With the timeline for A-League expansion finally transparent for all, clubs are beginning to mount their cases.

After years of waiting, it is pleasing to type those words. David Gallop’s accompanying statement in regards to both the process involved and the vision of the FFA contained a few hints that I found interesting.

Firstly, in acknowledging that there had already been interest and contact made by some hopeful clubs, he stated clearly that further expressions of interest (EOI), both “locally and internationally” were expected.

The FFA CEO revealed that some interest had been made public yet alluded to other bids whose interest had been kept quiet to this point. This raises the question of just how many interested clubs there actually are.

Perhaps the pool of clubs is larger than we first thought and the specific choice of the word ‘international’ also raises the interesting possibility of a Pacific nation nominating for the League.

Gallop was either ensuring he used language inclusive and inoffensive to our region or hinting clearly that the FFA were interested beyond our shores.

In addition, Gallop cited a confidence in eventually receiving high quality bids from many interested parties yet added a powerful and telling rider by suggesting clearly that, “the market will have its own views.”

Intended or not, this positioned the measuring stick quite distantly from emotion and sentiment. Perhaps a wise move, however, with such passion, culture and history lying at the heart of many NPL Clubs, it almost felt like a ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

The undertone appeared to be a suggestion that no matter how passionate the fans, promising the future or glorious the past, you had better have the raw numbers, cash and business plan or a spot in our League might just not be for you.

Moreover, Gallop’s next sentence lauded the success of the Adelaide franchise which recently garnered a good price and “provided the owners with a strong financial return on their initial investment.”

An acknowledgement of some of the ‘hits and misses’ of past A-League expansion followed leading to one of the most interesting and challenging sentences in his statement.

In a broad sense, Gallop and FFA identify the need to distribute the new licenses based on two fundamental criteria. Firstly, in order to ensure growth and avoid another ‘miss’, an adherence to “sound business principles” is required.

Fair enough I guess. Dispassionate, but fair.

The second and more interesting criteria which the FFA will apparently apply throughout the process will be to ensure that “the best interests of football are considered and applied.”

Thus, being able to align the financial realities and the more emotive and/or visionary side of expansion will be the FFA’s most considerable challenge in introducing new clubs.

An A-League team in Tasmania might not seem like the most prudent or wise investment right now.

Similarly, reigniting a traditional fan base such as South Melbourne might fail to tap into growth areas that exist elsewhere or bring new investment to the game.

However, Tasmania may prove a masterstroke in 20 years’ time, as could the slow reconnections made with community and traditional clubs that are experiencing good support in the NPL competitions.

Whilst the ‘market’ will always play a key role in decisions such as the one with which the FFA are charged, there is also an immeasurable aesthetic that requires consideration.

Hence, citing and using the two key barometers to which Gallop has alluded as fundamental measuring tools to inform the decision, becomes an increasingly problematic equation.

The words ‘long term investment’ were there, as expected, and the delicate balance between instant impact and lasting success becomes something akin to walking a football tightrope.

Much talk surrounds the bigger clubs in the league ‘carrying’ smaller entities and some people often question what Wellington Phoenix and the Central Coast Mariners offer to the A-League at all.

Gallop’s search for clubs that are “going to not just be successful in their own right but make the league as a whole more commercially successful”, might irk some and lead them to request the data that validates each and every current club’s position in the league.

A harsh view no doubt, yet a fair question. If the ultimate goal sees each and every franchise contributing to the wider commercial success of the league, might it be time to trim some feathers, put the Phoenix out of their misery and introduce a third team that fits the FFA’s criteria?

There would be sadness in that for many, me included, yet others’ opinions may differ.

All in all it was an epiphany to see the timeline and the October announcement will undoubtedly cause pain, anger and sadness for some.

However, the A-League is getting two new teams and I can’t wait to see who they are.

Categories: Opinion | A-League

a-league, a-league expansion

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