New FFA CEO James Johnson has revealed his support for a major change to Australian football to help domestic clubs cash in on football’s global transfer market.

Currently, the international transfer market is valued at over $A11 billion annually, but Australian clubs contribute just $2 million per year towards that figure.

Johnson, the new head of Football Federation Australia, wants Australia to be ‘hardwired’ into that global market – and he’s backing the axing of a long-term ban on domestic transfer fees to make it happen.

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Currently, A-League and grassroots clubs across Australia are banned from paying a transfer fee to another Australian club in order to sign a player.

Foreign clubs can pay transfer fees to sign players from Australian sides, and A-League sides have – on rare occasions – paid fees for international players to move here.

But the embargo on domestic transfer fees has meant that professional and grassroots clubs haven’t been able to profit from developing players and selling them to local rivals.

Johnson, speaking exclusively to the Fox Football Podcast, said “I think this is a problem with the system.

“More players move across borders every year internationally. But if you look at the trends in Australia, we’re probably actually seeing a decline in the number of Australians that are moving across borders every year.

“If you look at the international transfer market which is upwards of $10 billion dollars, we’re generating less than $2 million of that.”


In fact, clubs around the world completed 18,042 international transfers in 2019, the value of which was a record US$7.35 billion ($A11.14 billion). That was a growth of 5.8 per cent on the 2018 total transfer fees.

Australian clubs contributed around $1.9 million to that figure – a minuscule portion of the transfer pie. And Johnson wants to see a domestic market drive Australia’s growth.

“What I would like to see is a domestic transfer system,” he said.

“That will connect your grassroots clubs, your aspiring clubs that fit in between the NPL (National Premier League, the top state level competition) and the A-League, and your A-League clubs.

“You will incentivise the clubs to develop players, and they will be okay with losing players because there will be a distribution that comes down.”

It comes as FIFA looks to implement a number of changes to the international transfer system in the next one to two years, featuring tighter restrictions on player agent fees, limiting the number of player loans, and – crucially to Australia – strengthening “training compensation”.

That ensures clubs who develop young talent are rewarded when players move to their rivals, which should particularly benefit NPL clubs losing players to A-League sides.

Johnson was also quoted by The Daily Telegraph as saying “If we have a proper transfer system in place domestically, clubs will invest more in youth development as they’ll see value in holding the registration of the player. At the moment that’s seen as a cost.

“That should create more transfer fees in, but also a transfer system domestically, too.

“Currently there’s no protection for clubs, in my view, and no incentive for clubs to develop players. It goes all the way down, it’s a whole of game issue.”

The introduction of a transfer market in Australia would likely see clubs become more willing to hand long-term contracts to players, reducing the overwhelmingly high number of players on single-season contracts.

More than half of all A-League players are on contracts expiring at the end of the season, which the players’ union has repeatedly claimed has negative impacts on player wellbeing and the quality of the competition.

Many fans are also critical of the number of players who play for several different A-League sides – or are ‘recycled’ – a phenomenon which is due in large part to players having no long-term certainty at their club.


Reports last week stated the A-League is considering a drastic change to competition rules to boost the quality of the tournament.

According to , a new proposal would see each club allowed up to five foreign players, all of whom would be exempt from the salary cap.

Currently, teams can have two marquees exempt from the cap.

The bold move would see , seen as a way to improve the quality of football on offer.

But there are fears it would severely restrict playing time for young Australians, who have been a key feature in the current campaign.

Johnson told the Fox Football podcast the FFA will engage with the A-League owners around squad competition, saying his aim is “finding a balance between lifting of the quality of the competition, but also ensuring we’ve got as many home-developed players, local players, that can ultimately play for the national team.”