'Hurting' A-League clubs to net just $530k in funding

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) are upbeat that all A-Leagues clubs will survive a fresh wave of financial turbulence after they were told their central distribution for the 2024/25 season will be slashed by close to 75 per cent.

Clubs were informed after an APL board meeting on Wednesday that next year's distribution from head office would total just $530,000, down on close to $2m handed out last season.

In 2018, prior to unbundling from Football Australia the annual club distribution was close to $3.6m.

The A-League Men salary floor - the minimum amount clubs must spend - is $2.25m and the salary cap is $2.6m.

While wealthier sides, such as Melbourne City, will be able to plug the gaps, it leaves the smaller clubs facing a bleak financial outlook to cover the near $1.5m shortfall.

Clubs have indicated to AAP that they are bracing for the prospect of makings cuts to already slim on-field and off-field departments.

APL chair Stephen Conroy claimed that the reduction in central distribution has come as no shock to clubs, even if they are due to experience significant pain over the next financial year.

"While clubs are obviously hurting by the size of this reduction, no one gave any indication they have that level of problem in the meeting at all," Conroy said.

"I can only report to you what they reported to us.

"They obviously weren't dancing a jig, but no one said right, 'that's it we are shutting the doors'."

Conroy claimed no club would have an issue meeting the ALM salary floor despite the reduction in hand-outs which comes amid a turbulent 12 months for Australia's elite football leagues.

Nick Garcia and Stephen Conroy.
A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia (L) and Stephen Conroy (R) share a laugh at the season launch. (Nikki Short/AAP PHOTOS)

The APL was forced to make significant cuts to head office as a result of overspending on its digital arm KEEPUP and burning through $140m gained from private equity firm Silver Lake.

Conroy would not divulge if Silver Lake could recall that sum but said the US investment company retained a "strong" interest in the A-Leagues' direction.

Other ventures, such as the propping up of Perth Glory, the delay in getting expansion fees from a Canberra ALM side and the collapse of broadcast production partner Global Advance also hampered the A-Leagues' ability to thrive since gaining independence from Football Australia in 2020.

The TV deal with Network Ten, who retain rights to the competition until the end of the 2025-26 season, is laced with targets that the A-Leagues must hit to guarantee funding from their broadcast partner.

"The league ran too fast and spent too much money," Conroy said.

"The ability to dip into a capital reserve to fund losses just doesn't exist."

As AAP reported last month, clubs have privately asked FA to take a more hands-on role in running the A-Leagues.

While Conroy said there was little appetite for full reunification, he hinted there could be a greater alliance over reducing costs in areas such as travel and content creation.

"We've got a number of workstreams that we're talking to them (about) in terms of shared services," Conroy said.

"They (the FA) want the league to be successful because they understand that a strong A-League means a strong pipeline for the Matildas and the Socceroos."

A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia said the APL was hopeful of finalising a deal with a new production company and that a Canberra ALM side would enter the competition for the 2025/26 season.