As I said in my last post about football (check it out here), I mentioned the following:

I do need to make one final note – the FFA could use this competition to test future expansion markets. For example, if Canberra City FC or South Hobart was regularly in the final 16 and attracting crowds in excess of 7500 people to their games, this could be used as an argument in favour of an A-League team in that region for the future.

I believe it is extremely important that the FFA and the Hyundai A-League take the role of expansion very seriously. Some have questioned the decisions behind Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury… well, many have questioned those decisions, but this is not the place for that.

We now have the Western Sydney Wanderers, or to use their official name, the National Roads and Motor Association Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers – naming rights are not up for debate here, they are what they are. The important part is that we now have a team in the western suburbs of Sydney, with a home ground, fans, etc.

The question now is where should the next Hyundai A-League team come from. It is my belief that the teams should come from the following areas in this order:

  1. Canberra
  2. Wollongong
  3. Geelong
  4. Tasmania (probably Hobart)
  5. Gold Coast

Other potential expansions areas would include additional teams in Perth and Adelaide, as well as into smaller areas like Darwin, the Sunshine Coast, Ballarat, Bendigo, South West WA, etc. I’m going to concentrate on the areas I’ve listed above.

Canberra

Canberra is ripe for a team. It has a strong W-League team, and it certainly seems like it has demand from the local populace. It could also attract fans from nearby urban centres in Queanbeyan and Goulburn as their local team. It has a population base that would support a local team, as well as a substantial population in the various embassies and consulates that would support multi-cultural community events. They have a stadium ready for us, a vibrant league and a youth set up in the Australian Institute of Sport ready to go.

HOWEVER, one thing that Canberra does lack is corporate support. There are no substantial businesses that are capable of coughing up large sums of money. This is reflected in the bizarre collection of sponsors currently existing in professional sport in the ACT – Huawei (the company behind HTC and currently trying to get a piece of Federal ICT action) and the University of Canberra (generally regarded by many Canberreans as nowhere near as good as ANU). Clubs require this corporate support for vital funds – the only huge employer in Canberra is the government, and there would be an enormous political uproar if one of the government departments was revealed to be spending taxpayer funds on the club.

Ultimately, a large company who wants to work with local AND federal government in Australia will need to sponsor the club, as well as provide a serious presence in Canberra, for the club to succeed.

Wollongong/South Coast

Wollongong is home to a vibrant league in its own right, a former NSL team and a number of current and former Socceroos played their junior football in the area. They currently play in the New South Wales Premier League under the moniker of South Coast Wolves. South Coast Wolves was the bid name for an expansion several years ago.

There is certainly substantial industry support in the area to support a team, not just from Wollongong, but also from the Illawarra as a whole. They have a 20,000 seat stadium in WIN Stadium (which would need a bit of work to be up to scratch.

So why not expand there now? The local community need to get behind the current South Coast Wolves and look after them. It’s my belief that the support for this club, in conjunction with a solid bid that looks at marketing to the entire south coast, from Waterfall in the north down to Nowra in the south, would set up a solid population base to work with. The only other professional team in the area are St George Illawarra, who play games in multiple stadiums, so the area is ripe for picking.

Again, local industry will have to get behind the club for it to happen.

Geelong

Geelong is a substantial population area in Victoria, of a similar size and socio-economic make up to Newcastle. It has some support from the local sporting and political community.

It has several problems though

  1. No ground – Skilled Stadium is the wrong shape so a new one would have to be constructed
  2. Struggling infrastructural support – the way that the local industry is going, the major employer is already committed to the Geelong Cats and no guarantee of their continued existence within Geelong (or even Australia)
  3. Local support – mostly claimed, lacking in substance

Essentially, we are a long way away from having to fly into Avalon or taking the train down from Southern Cross station.

Tasmania

Tasmania have been the most vocal of the unsuccessful bids and played the introduction of the Western Sydney Wanderers very well – happy for an extra team, they’re going to keep up with the work they are doing. It would be one of two professional sporting teams in Tasmania since the Hobart Devils in the NBL – joining the Hobart Hurricanes/Tasmania in cricket.

It has a solid population but the main problem is the intransigence of the local population. They appear to be very wedded to their local town. The reports done into the feasibility into Tasmania United (the proposed name) show that people from Hobart would not travel to Launceston to games, and people from Launceston would not travel to Hobart for games. This is a major problem for the team, as both population bases are required for support. A two stadium solution has been mooted but I feel that it would be hard to form a connection in each community with only 6-7 games a year.

While Football Federation Tasmania is doing the right thing by creating the T-League, it would help if the lower divisions formed underneath it as well. The support of Melbourne Victory for the league is also positive, but I believe that it will be a long time before Tasmania have a presence in the A-League.

Gold Coast

Some will be amazed that I am putting Gold Coast in here.

The essential problem with the Gold Coast is that it is an incredibly spread out area over two states (Cooloongatta Airport actually straddles the Queensland/New South Wales border) that has a substantial population but struggles on a number of fronts.

The urban sprawl that edges into Brisbane and a long way south means that there is a large population to grab (before the club heads out west) but the connection to the local community is essential. This is well noted as one of the failings of Gold Coast United.

One of the biggest problems is the location of the stadium – it is so far away from the main population area AND from the main transport links, it is a true challenge to get out there. For the casual fan, it is (from all reports) 45 minutes out of town on public transport and not well known by local taxi drivers.

Obviously the ability to build a new stadium is hindered by the fact that there are no substantive greenfields sites to work with. This creates enormous problems for them.

In conclusion

Canberra and Wollongong should be the next clubs in line for an A-League franchise. If Tasmania can get its population based issues sorted out, I would anticipate them to leap ahead of Geelong. Gold Coast remain 5th.

I’d like to know what you think, so leave a comment.

Thanks

Chris

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