Let the battle for A-League expansion begin

Janakan Seemampillai Roar Guru

By Janakan Seemampillai, Janakan Seemampillai is a Roar Guru

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96 Have your say

    The A-League has finally announced that there will be two new teams come the 2019-20 season, long-awaited good news for Australian football fans.

    The mad rush will be on like a Boxing Day sale as consortiums around the country excitedly prepare bids in the hope of joining the country’s elite. There are approximately ten active bids operating at the moment, and surely more will throw their hats into the ring as the day of reckoning comes close.

    Geelong, South Melbourne, South East Melbourne, Southern Sydney, Wollongong, South West Sydney, Canberra, a second Brisbane side, Tasmania and West Adelaide all have working parties ready to go as the fight for licences 11 and 12 hots up.

    Southern Sydney is a shoo-in with super-rich owners who already have a self-funded stadium at Loftus ready to be built and with a catchment area that is the envy of the country. No fewer than 40,000 registered footballers play in the area from St George to Sutherland, which is covered by Southern Expansion’s bid to the south coast. Chinese ownership means there will be hundreds of thousands more watching on TV from the most powerful country in the world on top of the domestic television audience.

    So the real battle is the one for the 12th licence. There are numerous criteria that will be vital for the new team to meet, ranging from potential crowds and TV audiences, junior programs, female participation, geography and of course commercial strength. The last one goes hand in hand with the others.

    It is vital the FFA actually advise where they want teams. This will mean consortiums in those areas can get to work whilst others can stop wasting their time and money. There is no point in a bid coming from a region where there is little or no hope of them having a team in this round of expansion. Geography alone isn’t a sticking point, but a team from an area with a large population of registered footballers is far more likely to get the nod.

    On this note we can pretty much rule out Geelong, South Melbourne, Canberra, West Adelaide and Wollongong. Sadly none of these bids will come close to the commercial firepower of the other bids due to sheer numbers in terms of population and football fans. Corporate partners will not have huge incentives to invest in those regions when even clubs in powerhouse markets are struggling.

    Geelong has 4000 registered players, which is a healthy number for the region but sadly doesn’t come close to matching other bids. Geelong’s hope will be pinned on capturing the western suburbs of Melbourne, from Point Cook through to the western districts and up to Warrnambool.

    But would Melbourne’s western suburbs-based football fans really want their team based in Geelong? I’m highly doubtful.

    Geelong fans will point to Central Coast and Newcastle already having teams, but this is precisely the problem – the Mariners have had a largely successful club yet have struggled to bring in huge numbers. The Newcastle Jets are currently doing well but have been on the brink of collapse numerous times. The FFA cannot afford to fund another regional team that will struggle initially.

    (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

    South Melbourne has a wonderful history but their fanbase is limited. While the club has gone out of its way to promote the fact it is more than just a Greek club, the vast majority of their fans would be from that background. Due to their historical rivalries with other NSL clubs, South is unlikely to capture too many fans nor bring in new football audiences.

    West Adelaide will face exactly the same issue as South Melbourne in capturing the South Australian market, with the only difference being they don’t have the historical success of South Melbourne.

    Canberra probably has the strongest regional bid, but at the end of the day just because it’s the nation’s capital doesn’t mean it will have a team at the expense of much more lucrative markets. Wollongong’s main problem is that Southern Expansion will get a licence, effectively ruling out of the equation a team based solely in Wollongong.

    All of the above bids shouldn’t lose hope. They are all strong contenders for the next round of expansion, which will hopefully come in the next five to ten years.

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    This brings us to the teams that have a chance for 2019-20. Of the remaining four bids the second Brisbane proposal, the Brisbane City Gladiators, is the most likely one to get up.

    There is a population of over two million people in Brisbane, with the Roar capturing only 8768 of them in 2017-18 as members. Football Brisbane had 29,012 registered players in 2017, with over 15 per cent of them female. A genuine rivalry for Brisbane Roar is vital for Queensland football and may prove a boost to the highly successful A-League club.

    What is good about the Brisbane bid is that they may very well have a refurbished Ballymore Stadium to use as a home ground. This ground will have a much more intimate feel to it than the vast expanses of an empty Suncorp Stadium.

    Further, the bid is backed by Socceroos great John Kosmina and features Thomas Broich as one of its ambassadors. These two men have strong pedigrees in terms of knowing Queensland football.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    South West Sydney’s formal bidding party was put together in December last year. The proposed bid aims to use the ready-to-go Campbelltown Stadium as its base, and it is a council-back organisation.

    The Macarthur region has over 10,000 registered players at present. If we add the Fairfield and Liverpool population base, we are looking at double those numbers. Western Sydney is expected to have a population close to 10 million people by 2036, and this area is the true heartland of football in this country.

