Expansion of the A-League

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The expansion of the A-League has occurred several times since the league began play in 2005. The A-League was established as the top soccer division in the Australian league system, and the only professional and national league of the sport. It was founded in 2004 with eight teams and has since expanded into new markets across Australia and New Zealand. The league is currently contested by 10 teams, although a total of 13 have competed at some stage in its short history.

Plans on an expansion of at least 2 teams for the 2018–19 A-League season are expected to be released in February 2017.[1]


Initial teams[edit]

Progression of A-League Expansion
Season # Teams
2005–06 8
2006–07
2007–08
2008–09
2009–10 10
2010–11 11
2011–12 10
2012–13
2013–14
2014–15
2015–16
2016–17
2017–18

When founding the A-League in early 2004, Football Federation Australia (FFA) was very cautious in selecting who was to be part of the new league. FFA decided upon a 'one city - one team' principle in order to protect the initial development of the foundation clubs.

The initial eight teams selected were Adelaide United FC, Brisbane Roar FC (formerly Queensland Roar FC), Central Coast Mariners FC, Melbourne Victory FC, Newcastle Jets FC, Perth Glory FC, Sydney FC and New Zealand Knights FC. Of these 8 clubs, only the New Zealand Knights have failed to survive, folding after the 2006–07 season.

Expansion[edit]

Before the introduction of the A-League, FFA chairman Frank Lowy speculated that he hoped to expand the league into other cities, mentioning Canberra, Hobart, Wollongong, Coffs Harbour, Geelong, Bendigo, Cairns, Ballarat, Albury–Wodonga, Launceston, Christchurch, Auckland, Sunshine Coast and possibly Darwin.[2][3][4][5]

Wellington (2007)[edit]

In late October 2006, as a result of low crowd attendance at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland and continual poor on-field performances, rumours began to circulate that the FFA was considering revoking the A-League licence of the only New Zealand based A-League club, New Zealand Knights FC, and granting it to a new club that would enter the competition in the 2007–08 season.[6] The FFA had continued to express angst at low attendance numbers, poor on-field performance and the lack of domestically developed players. On 14 December, the FFA announced that it had revoked the competition licence held by the Knights' owners,[7] and on 19 March 2007 after several delays,[8] Wellington Phoenix was selected as the successor to the New Zealand Knights.[9]

Gold Coast and Townsville (2009)[edit]

In 2009, the league expanded in Gold Coast with the new club Gold Coast United FC and in Townsville with the club North Queensland Fury FC. Expansion into these new regions was seen as critical to the success of the 2022 Australian FIFA World Cup bid. In 2011, after the failed bid, North Queensland Fury was removed from the league due to financial instability. In 2012 Fury re-formed to participate in the National Premier League Queensland.[10] In 2012 the FFA revoked Clive Palmer's Gold Coast United A-League licence.[11]

Melbourne (2010)[edit]

After Melbourne Victory FC announced they would not be playing at the new Melbourne Rectangular Stadium unless it had a capacity of at least 30,000, the government suggested a second Melbourne team would play there. A consortium of investors were willing to put at least 5 to 6 million dollars per annum into the venture, and a letter of interest from the football club had been sent to the FFA. The agreement that saw the new stadium built with a 31,500 capacity meant that it would be unlikely such a bid will succeed based on the above conditions,[12][13] though in June, the existence of three separate consortiums bidding for second Melbourne franchise were announced.[14] In September 2008, a bid led by Victorian businessman Peter Sidwell and operating under the working title Melbourne Heart Syndicate received exclusive negotiating rights an A-League licence. Sidwell's group was awarded the licence to join the 2010–11 season on 12 June 2009.[15]

Western Sydney (2012)[edit]

After the scrapping of Sydney Rovers FC in 2010, the FFA approached the Greater Western Sydney Football Group, who were one of the losing groups in the bid for the second expansion. This was done to see if they could come into the competition for the 2012–13 season. The team was to be based at ANZ Stadium, at Homebush and named "The Wanderers". After consultation the idea was dropped. On 4 April 2012, FFA CEO Ben Buckley announced the introduction of a "New Sydney Club" (Western Sydney Wanderers FC) for the 2012–13 season.[16]

Future (2018)[edit]

In November 2016, A-League chief Greg O'Rourke gave a timetable for the possible addition of two new teams in the 2018–19 competition. It is believed proposals will be submitted by several clubs or consortia, including from Perth, Brisbane, Southern Sydney, Tasmania, Auckland, South Melbourne, Canberra and Wollongong.[17]

Failed expansion efforts[edit]

Sydney (2011)[edit]

In 2009, a 12th licence was awarded to Sydney Rovers. The club soon became defunct after being awarded this licence.

