Salary cap and grassroots football key to A-League success
FORMER Liverpool and A-League stars Emile Heskey and Luis Garcia have cautioned against making mass changes to the domestic competition.
With wide-ranging calls for the implementation of a second division, Heskey sees an increase to the salary cap as one thing the A-League can do to prevent stagnation, while Garcia said the game needed to concentrate on improving grassroots pathways for kids.
As for a second division, Heskey, who played 223 games for Liverpool between 2000-04 and 42 games for the Newcastle Jets, only gave qualified support.
Both Heskey and Garcia are in town for a Liverpool legends versus Manchester United legends match at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.
"Have you got enough teams playing in stadiums that you want for a league that's going to be televised?" Heskey said.
"At the Jets we shared our stadium with the Knights (NRL). That's a good stadium.
"But if you played at a local stadium, how's that going to look when you're trying to sell the league as an attractive proposition?
"Having a second division? Yes, possibly, but there's a real question of if you've got the teams to do it at the moment."
Heskey said he saw real promise in the A-League during his 2012-14 stint.
"I think the concept is good," he said.
"The salary cap can be upped a little bit, but I don't think you can take it away entirely.
"You can't really compete with the global (money). Yes, you want to attract international players, but you want to attract the right international players.
"Just throwing money at anyone isn't the right way to go about it, but I do think it needs to be increased a bit.
"I think right now you're building something great. Maybe it's gone a little bit stagnant, but be patient. You've got to take one step at a time."
"It's growing and more players are wanting to come here," Garcia said.
"But most importantly, young kids are getting more passion about football. It's not the No. 1 sport here in Australia, we all know that, but it's getting closer and closer.
"I think the most important thing for the game is to look at the big picture.
"To improve the A-League you need these young players coming through from the academies, so the most important thing is to improve the grassroots level and improve those pathways to make the kids better and enjoying football.
"It has to start from the early ages, not from when they are 16 or 17.
"At the age of four, five, six, that's when kids start enjoying playing their football. When they are 15 or 16, of course you can teach them, but there are certain things that you learn when you are smaller that become habits very quickly."