Football is back

The wait is over and football is back with the Hyundai A-League season set to start this weekend.

The wait is over and football is back with the Hyundai A-League season set to start this weekend.

"It seems like a long six months since February when we had last season's Grand Final, but the wait is now over for fans of the Hyundai A-League," said Football Federation Australia (FFA) CEO, Ben Buckley.

But while it's been a long six months for fans, it's been a busy off season in the Hyundai A-League according to Buckley.

“We-ve been working on a number of key initiatives to build respect and credibility for the Hyundai A-League and the sport even further,” Buckley said.

The first is an historic five year agreement between FFA and the Australian Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) which gives clubs and players long term certainty and clarity in their working conditions and circumstances.

"We were also delighted to announce the continuation of our partnership with Hyundai as the naming rights sponsor of the Hyundai A-League through to the end of the 2011-2012 season, as well as Zurich Financial Services for their support for match officials and referee development.”

Buckley said that other significant Hyundai A-League activity in the six months since February include:

- the establishment of a National Youth League which kicks-off in September;

- a review of disciplinary procedures for the Hyundai A-League;

- greater flexibility in the salary cap by allowing a Youth (U23) Marquee Player, in addition to the Marquee Player and Additional Service Agreements;

- a review of match officiating standards by former FIFA referee, Mario van der Ende.

FFA has also entered into exclusive negotiations with a Gold Coast franchise led by Clive Palmer and Townsville-based franchise led by Don Matheson for entry into the Hyundai A-League next season.

A final decision on the new franchises is expected to be made by the end of the month.

“The Hyundai A-League is now an established part of the Australian sporting landscape and is going from strength to strength.

"The work we've done in the off season shows that not only is FFA serious about the growth, development and sustainability of the Hyundai A-League but so are our corporate partners and the other significant stakeholders in the game including players, coaches and referees."

The Hyundai A-League kicks off with:

- a 2008 Grand Final re-match between champions Newcastle Jets and premiers Central Coast Mariners at Energy Australia Stadium on Friday night, known as the ‘F3 Derby-;

- a traditional Sydney v Melbourne blockbuster at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night, with Melbourne riding high as winners of the Pre-Season Cup competition;

- runners-up in the Pre-Season Cup, Wellington Phoenix, playing host to Queensland Roar at Wellington's Westpac Stadium on Sunday 17 August; and

- Adelaide United v Perth Glory at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide also on Sunday.

The home and away season ends on 25 January, culminating in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Saturday 28 February 2009.