A-League’s push to attract more European youth players


“We will be trying to create institutional trust between Australian clubs and European clubs,” one source said.

To create that trust A-League representatives would present to European clubs about the league, its playing style and that of individual clubs.

Shayon Harrison, then a Tottenham youth player, had a brief stint in last season’s A-League at Melbourne City. Credit:Eddie Jim

The hope is that coaches from Europe would feel comfortable enough to send youth players to Australia to play and therefore gain invaluable senior experience.

A similar show of trust was demonstrated last season when Tottenham sent their youth striker Shayon Harrison to Melbourne City. Then-Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce knew some of the youth coaches at Tottenham so the club was comfortable with Harrison coming to Australia.

Planning is at a very early stage so there are no concrete details on how any youth players coming to Australia might fit into the salary cap or foreign player quotas.

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Those in favour of the plan believe it would not rob Australian youth players of A-League opportunities. The thinking is that playing against quality young players from Europe would improve them.

Australia’s elite basketball competition the NBL has a similar program known as NBL Next Stars, which encourages overseas players eligible to nominate for the NBA draft to play in the NBL rather than US college basketball.

It’s been well received off and on the court with NBA prospects like LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton playing for the Illawarra Hawks and the New Zealand Breakers under the deal.

Youth development for Australians playing in the A-League is a big talking point given the traditional lack of opportunities for youth in a league that has skewed older.

Efforts to change this trend have been brought in of late including clubs being able to spend money outside the cap on four Australian players under 23 from their own youth system, and the ability to contract nine under-20 Australian players on the national minimum wage, also outside the cap.

This season clubs can also add up to an extra two players to the bench if they are under 23.

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