Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has urged Football Federation Australia (FFA) to expand the A-League “sooner rather than later” on the eve of the competition’s 12th season.
And he says that there is no reason existing clubs like four-time national champion South Melbourne – where Postecoglou played and coached – Sydney United, Melbourne Knights and Sydney Olympic could not be part of the league.
Two of Postecoglou’s former A-League clubs, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, open the 2016-17 campaign at Suncorp Stadium on Friday after an off-season dominated by talk of the merits of promotion and relegation in Australian football.
Expansion is another hot topic as the A-League enters another season consisting of 27 rounds and 10 teams – a figure well short of most major football leagues.
Postecoglou, who is preparing his Australia team to face Saudi Arabia in a World Cup qualifier on Friday morning (4.45am AEDT), feels football in this country has “never been in a healthier place” – and that means the time is right for bold decisions.
“I definitely think that expansion needs to happen and will happen,” he told The New Daily.
“The debate needs to be around timing, geographical location and which kind of clubs.
“I think those discussions need to be well thought out but the inevitability of more clubs is beyond doubt.
“I’m a bit more bullish than other people, but I think it should happen sooner rather than later.
“There are pitfalls to promotion and relegation and there are benefits to it.
“But I think we’ve always made major strides [as a code] when our decision-making is made on what’s best for the game in terms of what will make the game grow further.”
Bold decisions needed
While areas such as south Sydney, Wollongong, Geelong and Tasmania are seen as potential destinations for new clubs, Postecoglou said FFA should not shut the door on established clubs with existing fanbases in Australia.
Of the 10 A-League clubs, only Perth Glory and Adelaide United existed before the competition started.
“Instead of having a closed mind about it or going one way or another, or trying to do what people think is the right thing to do, it’s got to be about where we are going to get the most growth,” he said.
“If there are existing clubs that will make that possible then there’s no reason why it can’t be an existing club.
“But if it’s a new club that that growth can come from, that shouldn’t be ignored either.
“I think that the game has never been in a healthier place than what it is now, to go the next level.
“It’s now up to the people who are in charge and, again, evidence of the past shows that when we have those leaders, the bold decision-makers who established the NSL, took us to a summer league, who created the A-League, who took us into Asia … those kind of people – that’s the leadership we need right now.”
The Saudi Arabia test
Postecoglou’s Australia face a tough challenge in Saudi Arabia, with their opponents also boasting two wins from two matches in the third round of Asian World Cup qualification.
Temperatures are expected to be around 30 degrees with 70 per cent humidity at kick-off in Jeddah, meaning another tough physical test awaits the 45th-ranked side.
“We’ve had a good start in two challenging games,” Postecoglou added.
“Saudi Arabia has got its own challenges but as we saw in the UAE, our approach will be that we’re really going to take the game to them.
“We seem to be in a good space in terms of the players responding to that kind of approach and that’s what we’ll do again.”
Ange Postecoglou’s new book, Changing The Game, is out now. Postecoglou’s book, published by Penguin Random House, charts his journey from his early childhood to playing with South Melbourne and coaching Australia. You can purchase it here.