From Down Under:

“The average salary in the A-League is far more than the average salary in the MLS, but that’s a league that’s been around for more than 15 years, in a huge market and with average crowds of 16,000. I can’t see any single reason for the fact that the salaries in Australia are higher than they are in the U.S."

That's Sydney FC CEO Edwin Lugt, moaning that the A-League is overpaying its players, and using MLS as the measuring stick against which to do so.  A-League salaries, minus the money paid Aussie versions of the DP, the Marquee Player, average A$130,000.  MLS salaries averaged $88,000 last year with DP compensation thrown out (per the article; I've heard that number before, but can't seem to find it cited anywhere at the moment).

USD to AUD conversion is currently a convenient 1:1 (close enough for our purposes anyway).

I don't know what to make of this information other than to agree with Lugt; the A-League's standard of play is, by most assessments, behind that of MLS, yet they are paying their players significantly more.  From a business perspective, that doesn't make much sense.  Add in the little detail that the A-League's average attendance was less than 10,000 in the 2009-2010 season, and it's clear why Mr. Lugt is upset.  Salaries Down Under are not commensurate with ticket sales. 

“Nobody can explain to me why that should be the case. Do we have better players? I don’t think so. There’s no justification for average players here earning above-average wages.”

The A-League TV money comes from a package FFA (Football Federation Australia) deal with Fox that runs until 2013 and includes Australian National Team matches.  I'm having trouble pinning down just how much each club receives, but it's unlikely it offsets the premium the A-League appears to be paying on salaries.  The league does have a title sponsor, something MLS does not.

I can think of few variables, and none of them legitimate, that might push A-League salaries higher than those in somewhat-comparable MLS.  There is no discernible difference in quality of life.  Australia's geographic distance from Europe and South America makes travel difficult for internationals, but shouldn't be an issue in-season.  Cost of living is roughly equal in the largest cities.

Legt meant his words as a criticism of the overpriced player market the A-League has created, but it also serves as an indirect compliment of MLS.  If we accept the general consensus that MLS is better than the A-League (even without determining just how much better - an impossible task), then credit the American league for keeping costs down while outdoing a league with which it has much in common.  If we wanted to boil it down further, it might be possible to take the salary disparity, while noting the quality of play in the two countries, as evidence of single-entity "success."  MLS set itself up to do exactly what it's doing.

The A-League's higher salaries are, in a small way, a striking reminder of that.

Professional soccer in Australia has problems that aren't necessarily down to not having in place the type of cost controls MLS installed.  Attendance woes can't be chalked up to salaries, for example.  The A-League is only five years old, yet has moved past their 15 year-old contemporary in average salary by a whopping $42,000.  Not everything MLS does is easily swallowed, and artificial market control is generally distasteful; but if we measure the two league by the bang they're getting for their bucks, MLS is light years ahead of the A-League. 

Maybe that's not saying much, but at least we don't have Don Garber or club execs saying things like this:

“It’s not just with players, you’re looking at all costs and also potential streams of new income. And even if clubs were financially secure and making profits, I’d still want this on the agenda because, again, nobody has been able to justify why the players deserve these salaries.”

The solution isn't to spend more money, as many of us would like MLS to do, it's to spend more money to good effect.  The A-League is an example of how poor spending, even at much lower levels than the world's richer leagues, can cause significant problems with potentially devastating effects.

Like club CEOs whining in the press.

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