The PFA will soon release its annual report analysing all aspects of the 2022-23 A-League Men season. In advance of its release, below is an extract from the Report highlighting one of its key findings.

Last week, the 2022-23 A-League Women Report was released with a PFA Post flagging its key findings.

The 2022-23 season saw a record influx of transfer revenue for Australian clubs. PFA’s analysis of transfer fees, based on a range of public and private sources, estimates that A-League clubs received about $10m across the mid-season and off-season windows for 14 player sales.

This collective take is nearly double the previous high, $5.4m in 2017-18, and nearly triple the $3.4m received in 2021-22.

The $10m estimate does not include the value of any additional clauses such as a percentage of any future transfer fee, so the value of these transfers for clubs could be higher than the immediate cash component. However, it should also be noted that Football Australia receives 10% of any international transfer fees.

All figures from FIFA Transfer reports except 2023, which is PFA’s estimate based on public and private sources

This result is a financial boon for the competition. Only time will tell if the quantum is a one-off spike or reflective of a new normal.

However, from a policy perspective, we do not have the luxury of waiting before drawing loose conclusions to inform actions today.

The first point to acknowledge is that this outcome was achieved under existing policy settings. It has been said that the league must adopt an internal transfer market for it to generate significant net transfer revenue. This evidence undercuts that argument.

Rather, an analysis of the players sold suggested that a range of interconnected factors have driven this outcome:

Younger players: In the Player Profiles section of the upcoming Report, the ALM’s trend towards youth is analysed. More opportunities for younger players mean more opportunities for breakthrough talents to earn overseas moves.

Longer contracts: In the Contracting Practices section of the upcoming Report, the trend towards more stable contracting is highlighted. Players must be under contract to command a transfer fee, so it follows that a greater share of players under contract means that an in-demand player is less likely to leave for free.

International success: The Socceroos’ best-ever Men’s World Cup result, the first Olympic Games qualification for the Olyroos since 2008, and Ange Postecoglou’s rapid ascent at Celtic may have directly and indirectly increased interest in ALM players. The selection of ALM players for Qatar obviously enhanced their individual profiles, but the success of Australian players and coaches on the global stage also reflects well on their countrymen more generally, and draws clubs’ attention to our competition as a source for talent. Hearts and Middlesbrough both had World Cup Socceroos on their books before dipping back into the A-League market which produced those players.

Players sold during 2022-23 season 

PlayerAge (at July 1 2023)Club fromClub to
Craig Goodwin 31 Adelaide United Al-Wehda 
Sam Silvera 22 Central Coast Mariners Middlesbrough 
Nector Triantis 20 Central Coast Mariners Sunderland 
Jason Cummings 27 Central Coast Mariners Mohun Bagan 
Garang Kuol 18 Central Coast Mariners Newcastle United (UK) 
James McGarry 25 Central Coast Mariners Aberdeen 
Anthony Pavlesic 17 Central Coast Mariners Bayern Munich 
Marco Tillio 21 Melbourne City Celtic 
Jordan Bos 20 Melbourne City Westerlo 
Nick D’Agostino 25 Melbourne Victory Viking 
Keegan Jelacic 20 Perth Glory Gent 
Patrick Yazbek 21 Sydney FC Viking 
Kusini Yengi 24 Western Sydney Wanderers Portsmouth 
Calem Nieuwenhof 22 Western Sydney Wanderers Hearts 

These factors arguably drove the record transfer receipts, but what drove these factors?

Aligned CBA framework: The agreement of the five-year 2021-2026 A-Leagues CBA has allowed clubs to plan for the longer-term, facilitating more multiyear deals which protect the value of players by providing certainty for clubs and players. The expansion of the Scholarship Player roster has enabled clubs to provide more opportunities to young players without stressing the salary cap.

Strategic clubs: Clubs are also getting better at executing on this front, including smarter recruitment and succession planning, more faith in youth, and leveraging international networks to find buyers.

Youth quality: Hopefully, the trends towards younger players and higher transfer receipts are indicative of a better class of Australian prospects coming through. If this does prove to be the case, it could be due to a combination of factors such as maturing club academies and revitalised youth national teams. Time will tell.

ALM expansion: Adding Western United and Macarthur over recent seasons had the effect of redistributing the senior talent pool, which forced clubs to provide more game time to emerging players.

Increased Youth National Team Activity: From the recent Marbella Week of Football, where the Young Socceroos defeated France, to the FPF Portugal Sub-18 tournament where they faced England, Portugal and Norway, the nation’s most talented young players are increasingly being tested against the world’s best.

To illustrate these points in combination, consider the example of Jordan Bos. He joined Melbourne City’s academy at age 13 in 2016. Midway through the 2020-21 season, City was able to offer him his first Scholarship deal.

Before the 2021-22 season, City released one of two senior left fullbacks, Ben Garuccio, to Western United, leaving Bos as the sole understudy to Scott Jamieson and extending Bos’ Scholarship contract for three years. During 2022-23, Bos was able to secure a first-team shirt and earn his record-breaking move.

Along the way, Bos represented Australia’s youth national teams, including at the 2022 U23 Asian Cup alongside Patrick Yazbek and Kusini Yengi, who also feature on the list.

A-League club academies have room for improvement, but it is impossible to judge their output within the benefit of time. Bos is among the first generation of players to emerge from this pathway having been in the system from a young age. Credit also goes to his club for managing his onramp into the first team, while making full use of the regulatory levers which were designed to support such a process.