JUNE 26 2017 – 5:21PM
The Sydney derby is set to be moved from the first round of the A-League season despite its successful trial last year and replaced by a grand final replay as the marquee fixture on the opening weekend.
Fairfax Media understands Football Federation Australia will unveil the draw for the 2016-17 A-League season this week. A draft schedule has the first contest between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers to be played at Allianz Stadium in round three.
Despite a successful round one derby at ANZ Stadium last year, which set a record attendance for a domestic football game in Australia, the FFA indicated its desire to push the key fixture further back to maintain momentum after the season’s big kick-off.
The first Sydney derby will be a home match for the Sky Blues and will likely be the first clash between the two rivals to be televised live on free-to-air. The Saturday night fixture is set to be screened on Channel Ten or its subsidiary digital channels after the network came on board as a partner to the primary broadcaster, Fox Sports.
The second Sydney derby will likely be played in December at ANZ Stadium in Olympic Park. It’s understood the Melbourne A-League derby is scheduled to remain in round two after its success last year.
In a draft fixture list distributed to clubs, the FFA has set an opening-round clash between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, likely to be played on Saturday October 7. It will be the first time since 2013 a grand final replay will be scheduled for the first weekend of the season, after Central Coast Mariners hosted Western Sydney Wanderers in Gosford.
It’s understood the preliminary scheduling will not see the A-League break for international dates. However, after long-held complaints from clubs competing in the Asian Champions League, the FFA is set to take into account their hefty travel toll between February and May by included kinder fixtures during this period as well as two split rounds.
Last season saw the introduction of one split round with five games spread across two weekend and the preliminary draft will see an additional split round proposed to the clubs as a way of easing the demands of teams contesting in dual competitions. Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory have already qualified for the continental tournament, while Brisbane Roar could join them in Asia if they are successful in the play-offs.
The FFA declined to comment on next season’s draw until all dates, venues and fixtures are finalised following clubs’ approval. The clubs are expected to give the draft draw the green light early this week.
Meanwhile, Central Coast Mariners defender Harry Ascroft has the chance to play in England after being granted a request to go on trial with Championship club Barnsley FC. It’s understood the Mariners allowed the 21-year-old former Australian youth international to take time out of their pre-season to move to the South Yorkshire club where he will have a chance to impress their coach Paul Heckingbottom and earn himself a permanent deal.
Ascroft joined the Mariners in 2015 after his contract with Dutch club VVV Venlo was ended due to the club’s financial difficulties and he went on to make 34 appearances in the A-League.
Source : The Canberra Times