The A-League is set to welcome at least one new side into the fold for the 2018-19 season, league boss Greg O’Rourke has revealed.
With the current TV broadcast deal negotiations heating up, it was revealed that the FFA asked the bidding networks to submit a figure for a 12-team competition as well as the current ten-team setup.
O’Rourke later confirmed the current expansion plans are based around including at least one new side for 2018-19. Although those plans are yet to be formally approved, O’Rourke said he is hoping they will be early next year.
“We expect that that framework will be ready to put to board in February and if that’s approved it will form the guidelines to add an A-League team to an expanded competition with a view to this coming in the second year of the deal of broadcast, 2018-19,” he said.
“Our primary focus will be on the expansion of the A-League over the next 5-7 years and primarily focused on what is the right number of teams and what are the right geographies.”
However the head of the A-League had some bad news for supporters of a promotion and relegation system, saying his main focus was on expanding the current league.
“That’s not to suggest that inter-dependencies of future promotion and relegation or a second division will be ignored but it won’t be [our] primary focus.”
There are currently a multitude of bidders lining up for any extra A-League licenses, with a second Brisbane team one such possibility.
Bids from Tasmania, South Melbourne, Canberra, South Sydney and the Illawarra have also been touted, however O’Rourke said no new sides will be introduced until the expansion framework is confirmed next year, despite a meeting between the FFA and South Melbourne last week.
“Any meetings prior to the framework being finalised and the board approving it are more about being respectful and wanting to listen to interested parties who want to ask questions. It’s not about having detailed discussions,” O’Rourke said.
“The FFA doesn’t want potential aspirants to spend time and money putting together a proposal and talking to government in a formal way until they have a clarity of what is required.”
TV networks have until Thursday, December 8 to submit their bids for the broadcasting rights, with a majority of free-to-air networks, Fox Sports and BeIN Sports all understood to be interested in acquiring the rights to the A-League.
Optus, who infamously gained the rights to broadcast the English Premier League in Australia, are also taking part in discussions, while Twitter has also expressed interest in streaming A-League matches, although not as an exclusive broadcaster.