Despite there being no clear application or timing process for expansion of the A-League, several groups have publicly shown interest in joining the competition. FFA has stated it will publish criteria later this year for potential expansion in 2018. 

Expansion promises the possibility of a more exciting and interesting future for the A-League, and it’s something that most fans of the competition would like to see sooner rather than later. 

Here’s a snapshot of four of the players that have put their hand up so far.

FC Brisbane City

Brisbane City Football Club is based in Newmarket, in suburban Brisbane. An establishment club of the former national soccer league (NSL), the club was formed in 1952 with a strong Italian base, and currently play in NPL Queensland.

Key personnel: John Kosmina and Robert Cavallucci

FC Brisbane City plans a full rebranding, with their home being a refurbished 18,000 capacity Ballymore stadium. Their proposed new logo is maroon, gold and blue with a gladiator like emblem which they hope will help attract a wider audience.

Former Socceroo captain and FOX Sports commentator, John Kosmina, who is coach of Brisbane City, says the bid is very thorough and all A-League clubs should use it as a model.

FC Brisbane City bid chairman Rob Cavallucci said they would be ready whenever expansion begins.

“In our view, Brisbane is ready for two teams. To think it can’t support two teams is misguided.

“But we know it’s not just about us, it’s about how we can help grow the A-League as a whole, and increase attendances and TV ratings. Our plan, and the introduction of a Brisbane derby, can make that happen.

“The derby environment is a proven formula, one that Brisbane’s 2.3 million residents and 30,000 registered footballers are absolutely ready for. 

“We will create new tribes of supporters and fans who will be celebrated alongside a football product delivered that’s worth their emotional investment.” 

Brisbane City’s 80-page bid proposal covers governance structures, ticket pricing, fan engagement, football operations, public transport, women’s football and Indigenous development.

Their detailed game day activation, including gourmet food trucks and improved public transport links, promise to provide a new positive matchday experience for fans.   

The club also recognises the crucial role of women’s football in the future of the game.

“Our women’s strategy is targeted towards increasing female participation, improving accessibility to the game by promoting female friendly environments, facilities, partnerships and improved elite player pathways through our documented W-League strategy,” Cavallucci says. 

Brisbane Roar currently train at Ballymore but will move to a new facility at Logan, south of Brisbane, towards the end of the year. Cavallucci believes this will help create a north v south divide to spark rivalry.

Southern Expansion

Southern Expansion want to bring top-level football to the southern Sydney region including St George, the Sutherland shire and the Illawarra, with support from local football associations.

Key personnel: Les Murray and Craig Foster

Former SBS broadcaster Les Murray, the chairman of the steering group for the new club, says the club would service all levels of football, including men's and women's teams, junior and community sides.

“For that to happen our club needs to play in the A-League, the W-League and the National Youth League,” Murray said.

The club is backed by a Chinese property company, Jia Yuan, and Murray said that $12 million in bank guarantees had been secured for operating capital to demonstrate to FFA that the funding is there for the project.

Games would be split among three venues — Shark Park in Cronulla, Jubilee Oval in Kogarah and Wollongong Showground.

Murray also said the group was giving “serious consideration” to building the club's own stadium in the region. Southern Expansion group has begun preliminary discussions with state and local governments regarding its plans for new stadium infrastructure to support their bid.

Drawing on the US Major League Soccer model, the plan involves constructing a new purpose-built stadium in the Sutherland area as well as a potential whole-scale upgrade of the WIN Entertainment precinct.

The club's director of football will be TV broadcaster and former Socceroo, Craig Foster.

Despite the bid ticking some of the major boxes for FFA, David Gallop was non-committal in response.

“The interest from the Jia Yuan Group - of which we were aware - and the other groups that have expressed an interest in being part of an expanded league, is welcome and shows the potential of the game. However, as we have consistently said, individual bids - even well-funded ones - do not address the operating and contractual costs faced by FFA and therefore they do not make expansion instantly viable on their own.

There is no point in having a well-funded club working in one geographical area if other clubs are not seeing any benefit or indeed are expected to see the funding model diluted.”

