Soccer-Australian FA to relinquish control of club competitions

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SYDNEY, July 1 (Reuters) - Australia's soccer federation (FFA) said on Monday it has agreed in principle to hand control of their professional leagues to the clubs following a bitter battle over the future of the game.

The three leagues currently run by the FFA, the men's A-League, women's W-league and national youth competition, the Y-League, would be handed over to a stand-alone organisation in time for next season, the FFA said.

The leagues' management organisation would have total control over the "commercialisation and growth of the leagues' intellectual property and commercial rights", FFA said in a statement.

The league organisation would provide FFA with a minimum of A$4.5 million ($3.15 million) in funding for grassroots programmes and the preparation of the national teams, it added.

"The recommendations ... serve to align and unite Australian football's interests like never before," FFA Chairman Chris Nikou said in the FFA statement.

"Clubs would have greater control over the strategic and commercial direction of the leagues, in turn triggering significant new investment in the quality and marketing of all three leagues.

"FFA would be able to focus its energies and resources on the national teams, grassroots and the overall strategic direction of the game."

The FFA would retain 20 percent ownership of the leagues and receive 10 percent of the revenue from the sale of future club licences and 10 percent of the transfer fees of the A-League's Australian players to international clubs.

The agreement, which comes after a years-long battle between the governing body and their professional clubs, was hoped to be finalised by Aug. 1.

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FFA's Congress voted in favour of changes to the body's constitution at an Extraordinary General Meeting last October, which paved the way for the separation of the professional leagues from the FFA.

The two-year power struggle had threatened the country's FIFA membership.

The FFA board, led by then chairman Steven Lowy, had fought against the FIFA-backed changes, saying they would rob the board of its independence, and transfer resources from the grassroots to the more powerful professional clubs.

Lowy chose not to seek re-election last year, ending his family's 15-year association with the FFA.

Story continues

($1 = 1.4280 Australian dollars) (Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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