Straight from the stands

Australian Four Four Two - - NEWS -

Ex­pan­sion is the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing the A-League and the FFA to­day. It’s cen­tral to the fu­ture of foot­ball in this coun­try – and the rep­u­ta­tion of the league can­not risk an­other mis-step like Gold Coast United. (I still main­tain North Queens­land Fury could have had a vi­able fu­ture... and can still, even if it’s not in this round of ex­pan­sion.)

As our in-depth fea­ture start­ing on page 40 shows, there is a wealth of op­tions avail­able to the FFA – some ad­mit­tedly bet­ter than oth­ers... but for ev­ery weak­ness in each ma­jor bid we pro­file, there is also a sig­nif­i­cant strength. Yet as we go to press, the buzz around town is that the two cur­rent front run­ners are a sec­ond team for Bris­bane based on the Strik­ers’ bid but play­ing out of Sun­corp Sta­dium, and the South Syd­ney side first con­sid­ered when Welling­ton Phoenix’s fu­ture was in doubt. Hear that? That’s the sound of foot­ball fans’ hearts sink­ing... Out­side of FFA HQ and the South Syd­ney bid team it­self, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to find any­one ex­cited by the idea of a new Cronulla-based fran­chise. Syd­ney FC al­ready cover the area, and if South Syd­ney want to stretch their reach down to Wol­lon­gong, the Wolves would rather have their own team in the com­pe­ti­tion, thanks very much. It would largely can­ni­balise Syd­ney FC’s ex­ist­ing fan­base rather than draw in a new au­di­ence – and it’s hard to be­lieve there are no bet­ter op­tions to tar­get within the Syd­ney area. And while the Bris­bane Strik­ers’ bid is an ex­cel­lent idea, sta­dium shar­ing with their derby ri­vals is a ter­ri­ble idea. It’s just one of the (many) lessons we learned from the Mel­bourne Heart de­ba­cle. Clubs need their own fortress, their own home, their own iden­tity - and Strik­ers al­ready have a home at Perry Park. It may not be up to A-League stan­dard yet, but they and the FFA need to fo­cus on get­ting a com­mit­ment for an upgrade from lo­cal gov­ern­ment as part of the bid. No upgrade? No A-League. Mean­while, South Mel­bourne con­tinue to be shunned by the FFA. A proud his­tory, an ex­ist­ing fan­base, a ge­o­graphic and cul­tural dif­fer­ence from the two other Mel­bourne sides AND their own sta­dium... yet the FFA ap­pear to have lit­tle in­ter­est in bring­ing them into the A-League fold. Ade­laide’s two bids also have merit, but the per­pet­ual case for Can­berra seems to be lack­ing back­ers at this cru­cial time. For me, if TV bosses de­mand an­other Syd­ney side, I’d (con­tro­ver­sially!) add one based out of Liver­pool or Bankstown, plus South Mel­bourne, and sec­ond teams in Ade­laide and Bris­bane, with an eye to Can­berra and Wol­lon­gong and then Gee­long and Fury to round it out to a 18-team league (or 20 if you also take in Tassie and Fre­man­tle). Easy!

Kevin Airs Ed­i­tor

You can fol­low me or send me a tweet on @Kev­inAirs442

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