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Tasmanian franchise must be a priority for the A-League

Expert
10th January, 2009
69
3921 Reads

Central Coast Mariners Danny Vukovic celebrates with Alex Wilkinson their win over the Newcastle Jets - AAP Image/Dean Lewins

While the focus of the next round of A-League expansion is on the prospective second teams from Melbourne and Sydney, the FFA should instead turn its attention south to Tasmania, a state ignored by the majority of sporting codes and therefore a relatively unchallenged market for a franchise, let alone the league, to establish itself in.

Tasmania United FC is bidding for submission for the 2011-12 season and is facing tough opposition from not just the Melbourne and Sydney franchises but also Wollongong and Canberra.

But unlike the franchises in Melbourne and Sydney, which will only grow a supporter base by robbing fans from already established A-League teams, and Wollongong and Canberra who already host NRL teams in the rugby heartland, Tasmania is a relatively untouched sporting base.

A franchise in Tasmania has the potential to replicate the success of the Central Coast Mariners.

There are some noticeable comparisons between the two.

The population of the greater Hobart region is shaded by the whole of the Central Coast, but the Tasmanian franchise would attract fans from all over the state.

In fact the population of Hobart is larger than Townsville, home of the North Queensland Fury, by approximately 50,000. There is no excuse therefore that the state is too small for a franchise and therefore lacks the potential for a successful business operation.

With a base in Hobart, the only impediment for the franchise would be attracting fans to home matches from other centres such as Davenport, Launceston and Burnie given the distance between Tasmania’s most populous centres.

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However, there is also the possibility, first raised when Tasmania was mentioned with regard to expansion, of splitting home games between Hobart and Launceston.

Just as the Central Coast has been ignored by other codes, so too has Tasmania.

The AFL has played hardball with Tasmania instead focusing its attentions on the Gold Coast and West Sydney. Despite significant interest in the state for Aussie rules, the locals only have Victorian clubs such as Hawthorn occasionally visiting.

With no AFL, NBL or NRL franchises and only the Tasmanian Tigers state cricket side, the Tasmanian A-League franchise would be relatively unchallenged for attention and sponsors in the state.

Like Central Coast, it would unite the whole region behind one team and the A-League would gain a massive heads up on the other codes.

The A-League would ride into town and give Tasmanian fans what they crave so desperately, a presence in a major national sporting league.

This would win over the hearts and minds of the next generation of Tasmanians, enticing them to play the round ball game over other sporting codes, a game that enables them to represent their state.

It could also lead to a better state league format from the current separated north and south leagues. A united state league would help the development of local talent with an obvious link to the A-League.

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It would also give the A-League more of a national representation than both the AFL and NRL.

Central Coast has proven that a team deeply immersed in the local community, with little opposition from other codes, can build a solid supporter base, business model and infrastructure for future growth despite the smaller population base compared with other franchises.

This is what the A-League should be looking towards with expansion and Hobart and Tasmania fit the bill perfectly.

The second Melbourne and Sydney franchises may have some powerful backers, but the FFA would be wise to look to Tasmania instead.