As The New Daily reported yesterday, Western Melbourne Group (WMG) and the Macarthur South West (MSW) consortium in Sydney have been named as the two successful bidders to obtain new licences to join the A-League.
The FFA announced their decision at a packed media conference in Sydney on Thursday.
— Hyundai A-League (@ALeague) December 13, 2018
“Each gives us a wonderful footprint in growth corridors in the Australian marketplace and position us for the long term for advancing football in this country,” FFA chairman Chris Nikou said.
Nikou was keen to emphasise that today’s announcement was not the end of the A-League’s expansion plans.
“This is not a full stop for the expansion process. Expansion is an ongoing dialogue. Intertwined with that is the establishment of a second division working group to explore the basis of establishing a second division as soon as we practically can,” Nikou said.
As predicted by The New Daily it will be a graduated entry with WMG to field a team in season 2019/20 whilst MSW will enter the following season, 2020/21.
GWM bid team member and former Socceroo Steve Horvat is thrilled with the decision.
“We share the vision of taking A-League football to the next level, to growing the game here at home and taking the Australian game to Asia” Horvat said.
In its initial seasons in the A-League WMG will play its games out of Simmonds Stadium in Geelong, the stadium that is home to Geelong in the AFL.
Plans for a self-funded, stand-alone, football specific stadium precinct in Melbourne’s west in the city of Wyndham have WMG playing their home games there within four years.
The MSW consortium has accepted a delayed entry into the competition after the Western Sydney Wanderers asserted that it would like a full season to re-establish itself back in its newly revamped stadium at Parramatta before the new team takes to the park right on its doorstep.
FFA CEO David Gallop believes the decision to award two new licences was essential to the viability of the A-League.
Which bid is leading the race to be granted entry into the @ALeague
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“This is going to set the A-League up for long-term sustainability in these new locations but importantly as well, the decisions have taken us to a point where we can ensure that the new clubs are in high quality facilities from day one,” Gallop said.
The awarding of the licences has been heavily criticised by some within the bidding process who have described it as “shambolic” and “ad hoc”.
Gallop defended the process.
“This has been a game of snakes and ladders and there’s been movement in almost every bid even down to the last couple of weeks”.
The FFA CEO insisted that the focus should be on the successful bids rather than those that missed out.
“Obviously, we had to look at the impact on the existing clubs and the footprint of the existing clubs and we believe that in both Sydney and Melbourne we’ve picked areas which will be new corridors for the game in high population growth areas.”
The Canberra and Capital Region bid is believed to have just missed the cut.
Gallop offers those in the nation’s capital encouragement.
“Canberra is definitely one we are interested in continuing to talk to but we felt that the Sydney and Melbourne bids came out ahead of Canberra at this stage,” Gallop said.
Canberra Bid leader Michael Caggiano told The New Daily he’s certain he will have a team in the A-League soon.
‘It’s not a case of if but when,” Caggiano said. “We’ve already begun talk with FFA and Deloitte on our next steps.”
He admits there has a been frustration with the process so far.
At times it’s been difficult, unclear and more fluid than it should be. We’ve asked them (FFA) for more certainty as we go forward.”
There is resentment that a blind bidding mechanism where consortiums were asked to name their own price for the cost of a licence fee was an adversarial process that was little more than a cash gouge from a money-strapped FFA.
Gallop wouldn’t be drawn on the total value of the licence fees that the new consortiums are paying.”‘We’ve made it clear from day one that there was a number that we needed to achieve so this was affordable. We’ve achieved that number.”
“That’s been part of the snakes and ladders movement of the last week or so,” Gallop said.
The last thing the A-League can afford is a failed startup as was the case with previous entrants Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury.
Nikou is bullish about the prospects for the two new clubs.
“They’ve got the demographics to work into to be very successful. Each of the two bids have football people involved in them and the know-how to deliver, so I’ve got a great degree of comfort that they’ll be able to do that.”