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The FFA have made the right decisions on A-League expansion

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Expert
13th December, 2018
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When it rains it pours in the A-League, which is probably why Keisuke Honda’s first visit to Brisbane threatens to be blown away by a tropical cyclone.

Wait, what’s that? No one really cares about anything happening on the pitch?

One of the stranger things about the A-League is that fans regularly get online to claim they’re only interested in talking about the football – and then steadfastly ignore practically every single outlet which attempts to do so.

But is it only supporters who have taken their eyes off the ball? Hardly.

Football Federation Australia has just spent three years wasting everyone’s time, delaying and denying and generally doing very little to benefit the game.

However – and this is a big one – they’ve more or less got their expansion plans right, with at least one obvious exception.

There’s not a lot more to say beyond what my colleague and The Roar editor Daniel Jeffrey wrote in his excellent summary yesterday – although that’s never stopped me from trying before.

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Dan’s right when he says that Canberra is crying out for a team, and a Brisbane derby is something that would certainly benefit the competition.

But both of those are things that can happen further down the line, and anyone demanding a quick fix would be well advised to remember that Wellington Phoenix’s current four-year licence expires at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

Given the Phoenix’s current metrics – or lack thereof – why would the FFA renew that licence? Watch this space for a Canberra bid to become the next expansion side, at Wellington’s expense.

Then there’s the question of why the Western Melbourne Group were preferred over Team 11 from Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs.

Again, as Dan wrote yesterday, it’s a simple case of preferring private financing of a stadium build over public funding that was far from guaranteed.

When the A-League is crying out for purpose-built football facilities, it seems strange to so vociferously criticise the one bid that promised to build one.

David Gallop speaks during an FFA press conference.

The FFA has approved two A-League expansion bids. (Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

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As for South Melbourne, they should be the flagship club of a newly created second division.

When might that happen? Well the Association of Australian Football Clubs, representing clubs in the National Premier Leagues, say they’re aiming to get a second division up and running by 2020.

But one thing that’s unlikely to win the four-time National Soccer League champions too many sympathisers is the sort of unhinged conspiracy theories – and outright abuse – some South Melbourne supporters unleashed across social media yesterday.

At the end of the day, the FFA’s expansion decision was about as logical as it gets.

About the only thing that didn’t make sense was delaying the entry of Macarthur-South West Sydney for a year, supposedly because the Western Sydney Wanderers wanted to bed down in their brand new Western Sydney Stadium.

Surely the two clubs – who aren’t located particularly close to each other as the crow flies – should have just slugged it out on the pitch for regional supremacy?

Some fans have argued that the addition of new clubs in Melbourne and Sydney means there’ll now be too many derbies in the A-League, as if there aren’t already currently six London clubs in the English Premier League alone.

Sydney FC fans

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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But the reality is that yesterday’s announcement should be just the start of expanding the A-League – not the end of it.

Adding a new team in each of the next two seasons is a case of some short-term pain for long-term gain.

Hopefully those bids that didn’t make the cut aren’t lost to the game forever, particularly in the case of cities not currently served by the A-League such as Canberra.

And with any luck we can soon get back to concentrating on some football.

FFA have been so preoccupied with so many other issues that once again the day-to-day running of the A-League seems like an afterthought.