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Opinion

Where should the A-Leagues expand to next?

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Roar Guru
3rd January, 2022
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Now that the ink is drying on a $140-million equity deal for the A-Leagues with American private equity firm Silver Lake, focus has turned on how to spend the money.

The A-Leagues (governed by the APL) will only get $134 million, with FA set to receive a $6 million (five per cent) share as part of the negotiated independence deal brokered last year.

The APL will target marquee players, a stronger digital strategy, community programs and youth football as part of their investment program.

Expansion is also considered another blue chip investment. The APL have already committed to growing the A-League Women’s competition with Western United and Central Coast coming in for 2022-23, following Wellington Phoenix’s admission this season.

Macarthur FC have also indicated they will have a women’s team by 2023-24. This will take the A-League Women’s competition to 13 teams, and for the first time, there may be more women’s teams than mens.

However, there is likely to be expansion on the men’s front too, and some interesting alternatives have been thrown up.

A Canberra team is a no-brainer and is likely to be the next cab off the rank. However, beyond a team in the nation’s capital, there is some serious thought to going beyond Australia to expand our premier competition.

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Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has made it no secret of his desire to move into Asia. He has privately indicated Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) as immediate opportunities for expansion.

Teams in Asia raise the potential for a bigger TV rights deal considering the population on that continent, however, whether clubs there would really whet the appetite of Australian fans is hard to say.

There are also calls for another New Zealand team based in Auckland to rival the Wellington Phoenix. The Auckland Football Kingz and New Zealand Knights were once part of the NSL and A-League. However, both teams folded and there has been no presence in Auckland for the A-League since 2007.

With New Zealand now likely to feature in every World Cup once it expands to 48 teams in 2026, there will be significantly more money available to New Zealand football. This could mean more investment into any new club in New Zealand.

Reno Piscopo of the Phoenix runs with the ball

Do we need another team in NZ? (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Auckland City are a powerhouse in the existing New Zealand Football Championship. Since being formed in 2004, they have won eight New Zealand Championships and nine Oceania Football Confederation titles. They have appeared at the FIFA Club World Cup nine times, coming third in 2014 in Morocco.

Staying in Australia, a second Brisbane team is now a red hot chance of coming in, especially with the Redcliffe Dolphins now becoming an NRL expansion club and the Olympics coming to Brisbane in 2032.

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While rugby league is a rival code, with co-operation, there is no reason why a new A-League club can’t base themselves in Redcliffe permanently. The Brisbane Roar are there now, albeit temporarily.

The Dolphins’ have 11-hectares which sits on the Redcliffe peninsula jutting into Moreton Bay, and are about 50 minutes north of Brisbane.

The Dolphins have a 11,500 capacity Stadium which the Roar currently use. A second Brisbane team would likely shift the Roar back down south, creating a genuine geographical divide and rivalry.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Another option is a team based in Ipswich, a region seeking funding for a 20,500 capacity stadium which is tied to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games infrastructure project.

The potential stadium was dealt a huge blow last year when the Brisbane Jets missed out to the Dolphins on joining the NRL, however, a national sports team in the booming western corridor growth area has potential. The Jets still have hope of coming into the NRL going forward.

The Ipswich CBD is receiving a $150 million facelift, which on top of $5 billion worth of transport and service infrastructure upgrades for the Brisbane western corridor region, means any new A-League club will be part of a thriving landscape.

Other options are a second team in Perth and a new club in Hobart, while Townsville and Gold Coast are also considered as potential spots for the A-Leagues to revisit.

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There are rumours two NPL clubs in Perth are joining forces to put a bid in for a new Perth based A-League club. The Glory have indicated in the past they are ok with a rival, something that may breathe life into West Australian football.

Queensland NPL clubs Gold Coast United and Gold Coast Knights have apparently had discussions proposing a joint bid going forward for a new A-League licence.

The Wollongong Wolves have made noises about joining the A-Leagues but have kept their cards relatively close to their chest. The Wolves are perhaps not ready to join the A-League with corporate support hard to come by, and dramas with local governing body Football South Coast likely to make it challenging for a bid in the region to have trust among the football community.

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Many feel a National Second Division (NSD) is a better option ahead of A-League expansion, however this is the domain of the FA, and not the APL. There is of course a link, with any future promotion and relegation requiring FA and the APL to work hand-in-hand.

A report commissioned by the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) last year estimated the cost for a club to compete in a second tier competition would be $2.5 million per annum. This figure is considered unrealistic, with the PFA (players union) believing it would cost closer to $5.4 million, in a ‘White Paper’ released in June 2019.

A number of potential NSD clubs have indicated the PFA figure is unattainable. With the NSD now proposed to start next year, surprisingly a number of potential clubs claim to still be in the dark as to how a second tier will look and the cost of being involved.

This is staggering considering the proposed competition was pencilled in last July for January to May this year, but there has been no word from the AAFC other than contending a ‘final report’ will be sent to FA later this month.

Having a $140 million to play with is a lot of money, but expansion surely is the best bet.

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