The A-League expansion process started with 15 bids and finished with two new clubs.
So what of the rest?
On the one-year anniversary of Football Federation Australia’s highly-anticipated expansion D-Day, David Davutovic spoke to the overlooked 11 (Geoff Lord’s Belgravia Leisure bid fell over while South-West Sydney and Macarthur merged into the winning bid, that will join the A-League in 2020 after Western United started this season).
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Western United have already made a big impression in the A-League.Source:Getty Images
Many remain committed to joining the top tier(s) of Australian football but are still awaiting answers from A-League and FFA chiefs.
Covering Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA, SA, ACT and Tasmania, the bid chiefs outlined their views on A-League expansion and the mooted National Second Division.
1 BRISBANE CITY
Brisbane City are ready to relaunch after pulling out of the expansion race three months before the decision was made (late August).
“As the game grows, Brisbane City remains very committed to exploring A-League and National Second Division opportunities,” president Robert Rossi said.
“As stated when we removed ourselves from the expansion process, we have future aspirations to join elite level of football in this country. The key thing with all the uncertainty in the game the last few years, now there is some clear direction that seems to be unfolding.
“With the independent A-League (imminent), there will be an understanding of clubs’ responsibilities and governance structure.”
Brisbane City have placed a huge emphasis on their junior set up.Source:News Corp Australia
Rossi said Queensland needed a second team and a new stadium, with a redeveloped Ballymore and a new boutique stadium among the options that have been discussed.
“With Brisbane going for Olympics in 2032 and the 2023 Women’s World Cup bid, we need another 15-20,000 capacity boutique stadium in the heart of Brisbane,” he said.
“There’s also a strong need to build that to ensure future success of A-League.
“Our current 4000-capacity Spencer Park home, which has 20 corporate boxes, can expand and is ideal for a second division.
“I can’t comment on other clubs or their positions, but we believe there should be a second club in Brisbane or southeast Queensland. It’s probably the strongest underperforming football market in the country and a local derby would create great opportunities to grow the game.”
Canberra bid chiefs revealed that their mystery overseas backers remain committed despite a lack of clarity around future expansion.
“We are still very much alive and pressing ahead and we want to be the next team in the A-League. We’ve probably done more work since the expansion decision was made than previously,” Canberra bid leader Mike Caggiano said.
“We’ve got international football investors that would bring next level expertise to the A-League. They see Australia as a stepping stone into Asia. We haven’t lacked money.”
Caggiano said that Canberrans were itching for an A-League team.
“We have 9000 people registered as members, they’re highly engaged,” he said.
Canberra United’s W-League team has been a success on and off the pitch.Source:Getty Images
“We’ve got one of the lowest unemployment rates and highest disposable incomes in Australia, and no pro sports at that time of year and we have a stadium convenient for football.
“Discussions are advanced for an iconic new 20-30,000-seat stadium, with Parliament House in the background, modelled on Bankwest Stadium – it’ll definitely happen. It will be a whole precinct with hotels, shops and a casino. One of the triggers (for it to be built) is for a summertime tenant.
“It’s very easy to be compared to (defunct NSL club) Canberra Cosmos, but they’re different times now.”
On a second division, Caggiano said: “It’s hard to say. What are the arrangements? Every time we ask for financials or information, no one can give me anything.”
3 FREMANTLE CITY
The man leading WA’s lone A-League expansion bid revealed that he is starting a new consortium, albeit with the same aim – getting Fremantle City into the A-League.
“The outcome of the last expansion bid certainly produced some revelations – a $20 million license fee (paid by Western United) was well outside of anyone’s expectations to say the least. That being said, the club in its own right won’t pursue any further bids, or any interest in a second division participation,” Fremantle City’s Maurice Oteri said.
“Instead I stepped down as president at the last AGM on November 25 after five years, and will pull together a new consortium made up of consultants who worked on one of the last successful bids, with the view of being part of a Fremantle Oval redevelopment, as the successful bids were underpinned by a real estate deal that made the $20 million license fee paid pale into insignificance compared to the upside of the development profits.
Optus Stadium could be a potential WA derby home.Source:Getty Images
“It will be another two years before the next one or two teams are selected based on some private discussions I’ve had, and I’m sure the A-League owners will do a great job and make their announcements in due course.
“All I can do is make sure we have the best possible chance of being selected next time around, as Fremantle City FC.”
4 GOLD COAST UNITED
Gold Coast United are the only former A-League club seeking to return to the national stage.
“There’s still ambition to rejoin the A-League, it’s still on the agenda. We’re still hopeful but the focus is also about cementing ourselves as a quality NPL club,” media and communications manager Mark Guy said.
“Gold Coast has been a bit of a graveyard in a lot of codes, even the Titans and other codes have struggled. It’s a difficult place to get support but it’s how it’s delivered.
“That’s why we’re focused on building relationships with community clubs. We’re trying to build the base so if and when the chance comes (we’re ready). FFA’s rolled out these tiered academies and we’re looking at what we need to be classified as a tier two academy.