Victoria Patriots FC (Geelong)

Key personnel: Steve Horvat, Michael Brown and Paul Sargeant

According to a report by The Geelong Advertiser, the team working under the name Victoria Patriots will push to join the A-League and has already reached out to international stadium architecture company Populous about constructing a purpose-built 15-20,000-seat stadium to solidify their bid.

Steve Horvat, former Socceroo and spokesperson for the bid, stated that the proposal will be constructed around a model similar to that of Western Sydney Wanderers, with the aim of reaching out to a fanbase not only within Geelong but the whole of Victoria’s west.

“We know the bid criteria hasn’t been released yet. But this is going to be a club built from the ground-up, engaging the community with key football people in important decision-making roles,” Horvat says.

He believes it is crucial that Victoria Patriots embraces all of western Victoria including growth areas like Armstrong Creek in addition to Melbourne’s western suburbs such as Ballarat and Bendigo.

 “We have had a core group of people working on this behind the scenes for 12 months.

“This hasn’t been a spur-of-the-moment decision.”

If FFA accept their bid, Simonds Stadium looms as the most likely home for the club during its formative years. While no decision has been made on the location of a new, purpose-built stadium, Horvat says it is “fundamental and a key component that our research has taken away from the MLS.

“There is no doubt that when a fan has a sense that it is their own home – that they can truly feel connected to that club for life. This is a non-negotiable scenario that we will hold firm.”

Wollongong Wolves

Key personnel: Geoff Lord, Adam Federici

Wollongong Wolves currently compete in the New South Wales National Premier League and have recently appointed former Melbourne Victory director and club founder Geoff Lord as an advisor for their A-League bid. 

Lord, who played a crucial role in establishing Victory when the A-League was formed, will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of a business model and football operations.

“The Wollongong Wolves are similar in many respects (to Victory). However, they already have a strong, successful history, presence, fan base and following and cover one of the strongest football nurseries in the country. All the necessary requirements are already existing,” Lord said. 

“The beauty about the Wollongong Wolves upcoming bid is we don’t have to build this one from scratch. Most of what is necessary is already in place.

“The infrastructure, the geography, the fan base and support, the junior nursery, the passion, the pride. It’s all there ready to be unleashed.”

Wolves chairman Tory Lavalle hoped to benefit from Lord’s vast experience and contacts based.

 “Geoff has been there, done that and succeeded in every facet of football in Australia and having his expertise, experience and contacts there for us to call on gives us a platform many existing A-League clubs would envy.”

The Wollongong Wolves bid is also supported by local lad, Socceroo and Bournemouth goalkeeper, Adam Federici. 

The move means Wollongong will likely not form part of the Southern Expansion bid, comprising regions south of Sydney.

Which bids will prevail?

Without any formal guidelines or application process, it’s quite hard to assess if any of the above teams will be granted a license.  

For any newcomers granted a license, they may benefit from analysing how Western Sydney Wanderers achieved success. 

There really isn’t a stand out bid for me – positively, all of them are looking to build or refurbish a purpose-built, football specific rectangular stadium which as I’ve written about before is one of the non-negotiable keys to success.    

Ultimately, their success or failure will come down to a combination of factors such as market research, staff, marketing, fan engagement, community engagement, culture and one imperative factor - the quality of the players.

Quality, quality, quality

All new bids must carefully consider their quality of product. Is their product good enough to entice fans to support the team week in, week out on TV and at the ground?

Having recently watched Sydney FC host Arsenal at the Olympic Stadium, it reminded me once again just how big the gap is between the A-League and the world’s best. Arsenal won the match 2-0 but could have easily scored more as they dominated the current A-League champions all over the pitch.

Arsenal’s class, intensity and excellence provided entertainment, but can you imagine the entertainment level if Sydney had matched them? This game was watched by fans all over the world and unfortunately, a lot of fans were probably left thinking, wow – is this really the current best team in Australia?

FFA, existing teams and potential new teams should learn from the match and start to wake up and realise that these football fans or “Eurosnobs” as they are often referred to will also support A-League teams - but only if you provide them a reason to watch.  

If Australia is serious about its goal of making football the number one sport in the country, the quality of the product must improve. 

Categories: Opinion | A-League

a-league, a-league expansion

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