The A-League is expanding from ten to 12 teams for the 2019-20 season and there are eight bidders looking for the licences.
The favourites are believed to be Team 11 from South-East Melbourne and the newly merged South-West Sydney/United for Macarthur bid. These two teams are ticking a lot of boxes for the FFA and for a lot of people. But there is something that is not on the needs list that should be.
Today I look at local club successes, the area’s players and area coverage.
When the Western Sydney Wanderers came into the league, the semi-professional clubs that were in the area they wanted to cover were having success in the NSW Premier League. They had premiers in the Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 2nd place in Sydney Olympic, champions Marconi Stallions, 5th place Blacktown City, 6th place APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 9th place Sydney United and 11th place Blacktown Spartans and the relegated team that year, the Paramatta Eagles.
Yeah, you read that right, the Western Sydney region had seven of the 13 teams in the NSW league. That number has now decreased to six teams but this fact has definitely contributed to their success.
Conversely, the North Queensland Fury had 3 teams out of 11 in the 2009 Queensland State League in their covered region. Gold Coast United didn’t have any which is, in my opinion, a big reason as to why the two did not have as good success at the start.
So, what do the expansion frontrunners have in this category? First, we will look at the Team 11 region which is South-East Melbourne, in the 2018 NPL Victoria season, the region Team 11 wants to cover includes 2nd place Bentleigh Greens, 5th place Pascoe Vale and 8th place Dandenong Thunder.
Three out of 14 is not too bad but it can be better. They can’t really cover other regions as they are basically not wanted or taken by Victory or City or other bids so they just have to improve teams in that area. They also have three teams from NPL2.
With South-West Sydney/United for Macarthur, their wanted region is very blocked. It is covered by the Western Sydney Wanderers and by Southern Expansion who would have clubs lined up. So the clubs in this region for the NPL are none. Yes, they don’t have an NPL club in this region. The most successful club in this region would be the Mounties Wanderers who finished 6th in the NPL 2 although they also have another 10 clubs in the area.
They are mainly a fail in this area.
West Melbourne has two, South Melbourne have themselves Southern Expansion have two and the Wollongong Wolves have themselves. This makes Southern Expansion the highest for this in NSW. Canberra and Capital Region have their NPL division, but the league is not as high quality as others.
This is where supporter cannibalisation comes in. The FFA is overly concerned that Southern Expansion will take members of Sydney FC as around 5000 of their members are from that region. But if they will take fans, then South-West Sydney will definitely steal from the Wanderers. It is the same with stealing local clubs.
Verdict for local clubs: SWS/UFM can’t steal from the Wanderers and don’t have many clubs – 3/10
Verdict for local clubs: Team 11 have a few clubs in a blocked area – 6/10
Another issue is that these clubs will have to look at players from their region for talent. In the Western Sydney Wanderers first season, they had 11 of their 24 players including Aaron Mooy, Mark Bridge and Tarek Elrich coming from Western Sydney and just remember that they won the premiership that year. I expect the new expansion clubs to need a similar amount.
With South-West Sydney, players from their region that they could realistically get could be Bernie Ibini, Abraham Majok, Jonathan Aspropotamitis and Mario Shabow. They may have to look in other regions of NSW to find their quality.
On the other hand in Team 11, I would go for players like Leigh Broxham, Kenny Athiu, Rashid Mahazi, Connor Pain, as they are from the South-East Melbourne region. So the two frontrunners definitely need to find more players but there are so many untouched regions that need discovering.
Other regions with great talent would be Wollongong or Canberra. The Wolves could get Lachlan Scott, Tomislav Arcaba, Josh Macdonald and Corey Gameiro. Canberra could pick up Marc Tokich, Steven Lustica and possibly Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Verdict for talent from the region: SWS/UFM do not have a great amount – 5/10
Verdict for talent from the region: Team 11 need a little more – 5/10
Now to look further into the area they can cover and all bids can do a little bit. The Western Pride could possibly take regional Queensland and go as far as Birdsville. South-West Sydney can’t really go anywhere. Canberra could look to Wagga Wagga.
Wollongong could go for Goulburn. Southern Expansion are limited. South Melbourne can’t really go anywhere. Team 11 can’t really go anywhere and West Melbourne could go to Ballarat.
All A-League clubs are engaged with the region that they are in which also means that they are linked to all NPL clubs in the area. The new clubs must be all networked. If they don’t get that then I don’t know how they will be able to develop youngsters.
I am not sure if any of the A-league bidders have this. One solution would be to expand the NPL before expanding the A-league, but this is just a little bit of bad stuff so I am not saying they should not expand at all.
So in conclusion, the two bidders that come in whoever they are, will have nowhere near enough space, nowhere near enough clubs and nowhere near enough players. I think that Southern Expansion should leave Wollongong and merger with South-West/Macarthur and Team 11 should merge with South Melbourne.
Broader regions mean more clubs and more clubs mean better players. It’s a tough one because these are three topics that don’t really seem to matter but should. You need to have junior clubs in your area and you can’t really do that if your region is very small.