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A-Leagues to target marquee ‘sugar hits’

Marquee signings are often viewed as “sugar hits” but APL chief executive Danny Townsend says the A-Leagues want to bring in more high-profile stars, and have a list of 35 target players.

Bar Daniel Sturridge’s tough time at Perth Glory and Alessandro Diamanti’s excellent stint for Western United, genuine big names have been few and far between recently.

Townsend noted in his time at Sydney FC, the likes of Milos Ninkovic and Bobo had delivered on the field but weren’t “household names”.

“I look at marquee players as ‘bums on seats’ players and with all due respect to Milos and Bobo, they’re not those guys. Marquees are genuine world class stars and our game needs it,” Townsend said at Western United’s pre-finals function on Thursday.

“It gets criticised historically as being a bit of a sugar hit – our game needs a sugar hit.

“So let’s get lots of sugar into it over the next off-season and you’ll start to see a bunch of players come in to the league next season that will put bums on seats.”

Townsend elaborated further to reporters, indicating the leagues would help fund clubs in attaining marquee players – both in the men’s and women’s leagues – that would drive more interest.

“What we’re doing strategically is looking at 35 players on our list that we want to talk to and we are talking to them at the moment around the world to attract them to our league,” he said.

He stressed no coaches would have a player “forced upon them”, rather the league would help find high-profile players that fit their recruiting needs.

Townsend believed between structural reform and the current broadcast deal, the leagues were in a more stable place to capitalise on marquees.

“We’re in a position now as a league that we’ve got the foundations in place to take advantage of a sugar hit,” he said.

“In the past, maybe we’ve had sugar hits, and we didn’t have everything else in order to carry that forward.”

Townsend stressed it was important to target big names, citing former Sydney FC star Alessandro Del Piero.

“You’ve got to think big. If you’re going to do this you’ve got to reach as high as you can,” he said.

“But obviously there are financial constraints that you need to work within.

“But in reality, sometimes it’s easier to get the bigger name than it is the smaller name, because they’ve got to a stage in their career where money is not their main priority and they’re looking for a way of making a difference.”

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