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Like most A-League fans, I am eagerly anticipating expansion and what it will bring to the domestic game. Will the league look to new horizons and create clubs from scratch or will they re-write history and bring in clubs from the NSL’s heydays?
In October we will all know.
One of the biggest obstacles is diluting the existing fan-bases of current clubs. While most new bidders say they won’t do this, the reality is they will, with how much so the key question.
I’m a Wanderers fan with Melbourne City being my second team, however, with potential new teams in Campbelltown (where I grew up) and Geelong (where I lived for five years) provokes thought.
If the ‘United for Macarthur’ Campbelltown bid gets up, would I ditch the Wanderers? What about Geelong? A region I spent five of the best years of my life of which the soccer community was a major part.
No, I could never ditch my Wanderers! Heck, I have been a member since inception, even though I lived interstate, and have been to every away ground the Wanderers have just to show my commitment. I even planned a trip to Japan and South Korea in 2014 based around the successful ACL campaign.
Melbourne City will always be owned by Manchester City – my Premier League team – so that won’t change either. I guess Campbelltown or Geelong will be teams I simply have a passing interest in and a bit of a soft spot.
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What about other fans? Many Geelong football fans follow Victory or City, will they abandon them if a home team comes in? In a recent survey conducted by The Wanderful Game (60 votes), 34 per cent of fans said they will stick to City or Victory, whereas the majority said they would jump ship and support their local club. When the time comes though, will that really be possible? Emotions are a powerful thing.
What about Southern Expansion? Sydney FC claim 30-35 per cent of their members are based in southern Sydney. Southern Expansion seem like a shoe-in for one of the two available licences, the club has an impressive bid with a huge catchment area, and plenty of financial clout. Sydney FC struggle for loyal fans at the best of times, so it will be interesting to see how many will leave and join Southern if they come into the competition.
‘Team 11’ or South East Melbourne will be based in a region of 1.2 million people, with dozens of local clubs in their catchment area. Importantly, they plan to play in Dandenong, rather than AAMI Park, indicating a bit of differentiation to City and Victory. They will have geographic identity, something Melbourne City have lacked since they came into the competition in 2010.
The question is how many fans in the Dandenong-Casey region already follow Victory or City? City for sure cannot afford to lose fans. Will Team 11 have more members than City when they come in? It’s a high chance.
As for South Melbourne, they have a storied history. The Oceania team of the 20th Century have a solid financial base, a home ground, and a great football pedigree. The problem is they represent a bygone era, something the A-League was supposed to move Australian football away from.
However their case is compelling. The club have a strong youth and female program, two vital criterion for obtaining a licence. But a large number of South Melbourne people are Victory fans, so is it a good move to take members away from one of the most powerful clubs?
No doubt South will create a strong rivalry with Victory right away, even more significant than the Victory-City derby. The confusion among these Victory-South fans must be mind boggling, considering they are Victorian and struggle in that capacity anyway.
It is both exciting and confusing, but ultimately our beautiful game will benefit.