 Used by in the 2005-06 season and part of the 2006-07 season1
Arena Manawatumarker 18,000 To be used by for an A-League match against on 12 December 2009.


1Melbourne Victory's home stadium during the 2005-06 season was Olympic Park Stadiummarker. Their round 2 match of the 2006-07 season, on September 2, 2006, was originally a one-off game at Docklands Stadium. After the success of the event, a further seven home games were relocated to Docklands Stadium, which went on to become Melbourne finals series home venue and as of the 2007-08 season, the full-time home ground of the club.

Crowds

Average crowds for the regular season are listed below. These figures do not include finals, international friendlies or AFC Champions League matches.

Team Crowd average
2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10
10,947 12,162 12,697 11,712 11,759
14,785 16,465 16,951 12,995 8,850
7,899 9,828 12,741 10,465 7,725
- - - - 5,176
14,158 27,728 26,064 24,516 20,089
8,912 11,442 13,209 9,729 5,828
3,909 3,014 - - -
- - - - 6,849
9,734 7,671 7,596 7,942 9,733
16,669 14,999 16,373 12,375 12,101
- - 11,683 7,193 7,376
Whole season 10,955 12,927 14,610 12,180 9,793


Referees

The A-League also features some of Australia and New Zealand's top match officials. Referees include:

Matthew Breeze,New South Wales,FIFA/AFC

Peter Green,Queensland,FIFA/AFC

Ben Williams,Australian Capital Territory,FIFA/AFC

Craig Zetter,South Australia,FIFA

Peter O'Leary,New Zealand,FIFA

Michael Hester,New Zealand,FIFA

Strebre Delovski,New South Wales

Chris Beath,Queensland

Gerard Parsons,Australia

Champions and premiers

The club that accumulates the most points during the regular season receives the title of Premiers. Media reports sometimes erroneously refer to the Premiers as the minor premiers, a term used in other football codes in Australia. The team that wins the Grand Final receives the title of Champions.

Season Pre-season cup Regular season Grand final
Premiers Points Runners-up Champions Score Runners-up
2005–06

Details
43–36

Ladder
1–0

Grand Final
2006–07

Details
45–33

Ladder
6–0

Grand Final
2007–08

Details
34–34

GD: 5–4

Ladder
1–0

Grand Final
2008–09

Details
38–38

GF: 39–31

Ladder
1–0

Grand Final
2009–10

Details
Was not held Currently being played

Ladder
To be played

Grand Final


See also the list of champions from 1977 to 2004 in the previous National Soccer League competition.No team has ever successfully defended the Premiership or Championship.

AFC Champions League

Two A-League clubs have participated in the AFC Champions League competition since the 2007 competition. Theses teams were determined by finishing positions in the 2005-06 A-League season, the 2008 competition by finishing positions in the 2006-07 season, and so on.

The Champions and Premiers qualify for the cup. In the case where the same team is Champion and Premier, the losing grand finalist qualifies. The fact that a whole season passes before clubs compete in the Champions League is highly controversial, as the next season passes before the Champions League begins. For example, Newcastle Jets competed in the 2009 Champions League, even though they finished last in the 2008-09 A-League season.

Season Qualified clubs
Team Final Position Team Final Position
2007

Details
Group stage (2nd)

Details
Group Stage (3rd)

Details
2008

Details
Group Stage (2nd)

Details
Runners-up

Details
2009

Details
Round of 16

Details
Group Stage (4th)

Details
2010

Details
Yet to play Yet to play


Top scorers

League and Finals (All-time)

Last updated 30 November 2009

Shows Players at current club or last club played for.
Rank Player Current Team Goals
1 Archie Thompson 46
2 Daniel Allsopp 36
3 Shane Smeltz * 32
=4 Sasho Petrovski * 28
=4 Joel Griffiths 28
=4 Alex Brosque * 28
=7 Kevin Muscat 23
=7 Mark Bridge * 23
=9 Jamie Harnwell 21
=9 Travis Dodd 21
Bold denotes players still playing in the A-League

(*) denotes players who have played for more than one A-League team

Awards

Johnny Warren Medal

The Johnny Warren Medal, named after the late former Socceroo and media advocate Johnny Warren, is presented to the player who is deemed to be the best player overall at the end of the season as judged by his fellow players. Each player in the A-League votes three times over the season: after Round 7, Round 14 and Round 21. Players are not allowed to vote for other players on their own team.