“There’s some discussion around the B-League and the W-League and we’re exploring any opportunities that may arise again. We don’t know what’s going to happen with further expansion and where the B-League is at.”
After a rollercoaster three-year A-League tenure (2009-12) under erratic owner Clive Palmer, United acknowledge there is now stiffer local competition, including next door.
“There’s plenty of clubs up here putting their hands up for expansion – Brisbane City, Brisbane Strikers, Ipswich, even Gold Coast Knights have been making a few noises about A-League. They own their own ground, which helps,” he said.
Gold Coast United are currently playing in the NPL Queensland competition.Source:Supplied
5 SOUTH MELBOURNE
Four-time National Soccer League champions South Melbourne have declared they remain eager to return to the national stage.
“South Melbourne stands ready to participate at the top level of football in Australia. It has continued to invest in improving football and has now signed senior Spaniard coach (Esteban Quintas) for the senior team,” South Melbourne’s bid chief Bill Papastergiadis said.
“There has been additional investment and continuity at corporate level. Pelligra (owned by property developer Ross Pelligra) was one of the main backers of the A-League bid, and is now one of the main sponsors. Additionally the club is launching a new South In Business program that will harness the depth of its corporate partners.
“South is one of the few clubs in Australia that has sole access as a football club to a major boutique stadium (Lakeside Stadium).
South Melbourne A-League bid chief Bill Papastergiadis at Lakeside Stadium.Source:News Corp Australia
“With one of the largest social media footprints, its ready-made supporter base and its FIFA award as Oceania Football Club of the Century, the club remains committed to a pathway to top tier football in the Australia. It is open to immediate dialogue with the A-League Clubs and the FFA on this.”
South Melbourne are open to becoming a foundation club in the mooted second division.
“The momentum for real clubs with real history and passion to re-enter the A-League is building. We are big supporters of pathway football hence we welcome the B-League or Championship,” he said.
6 SOUTH-EAST VICTORIA
The southeast Victorian bid, which operated under the working title ‘Team 11’, isn’t going away quietly despite missing out.
“The A-League has to have a team based in South East Melbourne,” bid spokesman Matt Windley said.
“1.75 million people in a catchment that starts about 25 kilometres away from the (Melbourne) CBD, no competition from the other football codes, big business community and thriving football community that actually wants a team.”
Windley says planning for a boutique stadium next to Dandenong Train Station has continued despite the bid missing out last year, while work at the Casey Fields football precinct, which was the mooted training base, has continued.
City of Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti with, former Socceroo Vince Grella.Source:News Corp Australia
Asked about the prospect of funding for the ground – a sticking point in 2018 – Windley said: “We wouldn’t have kept going if we knew it was no chance.”
On the second division, he added: “We’re interested in anything that sees this region provided the professional men’s and women’s football club it deserves.”
7 SOUTHERN EXPANSION
Southern Expansion is the only bid that lasted the distance but has since pulled out.
“It was a farcical tender process. A process in name only,” ex-bid chairman Morris Iemma said.
“The backers (Chinese billionaire Shen Yuxing, the founder and chairman of property developer Jianyan International Group and ASX-listed Boyuan Holdings) are so disillusioned with the politics of Australian football there’s no appetite to invest in the sport here. They are looking globally and at other sports.
“The owners came out (in early 2017) long before the tender was announced and were encouraged to formulate a bid in the southern area. They feel they were misled, the process left them bemused.
“There was no strategy from FFA, they just kept moving the goalposts in the EOI (Expression of Interest) stage
“The goalposts kept changing. In the end it was purely about politics, it wasn’t even about money, (Macarthur) offered less.
“The backers packed up their tent and went on to successfully invest in other ventures – securities, properties, mining, retirement living. Money that would’ve gone into football and pathways.
“We had a great vision thanks to Craig Foster that’s bitten the dust. Amy Duggan, who’s since joined the FFA board, was going to be one of our board members.
Morris Iemma and Craig Foster were behind Southern Expansion’s bid.Source:Supplied
“There was $20 million cash in bank, a portion of that was for a women’s license. The women’s game stagnated since then. FFA’s outright refusal to consider additional W-League licenses was staggering.”
Tasmania still wants an A-League license, while Federal MP Andrew Wilkie slammed Australian football for ignoring the region.
Backed by former Melbourne Victory board members Harry Stamoulis and Robert Belteky, Tasmania’s bid was gathering steam before they were axed early in the process.
“We are still hopeful a future license is given to the consortium for an A-League team in Tasmania,” a Tasmanian bid spokesperson said.
While the football bid has ground to a halt amid expansion uncertainty, the AFL has commenced formal talks about expanding into Tasmania.
“It’s the biggest participation sport in Tasmania, but bizarrely, off the radar nationally in so many ways, it just beggars belief we don’t have an A-League team,” Federal MP Andrew Wilkie told Fox Sports.