    Adding a western Sydney derby to the mix would be a juicy proposition for A-League stakeholders. The commercial possibilities, especially with a new airport coming in, are huge and something that cannot be ignored by FFA. A western Sydney derby would easily crack 50,000 fans for each game. These sorts of crowd figures are a dream for Australian football fans.

    South East Melbourne has a population of 1.2 million people and has 12,000 registered footballers in its region. The club already has plans for a world-class training precinct at Casey Fields as well as a boutique stadium operating out of Dandenong.

    The only catch for South East Melbourne is there are already two teams in Melbourne, one of which is struggling significantly. The mega-rich Melbourne City have failed to attract many more Victorians to the football landscape. Many argue this is because the club does not have a distinct geographical focal point. Perhaps this is where the South East Melbourne bid is strong. Adding another Melbourne derby would also have strong commercial backing from corporate partners.

    (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)

    Tasmania, with a population of nearly 600,000 people, is the interesting one. It is a state that is desperate for national attention on the sporting stage and would love a team of its own in a national domestic competition.

    Tasmanian cricket teams aside, the apple isle does not feature any club team in its own right. Hawthorn and North Melbourne take AFL games there at present and the Hobart Devils NBL team is long gone.

    Tasmanians are rightly proud of their state and would be keen to have an A-League team to follow. There are around 13,000 registered players in the state as well. The issue is where the team would play. Hobart and Launceston would both be keen to get a team, but will this rivalry diminish the support for a Tassie side?

    The FFA has promised to reveal the criterion for expansion next month, with the new clubs set to be announced by October this year. Let the battle begin.

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    The Crowd Says (96)

    • February 19th 2018 @ 4:38am
      Nick Symonds said | February 19th 2018 @ 4:38am | ! Report

      Brisbane City bid –

      1) Can they survive a stadium deal in Queensland?

      2) How many fans will they attract?

      Southern Expansion bid –

      “Chinese ownership means there will be hundreds of thousands more watching on TV from the most powerful country in the world on top of the domestic television audience.”

      1) How’s that going for Newcastle’s ratings in China?

      2) “the most powerful country in the world” – America might disagree about that.

      Dandenong bid –

      “South East Melbourne has a population of 1.2 million people and has 12,000 registered footballers in its region.”

      Melbourne Victory’s highest average season attendance was 27,728 in 2006-07. If SE Melbourne has a quarter of the city’s population then a quarter of 27,728 would be 6,932 fans per match as a guide.

      Campbelltown bid –

      “A western Sydney derby would easily crack 50,000 fans for each game. These sorts of crowd figures are a dream for Australian football fans.”

      50,000 fans!? I reckon you’re dreaming.

      Are you taking derbies to Homebush? I think Wanderers have said they want to play the derbies at Parramatta and Sydney FC likewise at Moore Park. I don’t think the new stadium at Parramatta holds 50,000. By the way, the new stadium will open in 2019, the same as FFA’s target year for expansion. Does that auger well for Southern Expansion?

      “Western Sydney is expected to have a population close to 10 million people by 2036, and this area is the true heartland of football in this country.”

      Heartland? Yes. 10 million people by 2036? No.

      Canberra bid –

      If they build a new stadium in Civic it will need artificial turf because of the orientation. Not good.


      Tasmania bid –

      An emerging heartland with “Cult Club”written all over it.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 7:53am
        JANAKan said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        I think the population prediction is quite accurate.

        Western Sydney derby would easily get 50,000. It would have to be played at Homebush tbh.

        SE Melbourne if they can get a stadium would be a huge success.

        Not sure about Newcastle’s numbers but they don’t release it. But southern expansion will have a huge impact on Australian and Asian football. We need it badly

      • February 19th 2018 @ 9:19am
        jeff dustby said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Nick, this comment is ten levels above your normal

    • February 19th 2018 @ 6:35am
      AGO74 said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      Wollongong, south west Sydney and ano Melbourne team but only if it had a compelling argument. If it doesn’t then give it to Canberra.

      Yes I know that’s 3 teams but punt the Phoenix. Sadly they’ve run their race.

      I’m sorry but those who keep pushing southern Sydney clearly don’t get southern Sydney, st George and Sutherland shires have a very strong competitive streak between them. St george people won’t support a team based in the shire and vice versa. The loftus stadium is very much s pipe dream at the moment.

      Wollongong is a football hotbed just as much if not more so than Newcastle with a great boutique stadium – I can imagine few better grounds to watch a game in the summertime. Given its regional status it would be a highly parochial with strong local media support like Newcastle. I reckon you may even pick up a few fans from southern Sydney as well.

      South west Sydney already has a population that exceeds the area covered by “southern Sydney” expansion and is set to double over next 20 years with young families to over – million people. Comparatively St George and Sutherland shires are fully mature markets population wise. Further such is the sprawl of south western Sydney that it is geographically distinctive in the way wsw and Sydney fc are.

