Asian clubs seek to poach cheap A-League players

Australian football officials have warned against panicking and raising the salary cap in response to the headhunting of A-League stars by wealthy Asian clubs. "Australia's switch to the Asian Football Confederation from Oceania has benefited our club and national sides with more games and greater exposure but the flipside is that players may elect to go to Asia and swell their bank balances and set themselves up post-football," wrote David Davutovic in the Daily Telegraph.

Since the Sydney and Adelaide clubs have played in this season's AFC Champion's League, several A-League players have reportedly been approached by North Asian clubs with offers of more than A$490,000 net per season.

The Newcastle Jets have offered Jade North a revised two-year deal but he is desperate to play ahead of the Asian Cup in July while realising the financial opportunities in Asia. "The A-League's great and you've got the sun and the beaches in Australia, but at the moment you've still got to get a full-time job after your career's over and that's the reality," North said. "You're only in the game at the top level for 10 years, maybe more if you look after yourself, but the top dollar is still overseas and Asia is something players are really starting to look at."

Football Federation Australia Head of Operations Matt Carroll and players' chief Brendan Schwab both warned against drastic measures. "As it stands with the A-League clubs, it would be irresponsible to raise the cap substantially," Carroll said. "We have a cap for those good reasons and raising the cap is about affordability and prudent financial management." The Additional Services Agreement (ASA) also allows for third party sponsorship of players. It sits at A$450,000 per club, which is on top of the A$1.8 million salary cap.

Schwab believes Australian football must work hard to ensure the stepping stone for Europe is the A-League rather than Asia but warned there are more pressing issues than merely raising the cap, which should be a long term goal. "Player retention is not just about player payments, it's about the quality of Australia's player development system and the Australian based career path," he said.

"Player payments have to be balanced with initiatives that boost the quality of the Australian career path, including coaching, increasing game time, establishing an elite second tier competition and supporting players with professional and personal development programs."