“It is just mind-boggling that when the A-League expanded by two teams recently, they just squeezed another team into Sydney and Melbourne, without realising they had a chance to make football Australia’s first genuinely national code – we just need a team in Hobart.
Robert Belteky is pushing for an A-League soccer team in Tasmania.Source:News Corp Australia
“Football would expand its market, expand its TV reach, it would trump AFL – everyone down here is grumpy that there’s not a genuine Tasmanian AFL team. Every way you look at it, it was a slam dunk.
“But the geniuses who make these decisions thought otherwise. I don’t know what was going on and what they were smoking, but it was a really dumb decision.
Asked what must happen for Tasmania to get an A-League team, Wilkie said: “FFA needs to have an outbreak of common sense and realise you can’t keep cannibalising mainland capital cities. You grow the game by going to new areas and establishing teams in new regions and have the pride of being Australia’s first truly national sport. You grow the supporter base, the TV audience and the TV revenue.
“I’m sure it will happen, it should’ve happened in the last little while. Common sense breaks out, maybe it will take a few personnel changes at FFA and elsewhere, but it’ll happen eventually and football will be all the better for it.”
9 WEST ADELAIDE
Former NSL club West Adelaide declared that they were focusing their energies on the second division.
“The A-League has turned its back on traditional clubs with the franchise model, so we don’t feel engaged. Our preference is now the second division, which we’re fully supportive of,” West Adelaide chairman Alex Alexandrou said.
Ex Socceroo Stan Lazaridis playing for then NSL club West Adelaide in 1995.Source:News Corp Australia
“Theoretically we want to play in highest league. But we feel the need for a second division and down the track promotion-relegation.
“When they first (proposed) expansion, clubs like us put our hat in ring, perhaps it was a bit unrealistic.
“But clubs like ours are being suppressed. I don’t feel we’re encouraged to grow.”
While West Adelaide was relegated from the top NPL tier, Alexandrou said :
“We’re in the midst of building a super stadium in Kilburn, which will be a perfect second division stadium – the main pitch will be synthetic with 2500 seats. It’ll be finished by mid 2020.”
10 WESTERN PRIDE (IPSWICH)
Western Pride believe plans for a revamped stadium leave them well placed to be the next Queensland club to join the A-League.
“The main thing that stopped us from potentially being successful is that we didn’t have a commitment on a stadium. We now have that, which puts us in a good position,” Western Pride general manager Pat Boyle said.
“We’re working on feasibilities and business plans on building a stadium in North Ipswich, presently where QRL team Ipswich Jets play. There is a masterplan for a full 20,000-seat stadium, in a staged approach.
Western Pride has lured former A-League coach Mike Mulvey to the Ipswich club.Source:News Regional Media
“Our main focus is on the A-League and W-League. We got cut when there were eight teams left (along with Wollongong). We were informed by representatives from FFA and Deloitte that it was unlikely there would be more Victorian and NSW teams (in the next phase of expansion), so we’ve been encouraged to continue.”
Boyle said the NPL club remained sceptical about the mooted second division.
“It’s been business as usual. We were provided feedback on key areas we had to fulfil and we’ve gone about our business quietly in the background,” he said.
“In my eyes, there’s still a long way to go with the second division. I’ve asked certain questions regarding its financial sustainability and I haven’t been given answers to those questions.”
11 WOLLONGONG WOLVES
Former NSL champions Wollongong Wolves believe they’re building a compelling case for re-inclusion on to the national stage.
Having claimed the NSW and Australian NPL titles under the tutelage of ex-Socceroo Luke Wilkshire, the Wolves are linked with a local university that is in bed with a Premier League club.
“We’re still plugging away. We regrouped and focused on the NPL and we’ve forged a good relationship with the University of Wollongong, who have Tottenham involved,” Wolves director Chris Sheppard said.
Wolves’ Takeru Okada with the trophy after victory in last year’s NRL grand final.Source:Getty Images
“We’re state and national champions and the Uni has an interest and focus on football. It doesn’t give us the right to be in the A-League, but it shows there’s a desire in the region to be a part of it.
“It’s indicative of how strong football is in the region. With our history, we have a brand. During the expansion process, we had people from Perth emailing us hoping we get in as the wanted to avenge that grand final defeat (in 2000).
“We play out of WIN Stadium, an ideal football stadium.
“In principle yes we are interested in the second division, but there is no meat on the bone. We want the club to grow and move forward, any improvement we’re in principle for it.”
Sheppard said the expansion process knocked the stuffing out of the club for a period.
“The last process could’ve been run differently. A lot of bids went through a lot of time and money,” he said.
“A lot of things in that process weren’t clear until you reached certain stages. Would’ve been better served having that information from the beginning.
“We got to pointy end of process and then realised they wanted capital city teams. If that was the case, they should’ve been made that clear from the outset.
“(In future) we would like to see New Leagues Working Group (NLWG) target certain areas. Rather than put out to auction type process, which was the last process we went through.”
Originally published asRejection hasn’t put A-League hopefuls off dream
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