All football fans in Australia have reacted to the recent events surrounding the possible demise of the Newcastle Jets with bitter disappointment.
This is another kick in the guts from another mining fat cat who initially appeared as a saviour. The point of this article is not to re-analyse these events, but to propose the best possible course of action following them.
Let me begin by clearly stating that Football Federation Australia should do everything in its power to keep the Newcastle Jets afloat. Newcastle is not Gold Coast United; it cannot be traded in for another team and that is not what this article is suggesting.
However, the FFA and the football community in Australia must be prepared for the possibility of a 2012/13 season without Newcastle.
This means turning to another bid with the best foundations so far and the ability to get a club up and running at the shortest possible notice, even at the “risk” of having an 11-team competition in 2012-13. A city with an existing W-League team and a NYL team (AIS) would be a perfect candidate.
The treatment of Canberra’s A-League bid by the FFA has disappointed most of the football community in Australia. This was a true grassroots bid with 2000 pledged financial members, multi-million dollar Territory Government funding and a cashed-up population crying out for more variety in entertainment in general, let alone in sporting teams.
Instead, the FFA went and chased the big mining money like an unemployed engineer, establishing teams in North Queensland and Gold Coast and getting involved with Tinkler in Newcastle.
Events over the past few years have shown the fallacy of this approach. What the A-League needs more than the big money of a few is the small money of many. Canberra’s lack of big money has been seen as a weakness by the FFA, but in reality its abundance of small money is its strength. Let’s not forget that the ACT has the highest average income in the country.
Sure, a rich mining magnate owner can fund a club with no problems, but as we’ve seen with Clive Palmer, this doesn’t guarantee the future of the club.
Canberra has a multicultural and even multinational population (due to the presence of embassies and countless international organisations) with a lot of money and not a lot of entertainment to spend it on.
Although Canberra’s multicultural communities are not as large as in Melbourne or Sydney, there is a wider variety due to its nature as the capital city and political centre. Football is the world game and Australia’s centre of international relations should be home to a football team in our national league.
It is time for the FFA to rectify its mistake in ignoring Canberra, re-take the initiative, and create more positive media coverage of the A-League.
It should repay the good faith of the Canberra bid and its supporters and announce the entry of a Canberra team for the 2012-13 season, regardless of the outcome of the farce surrounding the Newcastle Jets.