Whose (expansion) team is it anyway?

Nick Symonds Roar Rookie

By Nick Symonds, Nick Symonds is a Roar Rookie

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    FFA’s expansion criteria of having a market of a million people is creating a new wave of ‘multi city’ spreadsheet clubs clambering for A-League inclusion.

    The early failures of Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury have put FFA off adding new expansion teams in regional cities.

    The lesson they have taken away from these failures is that places with small populations will struggle to support an A-League team.

    Unfortunately, this has driven new expansion bids to inflate the size of their catchment areas by adding regions together which might have little in common. Will they be stable long-term?

    Wellington Phoenix
    Of the current A-League teams the Phoenix are the most obvious as they have taken ‘home’ games outside Wellington to places like Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North.

    Not only do they claim to represent Wellington but they also market themselves as a team for the whole of New Zealand!

    Central Coast Mariners
    Because of poor crowds in their own home market, the Mariners tried selling themselves as a team for Canberra under a kind of ‘Capital Mariners’ concept.

    But the deal with Canberra has fallen through and the Mariners are currently looking for other cities to partner with and take matches to.

    Canberra are now rumoured to be interested in forming a link with Wellington because of direct flights between the cities.

    What a mess.

    The Phoenix and Mariners are both teams who already exist but the interesting thing is how many new expansion bids follow the same model.

    Tasmania
    The Tasmanian bid, which kicked off the current expansion frenzy, will play most of their games in Hobart, with a few in Launceston and maybe a couple of FFA Cup matches on the north-west coast.

    The north-south divide may be an issue but promoting a team as representing the whole state is seen as more solid commercially.

    Northern Australia
    The Northern Fury are keen to return to the A-League at some point and have stated that they would like to share matches around between Townsville, Cairns and Darwin.

    Northern Fury chairman Rabieh Krayem did an interview with Outside90 about all the issues up there, which is well worth a listen.

    Victoria Patriots
    A new region bidding for an A-League license is Geelong under the Victoria Patriots bid.

    This team will be based in Geelong but will also claim to represent not only Ballarat, Bendigo, Colac, Warrnambool, Werribee and the whole of western Victoria but also the western suburbs of Melbourne.

    Melbourne City have taken notice of this and are now promoting themselves as the team for Geelong, but they will also have to compete with Victory in this regard.

    It makes more sense to have Geelong represented by two Melbourne teams than by one of their own. You know, like Tasmania.

    Brisbane Strikers
    Then there’s the Brisbane Strikers bid, where the team will be based in Ipswich but represent the ‘western corridor’ from Logan to Ipswich and on to Toowoomba.

    Ipswich and Logan are both in Brisbane at least but Toowoomba is about 100 kilometres away in the Darling Downs region.

    brisbane-roar-supporter-a-league-football-2012

    Fairfield
    South-west Sydney could be the location for a new team if a bid from Fairfield is successful.

    The team will be based at a new national ‘home of football’ in Fairfield but will also represent Liverpool and the Macarthur region.

    Liverpool is close by, but Campbelltown is 33 kilometres from Fairfield, so will they want their own team in the future?

    And wouldn’t Liverpool be a better location for a team in south-west Sydney, since it is easily accessible from both Fairfield and Campbelltown?

    Southern expansion
    This is the big one. The southern expansion bid hopes to combine Sutherland, St George and Wollongong all under the one banner.

    This seems unlikely to work when Lyall Gorman has stated that he wants the team to be an extension of the Sharks brand.

    Not only are Sutherland and St George fierce rivals but Wollongong is a completely separate city from Sydney with a historic club of its own.

    But the bid has the support of David Gallop, Greg O’Rourke, Lyall Gorman, Les Murray, Craig Foster and Morris Iemma.

    I’ll put them down as a maybe…

    Dude, where’s my club?
    Expanding the A-League is a must, but questions need to be asked about the identity and stability of some of these bids.

    The biggest problem facing the A-League is just trying to get fans to watch Australia’s top-flight competition. But it might not help if these new teams propagate and reinforce an already negative image some have.

    With things like a salary cap and salary floor, an A-League run by FFA, FFA’s own governance structure, lack of fan ownership, the finals system, shared stadiums, teams playing each other three times, the franchise nature of teams and so on, the new mish-mash bids don’t do much to help.

    The traditionalists and purists must be walking around looking at all this with Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ playing in their heads.

    Promotion-relegation
    The issue of promotion-relegation might be contentious, but maybe it’s a better way of doing things than FFA trying to pick winners.

    Promotion-relegation allows teams to enter the league based on performance rather than be introduced based on speculation.

    I’m not so sure that building teams based on spreadsheets and just beaming them down out of nowhere is the best way to go. New bids might look good on paper, but if they try to combine areas which lack a common identity between them they could fail to find and keep loyal fans.

    Having said all that, FFA will probably put the next two teams in Sydney to boost TV ratings and news coverage with 18 big derbies.

