Number of Teams: 10
Relegation to: N/A
Domestic Cups: -
Current Champions: Brisbane Roar
Most number of Championships: Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC (2)
The A-League became Australia’s first fully-professional league when it launched in 2005 after the demise of the old, semi-professional National Soccer League.
After a Government review (Crawford Report) into the sport in the early 2000s it was decided to disband the NSL and create a brand new professional league with, mostly, brand new clubs. Only three clubs (Adelaide, Newcaslte and Perth) existed before the launch of the A-League.
The A-League started with 8 clubs and was based on a ‘One City, One Team’ model in the hope of galvanising the support of the entire city behind one team, rather than spread the support across a number of teams.
The 8 teams that made up the inaugural season of the A-League were:
- Adelaide United
- Central Coast Mariners
- Melbourne Victory
- Newcastle Jets
- New Zealand Knights
- Perth Glory
- Queensland Roar (now Brisbane Roar)
- Sydney FC
After two horror years in which they struggled to attract crowds and field a competitive team, the New Zealand Knights folded and were replaced in the competition by another New Zealand-based club, the Wellington Phoenix. Unlike their predecessors, the Phoenix managed to create plenty of interest from the Wellington community and prosper as a club.
After four seasons Football Federation Australia decided it was an ideal time to expand the competition to ten teams. With most clubs have a 5-year exclusive licence for their “market”, the FFA looked outside of the major centres and opted for two new teams in Queensland – Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury.
Both teams came into the competition with plenty of hype. Gold Coast were owned by one of Australia’s richest men, Clive Palmer, who put together a star-studded team, which included Socceroo Jason Culina, and promised travel on his private jet and claiming his side would win the title in their debut season undefeated.
None of those eventuated.
North Queensland, meanwhile, pulled off a coup by signing Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as their marquee player. Despite this, however, both teams struggled to excite the imagination of locals, often playing in front of small crowds.
After two seasons in the competition there were serious question marks over the viability of both teams and after having their financial backers pull out and failing to come up with the required funds, the North Queensland Fury were disbanded. Gold Coast, meanwhile, still struggle to attract a crowd, with some crowds as low as 1300 and there remain question marks over their long term future.
2010 saw the introduction of another expansion club, this time into one of the major cities with Melbourne Heart coming to life, which saw the FFA do away with the ‘One City, One Team’ model. This created the A-League’s first city-derby between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart, which captivated the Melbourne sporting public.
As a young league the A-League has gone through some teething problems as it looks to find its place in the Australian sporting landscape.