Markets under consideration or formerly under consideration[edit]

Auckland[edit]

In spite of the unsuccessful New Zealand Knights, New Zealand's current club, Wellington Phoenix has been relatively successful and the possibility of a second New Zealand team in the future has been raised, possibly playing home matches in Auckland or Christchurch. Previous matches in these cities have proved successful, with crowds of 15-20,000. Auckland Knights FC is the working name of an A-League expansion bid based in Auckland. In January 2013, veteran Auckland journalist Terry Maddaford and Auckland City FC President Ivan Vuksich stated expansion into Auckland remained unlikely unless lessons had been learned from the previously poor experiences of the New Zealand Knights. They commented on the need for a "hands-on" approach from investors, ones that would be close to the team, not managing from outside the country. Vuksich also commented on the fact that funding will always be an issue, that "sponsorship is almost impossible to get" and that "the New Zealand public are pretty fickle, they like to support winning teams.".[18]

Brisbane[edit]

The former NSL club the Brisbane Strikers have expressed an interest in becoming the league's second team based in Brisbane and South East Queensland. The bid has attracted high-profile backers such as former A-League manager Miron Bleiberg. This would create a Brisbane Derby against the Brisbane Roar.[19]

Cairns[edit]

On 8 March 2014 it was announced that the National Premier Leagues outfit from Cairns, the Far North Queensland Heat had signed a sponsorship deal with the Aquis project to help them achieve a NYL team and an A-League licence.[20] This came just days after it was announced that the Fung family had launched a $269 million takeover bid of the Reef Hotel Casino in the Cairns CBD and that their Aquis project worth $4.2 billion was to develop a mega-resort including a casino, nine hotels, theatres, a golf course, and a 25,000 seat stadium at the Yorkeys Knob site.[21]

Canberra[edit]

A Canberra based bid was announced in July 2008. It was led by TransACT CEO Ivan Slavich and gained support from many local business leaders including the manager of Canberra Stadium, where the team was expected to be based. The FFA agreed to Slavich's request to extend the deadline for bids until mid-August, and Socceroo Carl Valeri and former Socceroo Ned Zelic became foundation members.[22]

On 10 May 2012, with the FFA announcing that A-League expansion beyond ten teams was on hold until 2015 in the wake of the establishment of a West Sydney-based side in time for the 2012-2013 season, A-League4Canberra suspended its efforts to secure a team for the Australian capital city, and the bid group was wound up.[23] During the 2016–17 A-League season the Central Coast Mariners will play two home games in Canberra.

Coffs Harbour[edit]

Following, the success of a 2015 trial game held in Coffs Harbour between the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Central Coast Mariners, a consortium of NSW Mid North Coast business figures have worked on a proposal for an A-League license during the 2018–19 expansion period. Plans for the club include the redevelopment of the Coffs Harbour International Stadium and the construction of a joint training centre and youth academy in Woolgoolga. During the 2016–17 A-League season, the Newcastle Jets played a home game at the Coffs Harbour International Stadium, attracting a crowd close to 8,000.[24]

Dandenong[edit]

The six biggest Football Clubs in the local government areas of the Casey and Dandenong regions have united for an A-League bid. The area has a population of over 1.2 million people and potential locations for a stadium include Casey Fields or Dandenong Showground.[25]

Darwin[edit]

There is currently no Northern Territory-based team competing in any national competition. In 2008 after successful A-League pre-season games were played in Darwin, the NT Government offered its support for a Darwin-based A-League bid.[26]

Fremantle[edit]

Fremantle City Football Club announce their intention to launch an A-League bid in competition to Football West Perth bid based in Fremantle. The bid would implement a membership and community driven club which would be unique for the league.

Geelong[edit]

With a strong football community in the area, the addition of another Victorian team into the A-League for Geelong has been long supported by key figures and locals alike in the Geelong region.[27]

In March 2008, mounting speculation suggested that a Geelong-based syndicate was working on a proposal for an A-League licence in the competition's next expansion period. Federal Labor MP Darren Cheeseman became one of the main advocates of a Geelong-based side going as far as launching a $20,000 feasibility study to find a location, design, and cost for a new regional soccer facility in the city.[28] The City of Geelong said it was prepared to make Kardinia Park available for soccer with Geelong Football Club CEO Brian Cook saying a ground-sharing situation would work between the two codes. John Mitchell pointed to Newcastle Jets' grand final success in the third season of the A-League, saying Geelong had the capabilities to match its northern counterparts.[29]

A Consortium has met with the FFA since the middle of 2016 to discuss receiving an A-League franchise. Meetings are taking place between Geelong Council, The Victorian State Government and the Kardinia Park Trust.[30] In early 2017 the consortium announced it would be entering the race for expansion spots under the working title of Victoria Patriots. Former Socceroo Steve Horvat the spokesperson.[31][32]

Gold Coast[edit]

In November 2015 Gold Coast City FC was formed to represent the Gold Coast region in the Queensland National Premier League. As a part of the club's creation, general manager Ben Mannion announced the club has intentions to enter the A-League as the second Gold Coast A-League franchise following the failure of the Gold Coast United FC.

