A-League players have reported an increased confidence in the direction of their careers and the future of the competition, an annual survey conducted by the PFA reveals.

The survey, completed by 200 A-League players, is a critical component of the PFA’s annual A-League Report, published today.

The Report provides an overview of the A-League and assesses the employment framework and workplace conditions of Australia’s domestic competition for professional male footballers.

Click here to download and read the PFA A-League 2020/21 Report.

Based on industry trends, independent research, data and player feedback, the 44-page Report analyses four key components of the A-League: the Employment Framework, League Assessment, Technical Report and Injury Report, providing a comprehensive review of the 2020/21 season. 
The following are among the findings within the Report: 

Players’ survey indicates Australian-based players want to remain in A-League 

Of the A-League’s 312 players, 200 responded to the 2020/21 A-League survey – approximately 70% of the playing cohort – a record number of respondents of any PFA survey to date.   

Promisingly, the results of the survey suggest that despite recent uncertainty and upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic, players are indicating a future in the A-League is more enticing than this time last year:  

·         55% of players said they would like to stay playing in the A-League next season, up from 45% from the 2019/20 annual survey  

·         56% of players are confident about the direction of their football careers, up from 33% in 2019/20  

·         Only 4% of players would move to an overseas league even if it was for similar money and/or playing standard, down from 14% last season  

·         Only 16% of players who would prefer to move to an overseas league would only do so if the money and standards were better  

A-League trending younger  

After trending older for its first 14 seasons, the average age of an A-League player has dropped by two whole years across the past two campaigns: from 27.6 to 25.1. Of the 300 players utilised this season, 35% – or 107 players – were aged 21 and under.  

Perhaps the best indicator of the shift towards youth was Melbourne City, who started the 2021 Grand Final with the youngest starting 11 of any Grand Final team since 2011 and had the second youngest average squad at 23.7 years.  

Central Coast Mariners (23.6 years) and Adelaide United (23.9) had the first and third youngest squads on average, respectively.  

Squad Stability led to Finals Qualification 

The correlation between squad stability and success was displayed once again during the A-League season.  

With the exception of Adelaide United, the remaining five finalists were among the most stable squads.  Central Coast Mariners’ remarkable season, in which the Gosford-based club recorded its highest ladder finish in seven seasons, was underpinned by 10 of their players playing over 70% of available match minutes, the highest in the League. 

Record number of players received match minutes 

Exactly 300 players – from a possible 312 contracted – received match minutes during the 2020/21 season: a competition record. Players under 25 continued to enjoy an increase in match minutes; 107 players under the age of 21 made an appearance – an increase of one player from last season – while the number of players aged 21-25 receiving match minutes increased by 19 from the 2019/20 campaign.  

PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch  said: “These reports have been immensely valuable, helping the PFA and the players better understand the industry in which they are employed, monitor the application of high-performance standards, assess technical progress and survey the players’ experience. 

“For the last five years, we have been able to utilise these reports to formulate evidence-based positions to improve the environments in which our members work through collective bargaining.  

“Promisingly, after a period of significant uncertainty, the players have indicated that they are more confident in the direction of their careers and the future of the competition than this time last year, signifying a positive shift in the perception of the A-League.” 

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