Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has today welcomed the 2016/17 A-League draw but called on further efforts to be made to enhance the international competitiveness of Australian football.

Having provided feedback on the draw to Football Federation Australia (FFA) prior to its release, PFA Chairman Craig Foster said it was encouraging to see that the players’ concerns had been heeded in many aspects.

“The PFA has campaigned since the beginning of the A-League for all possible measures to be taken to ensure players are not forced to play in extreme heat, where there are serious risks posed to their health and safety and fans are denied football of the best possible standard,” said Foster. “The 2016/17 draw and the actions regularly taken by FFA last season show these concerns are now starting to be addressed.

“In addition, the introduction of a split round to accommodate clubs competing in the Asian Champions League (ACL) will greatly enhance the players’ ability to be at their best in both the A-League and ACL.

Whilst these measures are encouraging, Foster said the insistence on ignoring the international match calendar and the potential for inadequate breaks between ACL fixtures and A-League Finals Series matches remains of significant concern.

“In the past season alone 57 matches were missed due to international call-ups. This not only reduces the competition’s ability to attract and retain the best talent, but also reduces the on-pitch quality of the competition.

“This was evidenced on numerous occasions throughout the season through the unavailability of international players. With the A-League supplying a greater contingent of Socceroos and the league determined to attract top international players, in what is an increasingly competitive market, this must be addressed to ensure the continued progress of the game.

“Wellington Phoenix’s round 14 clash with Perth Glory is a concern. The draw sees them face Adelaide United in New Zealand on Monday, January 2, and then backing up against the Glory in Perth just over 72 hours later.

“Last season, had Melbourne Victory defeated Brisbane Roar in the Elimination Final they faced the prospect of three matches in eight days and in excess of 25 hours of travel due to their ACL commitments.

“The current draw has failed to address this and again raises doubts not only about player wellbeing, but also has the potential to penalise clubs for being successful.

“The PFA has tabled a number of solutions to remedy this and remains committed to enhancing the progress that has been made by working in partnership with FFA.”