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Australian Professional Leagues

Australian Professional Leagues
AbbreviationAPL
Established31 December 2020; 3 years ago (2020-12-31)
Legal statusActive
Location
OwnerFootball Australia
Chairman
Stephen Conroy (2023–)
Websiteaplfootball.com.au

The Australian Professional Leagues, officially abbreviated to the APL, and sometimes referred to as the A-Leagues, are the governing body for the A-League Men, A-League Women, A-League Youth and E-League. Since their formation, they have been mostly independent of Football Australia, but remain under their umbrella.[1]

The APL has rebranded various aspects of the professional leagues, including renaming and redesigning the logos for the men's, women's, and youth leagues. However, the decision to host the 2023, 2024, and 2025 grand finals in Sydney was met with backlash from fans, former players, and active support groups, with some clubs stating their preference to host grand finals at their home grounds.[2]

History

Unbundling and rebranding

On 31 December 2020, Football Australia announced that the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) would be separated from the governing body. APL will assume responsibility for operational, commercial, and marketing activities, while Football Australia will continue to manage disciplinary and integrity matters, as well as the registration of clubs, players and officials, transfers, and match scheduling.[3] Ahead of the 2021–22 season, the APL rebranded various aspects of the competitions under its control:[4]

In addition to the name changes, the logos of the three leagues were also changed to reflect the new identity of the organisation. The change drew some criticism from social media, with fans saying that the new logo was "lazy",[5] whilst some pointed out the resemblance to the logo of South Australian company Adelaide Building Consultants.[6] Others praised the rebranding as it brought the men's and women's competitions under the same brand identity.

2021 Silver Lake investment

On 14 December 2021, it was announced that American private equity firm, Silver Lake had purchased a 33.33% minority stake in the Australian Professional Leagues, the sale worth $140 million, the largest injection of capital into Australian soccer in its history. The firm stated that they valued the APL at $425 million Australian dollars.[7][8][9]

2022 Grand Final decision

City Terrace protest
Original Style Melbourne protest
City Terrace and Original Style Melbourne, the active supporter groups of Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory respectively, protesting the decision by Australian Professional Leagues to give A-Leagues Grand Final hosting rights to Sydney for the next three seasons in the 20th minute of the Melbourne Derby on 17 December 2022.

On 12 December 2022, the APL announced that the 2023, 2024 and 2025 grand finals would be hosted in Sydney,[10] an announcement that was met with universal backlash from fans of all teams, former players and active support groups.[11][12] Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix both released a statement after the announcement, saying that "they will always prefer to play any grand final that they earn the right to host, at their home ground".[13][14] Western United said that they "do not support the grand finals being held in Sydney".[15] Perth Glory chairman Tony Sage condemned the decision, stating that "a majority of (club) owners supported the decision".[16] Adelaide United's chairman, Piet van der Pol commented that the club does not have a place on the APL's 7-person board, and thus was not a part of the decision making.[17] Melbourne City released a statement, sympathising with the frustrations of the fans, yet stating that the decision was necessary for the sustainability of the competition.[18] Central Coast Mariners Chairman Richard Peil sent an email to the club's members, saying that the club was not consulted in any way, stating that only five of the clubs had an opportunity to vote on the decision.[19] Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers both released statements acknowledging the disappointment of the decision, saying that the decision was necessary to grow the financial side of the game.[20][21] Adelaide United winger Craig Goodwin appeared in a video promoting the Grand Final, saying "they're (grand finals) everything you dream of as a kid", however he has stated that he does not support the decision to host the grand final in Sydney.[22]

The following week, fans from various clubs staged walkouts. The first match of the weekend, on 16 December, Newcastle Jets fans walked out at the 20th minute in the game against Brisbane Roar.[23] The most notable walkout of the round was during the Melbourne Derby. Throughout the match, supporters of both teams threw flares onto the pitch, which caused the game to be paused. Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover threw a flare towards the crowd of Melbourne Victory supporters, sparking a pitch invasion, where between 100–200 people attacked Glover and referee Alex King, both sustaining minor injuries. The match was abandoned as a result.[24][25][26][27]

