With the A-League currently on ice, talk has turned to where the next A-League clubs should be based.
A multitude of different cities and teams have been spoken about, from former National Soccer League giants such as South Melbourne and West Adelaide to second teams in Brisbane or Perth, as well as regional centres such as Bathurst and Wollongong and even a second side in New Zealand and a South-East Asian team.
These are my opinions on four centres the A-League should consider expanding to.
It just doesn’t make sense that Australia’s capital has only one team representing it in any major Australian sporting code. This, however, could work in the favour of a Canberra team. The capital city only has a population of 455,000 people, making it a good place to establish a sporting team. The Canberra Raiders, the only competition for a would-be team, receive average attendances of just under 15,000 people, so who’s to say the sport with the highest participation rate in the country wouldn’t be able to garner similar or even higher attendances?
Generally, the team who wins the NPL is a good guide as to which pre-existing side from outside the A-League should join the competition. The same applies to the Wollongong Wolves, who won the 2019 National Premier Leagues title. The Wolves previously played in the NSL, where they scooped up back-to-back NSL championships, as well as the OFC Champions League in 2001. Many pundits and fans have argued for their return to professional football, where they have been missing from since 2004. When talking about ex-NSL sides that should join the A-League, it is hard to look past Wollongong.
More successful than the Wolves is South Melbourne. The club with Greek origins is still the joint record-holder with A-League powerhouses Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory for most national championships, with four. With a loyal and passionate fan-base, South would also bring a new dynamic to an A-League active support scene, which is quickly growing stale. However, a negative of bringing back the side is that it would mean there are four teams situated in Melbourne, which could make the league disproportionate and unbalanced towards the Victorian sides.
The final ideal option for A-League expansion is the addition of a second team in Brisbane. Back in the NSL days, the Brisbane Strikers once saw 40,000 fans cheer them on in a grand final. In recent times, Brisbane Roar enjoyed a very fruitful spell at the start of the 2010s and consistently made finals until 2018. Robbie Fowler seems to have rekindled dying interest in the team, with active support numbers rising. These factors could make a Brisbane derby one of the most interesting and captivating rivalries in Australian sport.
All four of these centres put up very good reasons as to why they should join the A-League in the future. However, if only two of these teams had to be picked for expansion, I would go with Canberra and a second Brisbane side, as they could make football the number one sport in their respective cities, with Wollongong and South Melbourne returning to the top echelon of Australian football later.