PFA: Extend A-League season for FIFA breaks

Professional Footballers Australia has called for the A-League to begin in August so the season can pause for FIFA international breaks.

Up to 27 players across the A-League will be unavailable for the weekend round of matches due to international duty, including nine absentees for Saturday's Big Blue.

The PFA has long held the view that the A-League should adhere to the FIFA match calendar to reduce the conflict between international and A-League matches.

According to the players’ union the move would ensure the integrity of the matchday spectacle and the national team selection process.

The A-League’s evolution has seen the contingent of locally-based players in Socceroos squads continually grow, including six in coach Ange Postecoglou’s latest squad.

With the league’s growth also attracting international regulars, such as Austria’s Marc Janko and Macedonia’s Daniel Georgievski, the issue has become pressing, according to PFA chief executive Adam Vivian.

“The A-League is growing so we’re going to have to confront this discussion at some stage,” Vivian told FourFourTwo. “It is something that we see as incredibly important.”

Vivian said the discussion of international breaks came up annually during every fixturing process.

Adhering to international breaks in the season’s current length was always going to be difficult in 2014-15 due to the three-week break for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

However, Vivian said the time had come to discuss broadening the season ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.

“We’re all too cognizant of the complexity of the draw development but we think there needs to be a major strategic discussion and reconsideration of the season window,” Vivian said.

“The A-League used to get played in August, so perhaps broadening the start date is an option.

“The players were very supportive of the finals series being rolled into May. If we could get the start date brought forward we could have the option there that could accommodate adhering to international breaks.”

In recent seasons the A-League has enjoyed major success in building early season momentum by fixturing blockbusters in the opening few rounds following the conclusion of rival codes, the AFL and NRL.

Bringing forward the league’s start date would risk that momentum, with the competition potentially lost among the finals series of other sports.

But Vivian insisted the A-League could no longer afford to be dictated to by rival codes.

“We can’t continually cater to the other codes,” he said.

“We’re very respectful of the other codes, however, the reality is with a league which is growing exponentially - we heard (A-League boss) Damien de Bohun make comments a few months ago with regard to league expansion - we’re going to have to confront this discussion sooner rather than later.

“It’s going to affect the ongoing success of the league and the national team and we don’t want to compromise the integrity of the competition based on what other codes are doing.”

Vivian said the situation had now become a “hot topic”, particularly ahead of negotiations for a new  Collective Bargaining Agreement, with the current CBA set to expire in June next year.

“It’s a live issue and it’s a hot topic,” he said.

“The next round of bargaining is coming up shortly with a view to hopefully have a new deal in place. The players have expressed that as one of their primary concerns.

“It’s a principle concern for multiple factors, not only the breaks between games and the health and safety and the quality of the competition, but also scheduling when it comes to the timing of matches and heat.

“It’s a hot topic and it’ll be something which the players bring to the table, so we can get a deal done by June 2015.”