On 21 April 2023, fans from Sydney FC's supporter group The Cove stated that they will boycott the entire finals series over the Grand Final decision, as well as the APL backtracking on promises to work with supporter groups from various clubs to reach an agreement.[28] a month later on 10 May, The Cove called off the boycott ahead of their semi-final match against Melbourne City, following the APL's announcement that all 13 clubs had committed to establishing a fan representative group.[29][30]

On 18 October, the Australian Professional Leagues officially walked-back the Grand Final decision, renegotiating the contract into Unite Round to be held in January for the remainder of the contract. The structure being similar to NRL's Magic Round and AFL's Gather Round.[31][32][33]

On 20 October, CEO Danny Townsend left his role to take up a new job in the Middle East after two years in charge. Stephen Conroy replaced him as chairman.[34]

2024 layoffs and financial problems

On 16 January 2024, it was announced that a large amount of the Australian Professional Leagues' workforce had been made redundant, and were laid-off. The exact number of employees laid off is unknown, with the figure ranging from 20–75%, of their 80–130 staff. The layoffs were made to stabilise the APL in the short term, allowing for a restructuring of the company.[35][36]

KeepUp

On 11 November 2021, the Australian Professional Leagues launched the KeepUp (stylised as KEEPUP.) app. The app contained news primarily from the A-League Men, A-League Women and Australia Cup competitions, Asian continental competitions, the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup, and popular European competitions.[37][38] It also featured an official A-Leagues fantasy and tipping competition, which was launched on 21 September 2022, ahead of the 2022–23 season.[39][40] The app was reported to cost 30 million dollars to launch, which drew criticism from some.[41]

As part of the APL's January 2024 layoffs, it was announced that KeepUp would be closed on 1 March 2024, under three years since its launch. One of the reasons for the closure was cited as high expenditure, with the cost of running the service being estimated of up to $50 million.[42][43]

