A-League clubs to control expansion agenda
A-LEAGUE bosses will dictate where new clubs will be established, rather than accept bids from hopeful franchises with their own bases, under plans to expand to a 16-team competition.
In a complete reversal from how the latest expansion sides Western United and Macarthur were chosen, the A-League will identify key markets driven by consumer numbers and TV eyeballs, and then invite bidders to pitch for licences in those geographical areas.
An "international investment roadshow" will be launched to invite funds for new and existing franchises, with existing club owners revealing their hopes of adding up to four new teams in the next broadcast cycle, after the current one expires in 2023.
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After it was revealed the owners' plans for a 100-day push to reignite interest in the competition, now they have taken control of it away from Football Federation Australia, more detail has emerged of how and where expansion is planned, even before the 11th and 12th sides to be added have kicked a ball.
Western United will join this coming season and Macarthur FC the year after, the first additions to the league since Western Sydney Wanderers were created in 2012.
In a presentation to A-League CEOs, coaches and staff, the owners made clear they want to expand the league ultimately by a further third, but reversing the methodology the FFA used in adding Western United and Macarthur.
The owners said they would immediately start identifying markets for expansion, with a particular focus on creating more "rivalries" against existing teams and on key TV markets.
Consortiums would be invited to bid for these specific licences, rather than choose their own base, and be judged on a transparent list of criteria - including stadium plans and commercial viability.
Overseas investors will be targeted via the "roadshow", for new clubs but also to provide clubs such as the Central Coast Mariners with extra capital.
The ultimate aim is to reach a 16-team competition where each team plays the other sides home and away, to reduce "viewer fatigue" at the current third round of games, with an expanded finals series.
Officials briefed on the plans said the current season length of early October to mid-May would likely be maintained, to avoid further clashes with other codes over ground availability and media interest.
Though the final legal points of the A-League's separation from FFA's control are still being worked through, the owners have effectively taken control of the competition and are rushing to overhaul its marketing and presentation ahead of the start of the new season October 11.
At a two-day summit at a hotel in Double Bay the owners have made clear the urgent need to put in place measures to address a 20 per cent fall in attendances since 2013, and a 40 per cent decline in TV viewers over the past three years.