A-League hopefuls, including South Melbourne, could be waiting until 2018 until they learn FFA’s criteria to enter the competition.
A-League chief Greg O’Rourke, who visited the ex-NSL powerhouse on Wednesday ahead of their FFA Cup tie, confirmed the sport’s governing body was prioritising talks on the league’s operating model with current clubs.
FFA’s latest meeting with representatives of the 10 A-League clubs will be held in Sydney on Thursday.
But in a frustrating slice of news for aspirant clubs and bids, the timeframe for those talks has lengthened.
“It’s going to take another six months working towards this (operating model). We’re not at a decision-making stage,” O’Rourke told AAP on Wednesday.
“We’ll work through the operating model with them and part of that is expansion.
“Depending on how that travels and how we navigate that, we’ll then determine exactly when expansion is announced and the criteria.”
A number of state league clubs or consortiums have expressed interest in joining the A-League in the past 12 months.
They’ve been waiting for formal application criteria for months.
Concurrently, a new conglomeration of state-level clubs – the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) – has formed, aiming to pressure FFA to add a second-tier national competition.
Despite the pressure from below, FFA believes negotiating with current club owners must come first.
A-League club owners – also blueing with head office over control of the sport in a debate that involves world governing body FIFA – are eager to secure a return from their investment in clubs.
O’Rourke recognised there may be frustration from those wishing to become the A-League’s 11th and 12th sides, but they would just have to wait.
“We understand there’s an ambition for quite a number of clubs and also some other parties that aren’t represented,” he said.
“But what is really important is we set up the A-League for the future to attract the right (club) ownership and the right (league) ownership model.
“Once it is announced, there will be a lot of interest I’m sure.”
The earliest and most likely entry date for two new clubs is the 2019/20 season.
David Gallop’s edict the competition needs to “fish where the fishes are” has been widely read to mean that bids from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne will have priority.
On Wednesday night, South Melbourne hosts Newcastle-based Edgeworth Eagles among four FFA Cup ties to kick off the final phase of the 2017 competition.