Australia mulls overseas matches to avoid Asian Cup clash

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's top flight soccer league will look to schedule matches in Asia next season to avoid clashing with games in domestic markets during the 2015 Asian Cup, A-League chief Damien de Bohun said on Tuesday.

Australia will host the January 9-31 Asian Cup, which comes midway through the local competition's 2014/15 season, forcing administrators to consider holding league games elsewhere.

"Next season with the Asian Cup ... we won't be playing games at the same time most likely in the markets where the Asian Cup is on," De Bohun told reporters at the A-League's Melbourne launch.

"So that's Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra and Brisbane. "Necessity is the mother of invention, we have to look a bit more broadly. We have had active discussions with places like Singapore, like Indonesia.

"There's local opportunities (too) but also some more global opportunities that we are looking at very seriously.

"We are very focused on playing games where you can get the best possible results on both a strategic level and a commercial level and that may well be in Asia.

"We would definitely be looking at playing games for points in Asia as early as next season."

The 10-team league already has a profile in Asia as part of the Asian Champions League, and the league has tested the waters by having Perth Glory play a pre-season game against Malaysian Super League club Johor Darul Takzim in Johor Bahru last year.

While the A-League, which also features one team from New Zealand, saw crowds, memberships and broadcast ratings rise in its most successful season last year, it is still in a precarious position in its home market, where Australian Rules football and rugby league dominate.

De Bohun said the A-League would not look to expand the number of teams over the life of its current four-year broadcasting agreement, but would consider bringing in Asian-based clubs when it found itself on a firmer footing.

"We're part of Asia, I think Australia's starting to understand that in a footballing context," he added. "We have a global game, a game that doesn't just have to be played in Australia.

"There's no reason why you can't look seriously at games and certainly clubs being based in different parts of Asia."

The A-League's ninth season kicks off on Friday.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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