Year Player Club
2005–06 Bobby Despotovski
2006–07 Nick Carle
2007–08 Joel Griffiths
2008–09 Shane Smeltz


Joe Marston Medal

The Joe Marston Medal is given to the best player in an A-League Grand Final. It is named after Joe Marston, a Socceroo in the 1950s.

Year Player Club
2006 Dwight Yorke
2007 Archie Thompson
2008 Andrew Durante
2009 Tom Pondeljak


Rising Star Award

The Rising Star Award is awarded to a youth (under 20) player judged by a panel of experts to be the best young performer throughout the season.

Year Player Club
2005–06 Nick Ward
2006–07 Adrian Leijer
2007–08 Bruce Djite
2008–09 Scott Jamieson


Reebok Golden Boot

The Reebok Golden Boot is presented to the player who scores the most goals during the season. Only regular A-League matches between Round 1 and Round 27 (or to Round 21 before season 2009-10) are included.

Year Player/s Club Goals
2005–06 Alex Brosque,

Bobby Despotovski

Stewart Petrie

Archie Thompson






8
2006–07 Daniel Allsopp 11
2007–08 Joel Griffiths 12
2008–09 Shane Smeltz 12


Goalkeeper of the Year Award

Year Player Club
2005–06 Clint Bolton
2006–07 Michael Theoklitos
2007–08 Michael Theoklitos
2008–09 Eugene Galeković


Coach of the Year Award

Year Name Club
2005–06 Lawrie McKinna
2006–07 Ernie Merrick
2007–08 Gary van Egmond
2008–09 Aurelio Vidmar


Fair Play Award

The Fair Play Award goes to the team with the lowest points on the fair play ladder at the conclusion of the home and away season (Yellow Card = 1 point, Direct Red Card = 3 points, 2nd Caution Red Card = 2 points).

Year Club
2005–06
2006–07
2007–08
2008–09


Zurich Referee of the Year

Year Referee
2005–06 Mark Shield
2006–07 Mark Shield
2007–08 Mark Shield
2008–09 Matthew Breeze


Foreign Player of the Year

Year Player/s Club
2008–09 Charlie Miller



TV Coverage

The Hyundai A-League, being a relatively minor league internationally, only has a small broadcast base, compared to the giant European competitions such as the FA Premier League or Serie A. The countries where the A-League is shown are mostly other Commonwealth nations, which have a larger than normal base of Australian immigrants.



Rivalries

Although there are no local derbies, due to the league's one-city one-team policy, many 'rivalries' have formed between A-League sides:

  • v : "The City Derby" The clash between Australia's two biggest cities is considered the biggest rivalry in the league by both sets of fans. Sydney and Melbourne have been historical rivals for over a century, and their football teams are no exception. These contests are often full of spite and controversy on and off the pitch, the most recent example being a clash between Daniel Allsopp and Sydney coach John Kosmina.


  • v : Contested the 2006-07 and 2008-09 A-League Grand Finals, in which Melbourne won 6-0 and 1-0 respectively. The Adelaide vs Melbourne rivalry stems from the traditional rivalry between sporting teams from Victoria and South Australia but was strengthened by incidents in the 2006-07 season, such as the confrontation between Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat and then Adelaide United coach John Kosmina and Robert Bajic's red card for kicking Fred. Since then, the rivalry has become arguably one of the most bitter in the A League, with almost every match between the two teams characterised by spiteful confrontations and controversy - both on and off the pitch.


  • v : Labelled "The F3 Derby" by commentators, the two regional clubs, only an hour apart, are also big rivals. The derby was intensified when the two teams played each other in the 2008 Finals series and eventually met in the Grand Final, which was won 1-0 by the Jets.


  • v : "The M1" or "South East Queensland Derby" is the clash between the two geographically closest teams in the A-League. Before their first encounter there were big media reports and controversy in the lead up to their first matchup in round 1 of the 2009–10 season. Hype was also surrouning Gold Coast United coach Miron Bleiberg (Former Queensland Roar Coach) returning to Suncorp Stadium.


References

External links




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