Phoenix urge end to international clashes

Thursday March 23, 2017

After extensive but ultimately fruitless dialogue with Football Federation Australia regarding this weekend’s clash of A-League and International fixtures, Wellington Phoenix are calling for a concrete commitment from the governing body that International windows will be integrated into the 2017-2018 season schedule.

Ahead of a crucial fixture that could prove decisive for the composition of the top six, Phoenix find themselves without seven key players for the must-win clash against Newcastle Jets.

And while the club has every confidence in the players left available for selection it’s a situation that General Manager David Dome feels undermines the competitive integrity of the entire competition.

“We’ve been in conversation with FFA regarding this particular fixture for months and months but ultimately to no avail. We contacted Newcastle Jets, and to their tremendous credit both Lawrie McKinna and Mark Jones were amenable to moving the fixture, but the FFA declined.

“Concessions have been made for a split round to accommodate AFC Champions League commitments, so it beggars belief why this particular game couldn’t have been brought forward to the weekend of March 10-11.

“This is not a new scenario. This is not a new challenge. We’ve been asking FFA for 4-5 years to factor in proper breaks for International windows, it’s not that we haven’t been reasonable, it’s not that we haven’t been patient.”

It is a position supported by PFA Chief Executive John Didulica who this week addressed the issue, as reported by Fairfax media.

“The whole competition structure, the salary cap and other things, is based on having competitive balance in the competition and to force Wellington to play with not just a large number of players missing, but invariably their better players, puts them in a really difficult position which undermines the broader competition.

“It’s been a long-standing policy of the A-League not to stop for international breaks, it started when the league started 12 years ago and like many things it becomes practice and becomes too hard for people to move away from practice.

“We have challenges in the A-League around pitch availability and broadcast obligations, but I think the time has come to start moving away from that and start prioritising having the best players on the park.”

For Wellington Phoenix, the present arrangement also acts as a tacit disincentive to pursue signing top-tier New Zealand talent, knowing their mass unavailability could jeopardise the squad’s domestic aspirations.

“Club owners spend millions of dollars recruiting top talent”, said Dome, “what reward is there, what incentive is there if every season six to nine points are thrown into jeopardy as our squad’s International players become unavailable, due simply to a scheduling oversight?”

It’s a concern Wellington Phoenix have raised with other club representatives during on-going discussions over governance reform of the A-League, and Phoenix urge the governing body to publicly commit to redressing this long-running imbalance.

“The fact that for years the FFA have failed to address this situation just strengthens our belief, in common with the other A-League clubs, that a new governance structure for the A-League is needed.”

News Source: Wellington Phoenix FC