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A League expansion is finally here

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Roar Guru
9th December, 2018
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This time next week we will know which two A-League expansion bids have been successful. Don’t be surprised if a third one is kept in storage in case Wellington lose their licence.

Word is that one of the bids will definitely be from Melbourne. Of the Melbourne batch, South East Melbourne are favoured even though the major stumbling block of funding for their stadium – around $150 million of taxpayers funds – is yet to be resolved.

Western Melbourne insist they have the capital ready to go to build their stadium, a major strength of their bid, but the region’s population is dwarfed by the South East Melbourne bid, who have 1.2 million residents to tap into. Western Melbourne also isn’t too far removed from the CBD, meaning the team would be hard-pressed to capture a market that Victory and City haven’t already investigated. Dandenong and Casey are distinct geographically and in terms of infrastructure from central Melbourne, and having a point of difference that is important to FFA.

South Melbourne have plenty of history, but nostalgia will neither pay the bills nor bring in huge revenue going forward. The Lakesiders have their own stadium ready to go on a long-term lease that is reasonable and affordable. However, the new expansion is more than just about a club breaking even on their own; it is about enhancing the league as a whole.

South have a relatively small market to tap into, and once the novelty wears off, it is unlikely they will really capture too many fans who are disillusioned with the A-League. By the way, their stadium isn’t a great place to watch football; it is an old AFL ground with an athletic track around it.

The second A-League spot is where things get interesting. Canberra claim to be ready and raring to go. Their bid has impressed many, mainly because people wrote them off. The sticking point with Canberra is whether they will have a big enough market to attract huge crowds or TV audiences. Will Canberra have a genuine rivalry with anyone?

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The link with Wollongong actually hinders their bid in that Wollongong and Canberra linking makes as much sense as Sydney FC and Central Coast merging. It signifies a touch of desperation to lay claim to a bigger market. In any event, a link with Wollongong will merely be a stop-gap measure for the South Coast, who have every intention of joining the A-League at some point in the future.

The Southern Expansion and Macarthur South West battle for Sydney’s A-League spot has been fascinating. Southern have well and truly lost the PR battle, with the bid getting more criticism than praise from the general public. However, there is little doubt this bid has the most amount of money to throw around, with rich Chinese group JiaYuan backing them.

What matters is the financial position of each bid going forward. Once licences are handed out no-one will care about what happened in the media in the lead-up. They have access to the biggest local association in the country, with Sutherland on its own having more footballers – around 20,000 – than any other association in Australia. Chuck in the huge St George Association and this bid is strong. Southern Expansion don’t really need Wollongong, but some from the South Coast are getting on board.

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Macarthur South West are in one of the fastest-growing areas of Australia in terms of population. However, the Western Sydney Wanderers brand is strong in all of the areas captured by Macarthur South West. Many Wanderers fans come from Campbelltown, Liverpool and Fairfield, which are the core areas for Macarthur South West.

A crowd of only 6,000 turned up when Usain Bolt went to Campbelltown Stadium, which was poor considering it was a dress rehearsal for having an A-League team. A big selling point for this bid though is the fact that a Western Sydney derby would be sensational for the league and could be one of the marquee fixtures in the calendar.

So next Wednesday has been marked as the big day. It’s been far too long to wait for two new teams. Exciting times are ahead.