Clubs unhappy with final round format

January 22, 2009
By Daniel Brettig

Football Federation Australia will consider the merits of playing all final round A-League matches simultaneously if asked by clubs during the off-season.

A change to the present format, which sees the round 21 fixture spread across the weekend, remains unlikely so long as television rights holder and major corporate backer Fox Sports wishes to show all games live.

But the stark contrast between the league's final round and football's time-honoured practice of playing last round matches together - to avoid any suspicion of collusion or unfair advantage - will rankle with coaches and players as the league continues to grow.

Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar and goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic on Friday added their names to the campaign for a more equitable final round next season, after Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick floated the idea earlier in the week.

"I think it should (be played at the same time), Europe does it and why shouldn't the A-League change it next season?" Galekovic said.

"We've got a bit of an advantage playing on Sunday, we can watch Melbourne and see what result they get and try to match things up."

Fox Sports' seven-year, $120 million agreement to cover A-League matches has essentially bankrolled the competition for the term of the deal, meaning that any change will have to be agreed to by the network.

"From the coaches' and players' perspective it is a convention (to play all the matches at once), but we have an agreement with Fox, the biggest supporter of the A-League and we don't think it detracts from the excitement of the final round," an FFA spokeswoman said.

"It is an issue we're aware of but it also assumes that coaches and teams are not always going out for the best result at all times and we don't accept that.

"We always review every season, we have several meetings with the clubs during the off-season and we will listen to what they have to say."

Adelaide and Melbourne are drawn at either end of the final round, the Victory getting the chance to claim top spot against Wellington on Friday night before Adelaide play the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday night.

Both teams have argued they are in the better position, while the Mariners, too, have an eye on things - a Melbourne win would shore up their finals place.

"There's no doubt down the track it would be ideal for everyone to play the last game on the same day at the same time," Merrick said this week.

"Foxtel's done a great job, the A-League and the FFA have done a great job, but down the track that should happen."