References

  1. ^ "About APL". Australian Professional Leagues.
  2. ^ McLeod, Catie (18 October 2023). "A-Leagues scrap controversial Sydney grand final deal in favour of new 'Unite Round'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 June 2024.
  3. ^ "Australian Professional Leagues to be unbundled from Football Australia". Football Australia. 31 December 2020. Archived from the original on 31 December 2020.
  4. ^ Panas, Philip (29 September 2021). "APL launches unified rebranding of Australian Football". Soccerscene. Archived from the original on 29 September 2021. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  5. ^ Francis, Kieran (29 September 2021). "New A-League logo criticised by fans but what matters is football's progression in Australia". The Sporting News. Archived from the original on 29 September 2021. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  6. ^ "Building firm could sue A-Leagues over 'bizarre' logo clash". Fox Sports. 30 September 2021. Archived from the original on 30 September 2021.
  7. ^ "Australian Professional Leagues announces minority investment from Silver Lake to drive technology enhancements, innovation and growth". Silver Lake. 14 December 2021. Archived from the original on 21 May 2022.
  8. ^ "A-Leagues sign minority stake deal with US private equity firm Silver Lake". ABC News. 14 December 2021. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  9. ^ Bossi, Dominic (14 December 2021). "'We have a huge opportunity': A-Leagues finalises $140m equity sale". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  10. ^ "Why Sydney is the new home of the A-Leagues Grand Finals". KeepUp. 12 December 2022. Archived from the original on 12 December 2022.
  11. ^ Hytner, Mike (12 December 2022). "'Terrible decision': A-Leagues' move to sell off grand final rights to Sydney sparks fan anger". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 12 December 2022.
  12. ^ Rugari, Vince (12 December 2022). "'Absolute disgrace': A-League grand final move slammed by fans, owners and a Socceroo". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022.
  13. ^ "Melbourne Victory Statement: A-Leagues Grand Finals". Melbourne Victory. 12 December 2022. Archived from the original on 12 December 2022.
  14. ^ "A Statement to our fans". Wellington Phoenix. 13 December 2022. Archived from the original on 13 December 2022.
  15. ^ "Club Statement". Western United. 13 December 2022. Archived from the original on 13 December 2022.
  16. ^ "A statement from Glory owner and Chairman, Tony Sage". Perth Glory. 14 December 2022. Archived from the original on 14 December 2022.
  17. ^ "Adelaide United chairman provides update on APL Grand Final decision". Adelaide United. 14 December 2022. Archived from the original on 14 December 2022.
  18. ^ "Club statement on A-Leagues Grand Finals". Melbourne City. 14 December 2022. Archived from the original on 15 December 2022.
  19. ^ @Boycey1105 (December 14, 2022). "Statement from CCM Chairman Richard Peil" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 21 September 2023 – via Twitter.
  20. ^ "Statement regarding APL decision to bring Grand Finals to Sydney". Sydney FC. 14 December 2022. Archived from the original on 23 December 2022.
  21. ^ "Wanderers statement". Western Sydney Wanderers. 14 December 2022. Archived from the original on 21 December 2022.
  22. ^ @craig_goodwin11 (December 12, 2022). "I wanted to clear things up publicly. I may be in the video for the @aleaguemen choice to host Grand Finals in Sydney, but I do not support it" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 12 December 2022 – via Twitter.
  23. ^ Monteverde, Marco (16 December 2022). "Jets fans stage walkout after 20 minutes in A-League protest … and there's more to come". Fox Sports. Archived from the original on 18 December 2022.
  24. ^ Ward, Roy (17 December 2022). "Player injured, Melbourne derby abandoned after violent pitch invasion". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 17 December 2022.
  25. ^ Lerner, Ronny. "A-League Melbourne derby descends into chaos with violent pitch invasion". News.com.au. Archived from the original on 17 December 2022.
  26. ^ "A-League: Melbourne City-Melbourne Victory game abandoned after fan injures player". BBC Sport. 17 December 2022. Archived from the original on 17 December 2022.
  27. ^ Patterson, Emily (18 December 2022). "Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover suffers 'severe lacerations' as fans storm A-League game". Nine's Wide World of Sports. Archived from the original on 17 December 2022.
  28. ^ Monteverde, Marco (4 May 2023). "Sydney FC 'disappointed' with supporters' decision to boycott do-or-die derby". Fox Sports. Archived from the original on 11 May 2023.
  29. ^ "Sydney FC fans call off A-League finals boycott". ESPN. 10 May 2023. Archived from the original on 21 September 2023.
  30. ^ "A-Leagues confirms 13 clubs have committed to Fan Representative Group". KeepUp. 9 May 2023. Archived from the original on 9 May 2023.
  31. ^ "A-Leagues announce first ever Unite Round to take place this season". A-Leagues. 18 October 2023. Archived from the original on 18 October 2023.
  32. ^ "A-Leagues scrap controversial Grand Final decision in favour of Unite Round". ABC News. 18 October 2023. Archived from the original on 17 October 2023.
  33. ^ Lynch, Joey (18 October 2023). "A-Leagues scrap Grand Final deal in favour of 'Unite Round". ESPN. Archived from the original on 18 October 2023.
  34. ^ "Australian Professional Leagues confirm departure of CEO and appointment of new executive leadership". A-Leagues. 20 October 2023. Archived from the original on 20 October 2023.
  35. ^ Rugari, Vince (16 January 2024). "Half of APL's workforce to be made redundant amid A-League financial concerns". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 16 January 2024.
  36. ^ Samlos, Zoe (16 January 2024). "Up to 40 jobs axed at cash-strapped A-Leagues". Australian Financial Review. Archived from the original on 16 January 2024.
  37. ^ "KeepUp".
  38. ^ Scialpi, Nick (11 November 2021). "APL hits another milestone with launch of KEEPUP app". The Inner Sanctum. Archived from the original on 11 November 2021.
  39. ^ Comito, Matt (21 September 2022). "Introducing: Official A-Leagues Fantasy and Tipping for 2022–23!". KeepUp. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022.
  40. ^ Thomas, Joshua (14 November 2022). "A-League Fantasy: How to play, rules, points system and prize money". The Sporting News. Archived from the original on 21 September 2023.
  41. ^ Samios, Zoe (14 November 2021). "A-League aims to KEEPUP with rival codes in $30 million digital push". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 14 November 2021.
  42. ^ Conroy, Stephen (11 February 2024). "Open letter to A-Leagues fans". A-Leagues. Archived from the original on 13 February 2024.
  43. ^ Rugari, Vince. "How the A-Leagues' multimillion-dollar digital play blew up". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 26 January 2024.
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Australian Professional Leagues
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