      Canberra to me seems a more compelling argument than another team in Melbourne. The failure of Melbourne city to gain traction means I’d be reluctant to enter a team there unless there was a compelling reason to show how this new team would be able to do that and gain strong crowds.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 7:55am
        JANAKan said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

        Agree Wellington must go.
        But I don’t think the St George v shire rivalry will impact soccer at all. Southern expansion already asked Wellington and central coast mariners to buy out their licences. This shows how serious and advanced they are

    • February 19th 2018 @ 6:36am
      The better grobelaar said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      Hundreds of thousands watching the A league in china . The jets are Chinese owned , how are they rating in china ?

      • February 19th 2018 @ 9:24am
        Christo the Daddyo said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        And I’m sure Sydney FC is a household name in Russia, yes?

      • February 19th 2018 @ 10:42am
        R King said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        Got no idea how they rate in China, do you?

    • February 19th 2018 @ 7:31am
      Waz said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      “The FFA has promised to reveal the criterion for expansion next month” …. don’t you think that’s an odd thing for the ffa to say?

      This announcement is not new, we’ve been expecting expansion for several years, in fact they’ve already told us this date once already.

      The next announcement was meant to be the actual criteria instead, they’ve just repeated what they’ve already said and yet again stalled the announcement on criteria. It really is a comical way to run a sporting body.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 10:41am
        j,binnie said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        Waz – Without knowing what the detailed print is on both submissions does it not make sense that because of the much lauded move to Logan Council’s sporting complex and Roar’s early connection with the south western suburbs that the use of the existing QE 2 stadium should again be examined. People tell me that parking etc is a problem and yet at weekends we have BCC buses lying idle and drivers crying out for overtime. I have attended a “function” there with another 60,000 and don’t remember too much of a problem.The ground has since been re-configured to handle only 2/3 ds of that crowd.
        On the other side of the river we have reportedly 2 factions all geared up to enter the HAL ,both obviuosly confident in their aims to succeed.
        Is it not a pity that the individuals in both parties cannot get their heads togethrt and for the good of football in general ,iron out their differences in philosophy etct and by doing so form a potential “powerhouse” second team for Brisbane. We can but speculate and hop Cheers jb.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 7:45am
      Christo the Daddyo said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      “Chinese ownership means there will be hundreds of thousands more watching on TV from the most powerful country”

      LOL – please show me ONE person on the planet who follows a team because of the nationality of the owner of that team. One. That’s all I ask. Just one.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 7:49am
        chris said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:49am | ! Report

        Christo dont worry about it mate. You can watch BBL to your hearts content.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 7:56am
        JANAKan said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:56am | ! Report

        Mate you know how big Man City is in the Middle East due to their owners? City also have a huge following in Thailand due to the previous owner.

        It will help as those owners will push for their team to be on tv in Asia. You’d be amazed how highly asians regard westerners.

        • February 19th 2018 @ 9:16am
          Christo the Daddyo said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          So…millions of Newcastle Jets fans exist in Shenzhen?

        • February 19th 2018 @ 9:23am
          jeff dustby said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          They have fans in Middle East because they win. You might also note that countries in this area hate each other. 9 million people live in the UAE where they are owned and this includes a large amount of indentured labour who couldn’t care less as they live in prison tent camps

      • February 19th 2018 @ 8:56am
        Waz said | February 19th 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        Leicester City. Enough said ?

    • Roar Guru

      February 19th 2018 @ 8:19am
      Wayne said | February 19th 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      I feel that FFA will go safety first, which will likely mean another Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane team.

      Not that the Melbourne Heart did anything fancy, and were rescued by re-branding to City. Would love to see a team in Canberra (they have W and Y League teams); but don’t see FFA wanting to take the risk.

      • Roar Guru

        February 19th 2018 @ 10:13am
        Grobbelaar said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report


        It’s not just safety first, it’s part of the TV deal with Foxtel that the next two teams must come out of Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane (in order of priority).

        People really have to stop putting up silly suggestions like Tassie and Canberra – they will not be part of the next expansion 100% guaranteed.

        • February 19th 2018 @ 10:37am
          Newie said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

          Thanks for common sense. While we’re at it, a second Newcastle team! I hear Broadmeadown Magic are ready to upgrade their stadium.

          • February 19th 2018 @ 2:40pm
            Edgeworth said | February 19th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

            Edgeworth eagles are a shoe in for the A league

            • February 19th 2018 @ 4:49pm
              Newie said | February 19th 2018 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

              Alright. I WAS going to say Hamilton Olympic, my son’s old stomping ground because they have a grandstand AND espresso. But then there’s the “ethic” thing that FFA aren’t keen on.

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 2:44pm
                apaway said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

                Bring back Austral United and Adamstown Rosebuds!

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