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Some proactive administration is a terrific sign for the A-Leagues

The A-League Women’s expansion to a full 22-round competition isn’t just great news for women’s football, it’s a statement of intent from an administration that has been too slow to act in the past.

The expansion of the women’s league is long overdue. With Australia co-hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with New Zealand, the league simply couldn’t afford to meander along as a 10-team, 14-round competition for a second longer.

The addition of Western United this season and the Central Coast Mariners next season not only gives more female footballers the chance to play the game professionally, it will also see the minimum salary in the A-League Women rise by more than 50 per cent over the next two seasons.

That’s important – and the Australian Professional Leagues should be congratulated for sitting down with the Professional Footballers Association to get the job done.

Because as frustrating as a slew of COVID-related postponements was last season, it was hard to escape the feeling that those in charge were simply sitting around waiting for something to happen.

After a difficult first season on a new broadcaster in which not a lot went right, this season the APL is on the front foot and seemingly determined to make up for lost time.

They’ve already announced the dates for the new A-League Men season, which will kick off on October 7 and break from November 18 until December 8 while the Socceroos contest the group stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

And after the APL recently announced they had a list of 35 potential marquee targets – at least five of which they realistically expected to sign – the destination of the first major transfer of the off-season is also a pleasant surprise.

Brisbane Roar’s signing of former Queens Park Rangers goal machine Charlie Austin is a reminder that the three-time A-League champions still have a key role to play.

Too often over the past few seasons almost every move the APL has made has been to the exclusive benefit of clubs in Sydney and Melbourne.

But after finishing second from bottom last season, Warren Moon’s men finally have a marquee signing – and a proven goal scorer – they can build their squad around.

Whether there’s any truth to the rumour the Roar are trying to bring back Riku Danzaki remains to be seen, but with the Japanese star enduring a frustrating campaign for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in which he has failed to even get on the pitch in the J. League, it hardly seems beyond the realms of possibility.

Former Manchester United and Portugal winger Nani is on the verge of signing for Melbourne Victory too, meaning the A-League Men will enjoy an injection of star-studded talent next season.

(Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)

With Cesc Fabregas another rumoured target and former Sydney FC legend Milos Ninkovic making a sensational switch to cross-town local rivals Western Sydney Wanderers, the next A-League Men season will hardly be short of storylines.

And that’s the main benefit of making these sorts of big-name signings.

Anyone who tells you all the A-Leagues need to do is provide a pathway for young Australian footballers is choosing to wilfully ignore the fact we’ve just had a decade of dwindling attendances and diminishing broadcast deals.

The long-term commercial viability of the A-Leagues hinges on the ability to sell tickets and advertising spots, which is precisely why clubs should be signing players like Charlie Austin and Nani.

And it’s also why the APL being demonstrably more pro-active this off-season is a positive sign.

Australian football needs to build on the momentum of two upcoming World Cups and help remind a few more people who call themselves fans of the game that there are two hugely enjoyable domestic leagues right here at home.

Some proactive administration from those who draw decent salaries from the game is a good start.

Let’s hope there are a few more big announcements to come, because the next A-Leagues season is already shaping up as a significant improvement on the last.

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