Hobart[edit]

In October 2007, Football Federation Tasmania CEO Martin Shaw suggested that Tasmania would be a viable location for an A-League club, mentioning the fact that it would need support from state and local government. It has been suggested that such a team would play games in both Hobart and Launceston.[33][34] In 2008, a Tasmanian Football Taskforce was formed to investigate an A-League bid.[35][36] The Taskforce had registered the name "Tasmania United FC" and had submitted a bid for the 2011-12 season.[37] The Taskforce chose 25 November to launch the consortium to the press and named 'Motors' as a major sponsor.[38] A franchise in Tasmania will give the A-League a wider national representation than the AFL and NRL.[39] A sheikh from Dubai is being linked with Tasmania’s bid for an A-League team.[40]

A Tasmania state representative team has been formed and has played pre-season friendlies such as against Melbourne Victory, indicating the possible colour scheme of a potential Tasmania club. A survey on the Tasmania United FC website found that the nickname "Wolves" was the most popular unused name amongst supporters of the consortium.[41]

In November 2016 the media revealed a consortium of Melbourne-based businessmen was putting together a bid for an expansion licence based in Hobart.[42] Mark Bosnich has since stated that Launceston could potentially be the home for a rival club within ten years.

Ipswich[edit]

Expansion into the Western suburbs of Brisbane has been boosted by the growth in population projected over the coming decades. Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale promised in August 2013 to build a 15,000 seat stadium at North Ipswich Oval if a licence was secured.[43] The region's bid for an A-league expansion position is further helped by the strong community ties of current NPL Queensland side Western Pride FC.[44]

Launceston[edit]

Former Manchester United keeper and Fox Sports commentator Mark Bosnich, stated on 22 December 2016, that a Launceston-based A-League club could represent Northern Tasmania within ten years.[45] Such a club would play a Tasmanian Derby against any Hobart based A-League club.

Perth[edit]

Football West, the state governing body for association football in Western Australia, have expressed interest in securing a second A-League team in Perth, with Football West chairman Liam Twigger believing that a second Perth-based side would boost football's footprint in WA, increase interest in the A-League and would help double the number of opportunities for players, officials, coaches and fans to engage in the game.[46][47] Twigger stated that the potential side would go by the working title of the Black Swans - the nickname of the Western Australian State Team that is composed to play an annual friendly against current A-League side, Perth Glory.[48] A second A-League franchise in Perth is believed to have to have the capacity to attract considerable support considering the popularity of the sport in Western Australia's capital, as well as many fans' disenfranchisement following recent administration scandals surrounding the Glory.

Singapore[edit]

No formal bid has been put together but Singapore is seen as a possible future market and a bridge for the A-League into Asia.[49]

South East Asia[edit]

A detailed plan was revealed to have been rejected by former FFA chairman Frank Lowy which would have seen the A-League expand to a 16-20 team league administered in Australia with the additional teams based in South East Asia.[50]

South Melbourne[edit]

Former NSL powerhouse and OFC Team of the Century South Melbourne FC will launch a bid to receive an expansion license for the 2017-18 A-League Season. The club are reported to have the required $5 million capital, access to Lakeside Stadium as both a training base and home ground, as well as a plan to simultaneously launch a W-League team.[51]

Southern Sydney[edit]

Southern Sydney has been identified by the FFA as a likely site for future expansion. The club would likely be based around the Sutherland Shire and include the St George area of Southern Sydney.[52] The area has a large number of junior footballers but may be seen as encroaching on Sydney FC's and to a lesser extent Western Sydney Wanderers's base of supporters.

Sunshine Coast[edit]

Sunshine Coast F.C., who currently play in the Queensland State League, have expressed interest in joining the A-League, indicating a five-year plan in late 2012. The club currently plays at Stockland Park, though the stadium would need expansion to meet A-League standards. Sunshine Coast F.C. Director Noel Woodall has noted that there are already plans in place to turn the ground into a premier boutique stadium, with an undercover seating capacity of 10 000 and a total capacity of 15 000 or more. He says that it is part of the club's long-term strategy to join the A-League.[53]

Townsville[edit]

North Queensland Fury was renamed Northern Fury in 2012 and reformed to compete in the NPL Queensland. So far Fury home matches have drawn capacity crowds of up to 2500 at Townsville Sports Reserve, and the club plans a return to the A-League within five years, with a National Youth League team to be established prior to that.[54] The Fury have been active advocating the FFA for creating a framework for expansion.[55]

West Adelaide[edit]

Former NSL team West Adelaide SC announce an intention to enter the league as a second Adelaide team with advances made to make Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler their manager.[56]

Wollongong[edit]

It is felt amongst most that the twice Australian Champions the Wollongong Wolves FC should be the team from the Illawarra, but according to media reports the Wolves are planning on staying in the NPL NSW, and are fully supporting a new club for the region. A group known as "Great South Football" are behind the Illawarra bid. Former Wollongong star Scott Chipperfield has thrown his support behind them and Tim Cahill has joined the group, promising to establish a football academy in the region.[57] It has been rumoured the club will be backed by Bruce Gordon, Australia's 14th wealthiest person.[58] Supporting Wollongong's bid for admission into the A-League is its strong junior participation rates in football, with the region widely being regarded as a 'heartland of football' along with Western Sydney.

By 2016 the Wollongong Wolves have begun to build momentum to push for admission into the A-League.[59] A round of 32 match of the FFA Cup against Sydney FC played on 10 August 2016 attracted a crowd in excess of 9,000 on a Wednesday night demonstrating a potential viability of the Wolves joining the A-League.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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