With no appetite to reduce the current allocation of 22 berths for state federation teams, FFA had to find a creative way to cram in the extra A-League expansion teams.
Excluding the A-League’s worst teams altogether was previously floated but that wasn’t viewed as being in the spirit of the FFA Cup, which is supposed to offer a chance to every single team in the country.
“We decided the best outcome for all, and to also give something to play for in the final rounds of the A-League season, was to have half-slots available for play-offs,” A-League boss Greg O’Rourke told this column.
“And in 2020-21, when we have four teams who need to play off for the following season’s FFA Cup, we feel that will bring interest to the fans and the competition.”
Western United didn’t participate in this year’s cup and Macarthur FC have been told they won’t be involved next year, which is the reason there will be only one play-off between the 10th and 11th teams this season.
The play-offs will be staged in the days leading up to the round of 32, with player registration windows brought forward to ensure any new signings are eligible to take part.
The only other change to the FFA Cup is that NSW will only have five qualifying teams, down from five. That one berth has been taken away and given to South Australia as a reward for the state’s strong performances since the cup’s inception.
Babbel back in FFA’s bad books
Markus Babbel is, if nothing else, a man of his word. The under-siege Western Sydney Wanderers coach couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t swear in another press conference.
Now his latest dosage of unfiltered language has put him in the crosshairs of FFA’s integrity panel for the third time in a month.
Babbel swore multiple times in his media call on Wednesday morning as he launched a passionate attack on this newspaper’s reports of internal unrest at the A-League club.
Sources from within FFA have confirmed to The Hairdryer that Babbel’s tirade is being reviewed by the integrity panel for a possible breach of the national code of conduct, which he has fallen foul of twice recently. The German was fined $3000 last week for attacking the integrity of referees.
Battle for Brattan
Reports surfaced in News Corp papers this week suggesting Sydney FC midfielder Luke Brattan is in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Sky Blues and A-League newcomers, Macarthur FC – but The Hairdryer understands he is edging towards a move to a different club at the end of the season.
Sources close to the 29-year-old suggest Brisbane Roar are emerging as the favourites to land his signature.
Sydney FC are eager to keep Brattan for at least another season but club sources confirmed the Roar notified them of their approach for him at the start of December and are now deep in negotiations.
Sources close to Brattan claim he is keen on returning home to Brisbane for family reasons.
Brattan progressed through the youth ranks of the Roar, spending five years at the club between 2010 and 2015, and winning an A-League title with the club in 2014.
There was a familiar face at Sydney FC’s Macquarie University training base this week – former National Soccer League stalwart Brad Maloney, who is coaching in Malaysia and is poised to take over their under-23s team.
Maloney was at the club completing a component of his AFC Pro Diploma course alongside his colleague and friend, Ong Kim Swee, himself no stranger to Australian football.
Kim Swee was the coach of Harimau Muda A in 2014, when the Malaysians played a season in Queensland’s NPL. He also gave former Sky Blue Brendan Gan his start in international football with their senior national team.
Maloney was coach of Malaysia’s under-19s when they scored a 3-0 win over Gary van Egmond’s Young Socceroos in the group stage of the AFF U-18 Championships earlier this year. Australia’s revenge came in the final, when they prevailed 1-0 over Malaysia.
Now 47, Maloney’s ties with Sydney FC coach Steve Corica go way back – the pair came through the Australian Institute of Sport in the same year and played in junior national teams together.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.