    It might even generate the money they need for a second division.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • May 18th 2017 @ 10:29am
      Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

      Nice twist on the expansion debate. Let’s be clear though we get 1.8m to attend A league games each season, it may be stagnant but the NRL only get 4m with 6 more teams. We’re doing okay just not great on attendances. And TV gets 390,000 viewing each weekend or 12 million each season, again it’s not bad. What drags both of those figures down isteams outside of the big City’s – that’s why the FFA and more importantly Fox are targeting big city teams.

      Which leads on to your argument – if they don’t get expansion right it will unvravel. Brisbane City seem to be on the right track in this regards and Strikers may not be all that far behind. Let’s hope all the bids are crystal clear on who they represent.

      • May 19th 2017 @ 6:28am
        stu said | May 19th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

        Was……it may be argued that the future and present teams represent Fox sport. In many ways the Super Rugby teams in Australia are in the same boat.
        Most, not all NRL and AFL teams have grass roots history as do EPL and say SPL teams. Those teams identify clearly with a fan base where allegiances run in the family/blood.
        I am pleased we have the Roar, and realise it will be two or three generations from me before any a-league club will identify with its geography and be for the people.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 10:30am
      striker said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      Fairfield that is WSW area why would they put a team there.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 2:41pm
        clipper said | May 18th 2017 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

        When league was dominant in Sydney, they used to have teams that overlapped each others territory, so why not – Football is pretty big in the SW region, they could support a team.

        • May 18th 2017 @ 10:46pm
          Arto said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

          So basically you can see a scenario where FFA butcher the WSW support in order to make a new team??

    • May 18th 2017 @ 10:45am
      Timmuh said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      Question from an observer more than fan?
      Is building new teams the right way to go any more? Yes, it was necessary to remove the ethnic identity in the transition from NSL to A-League. However, people are talking promotion-relegation in the (probably far) future.

      If that is to include the whole pyramid, is creating a Tasmania United as an example, to compete in A or A2 Leagues a wise move? What happens when they get relegated out of A2? Two years later, South Hobart enter A2 (less liekly, there probably isn’t the talent/money in the game in Tas for a team to get up on their own), what was the point of creating the new team to begin with? Won’t that just harm the existing clubs?
      Or would it be better to create an A2 League based on merit. NPL finals results over a few years could be used a short A2 qualification process until the A2 League is built. And then promotion/relegation was A2 has the desired number of teams.

      If the full pyramid isn’t going to be in the prmotion/relegation picture, ever, then by all means creating new clubs seems most appropriate. Or, if the goal is simply short term more A-League teams with no thought for the future.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 11:22am
      Square Nostrils said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

      The best most sensible way to increase the number of teams in the A-League is a steady as you go approach, put forward recently by several punters involved in football.
      That is form the second division consisting of clubs who have met certain financial, stadium etc criteria(and along with current NPL clubs , there seems enough new proposals on the table) and add them gradually 2 at a time, till we have a 16 team(30 home and away matches) A1 League.
      After a few years of a 16 team league in juxtaposition with an A2 League, then consider P/R in relation to footballs position in the sporting landscape.
      The secret and always has been is to make the criteria for being in the Second division the same as being in the First division. If this doesn’t happen ,then it means Australia does not have the capacity for it.
      The naysayers often bring up the Gold Coast and North Qld as examples of keeping football in the chicken pen,rather than mingling in the farmyard , both were poor examples and were destined to fail for reasons mulled over many times by football fans.
      The Mariners are perhaps a better example to consider 12 years down the track, their still there.
      Steady as you go, can ensure that checks and balances are in place at each stage.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 11:43am
      Jordan said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

      Doesn’t impact me personally as I have a team I go to every week and I watch all 5 games most weeks. I just want two extra games on TV with new teams from somewhere, anywhere.

      Although another aspect to consider regarding all this is to go where fans show a personal commitment to wanting to support a new team. Maybe have like a membership pledge to see where the fan interest is?

      • May 19th 2017 @ 2:18am
        Footoverhand said | May 19th 2017 @ 2:18am | ! Report

        Or start a second division and promote from there

    • May 18th 2017 @ 11:53am
      Midfielder said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      Interesting on expansion is who and how will it be paid for.

      Some months ago not long after the Fox deal was announced and maybe reading the media market better Mike Cockial wrote an article in which he said to only grow to 12 teams ..maybe Nix to go so therefore we need 3 teams.

      Mike’s article said setting up a second division out of the NPL and existing bids would cost FFA nothing and allow for promotion out of this division when the time was right.

      Its IMO something we should look at in greater detail..

      • May 19th 2017 @ 2:22am
        Footoverhand said | May 19th 2017 @ 2:22am | ! Report

        Get rid of the marquee fund and suddenly there is 16M available, I don’t understand why a countries FA is getting involved in player signings at the detriment of the association they represent.

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