Western Melbourne, Macarthur South-West Sydney set to join A-League
A lengthy bid process dogged by an FFA board change and multiple delays has finally ended as Australia’s footballing body announced that the Western Melbourne Group (WMG) and Macarthur South-West Sydney will receive the next two A-League licenses.
The potential for growth was cited as the biggest reason why both bids were successful. FFA chairman Chris Nikou said that “one of the key factors in our decision was the long-term growth opportunity for each club in each new geography.”
“An expanded Hyundai A-League will connect new communities in our two biggest markets,” he added.
Despite the positive news and chance for growth in Australian football, the news has been received poorly online by opposition and neutral fans.
Canberra’s failure to receive a licence is one of the bigger talking points, given the A-League does not yet have a team in Australia’s capital city.
Another point of contention is that Melbourne and Sydney now have three teams.
While both points ring true, it’s hard to disagree with the FFA’s decision given the potential for growth in the areas where both teams will be located.
The good news for the fans of those who missed out is that the FFA has vowed to continue growing the game and adding more teams to the league.
“This is the start of a journey which will see our competition grow beyond 12 teams in the future,” Nikou said.
He acknowledged that despite Canberra being unsuccessful in this round of expansion, “we do… continue to view Canberra as an attractive opportunity for potential future expansion.”
European style promotion and relegation has long been an issue given the lack of consequences for teams finishing at the bottom of the A-League ladder. However, Nikou said the FFA will look to create a second division which could give established clubs such as South Melbourne FC and Wollongong Wolves FC a chance to enter the A-League without the need to win an expansion licence.
Disappointment aside, the announcement marks a landmark day for football in Australia. WMG will join the A-League in the 2019/20 season and the Macarthur South-West Sydney team in 2020/21 season.
While the WMG hasn’t selected a team name, they will likely play their first two seasons out of Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium while their yet to be built stadium is constructed in Tarneit.
Player agent and managing director of Tribal Sports Group Lou Sticca and former Socceroo Steve Horvat were the two big names behind the WMG whose plans for a privately funded stadium was one of the biggest factors for their successful bid.
The bid’s backers stated at a fan forum in August that the ground would be used exclusively for football, with construction set to begin shortly after today’s announcement.
Macarthur South-West Sydney will play out of Campbelltown Stadium and have plans to redevelop the stadium as well as establishing a training base in Liverpool.
Led by billionaire Lang Walker, Sydney’s newest team will have an extra year to build their brand and playing roster and will look to capitalise on one of Australia’s fastest growing areas that includes an increasing population, 24,000 registered football players and a new airport.
Whether the A-League’s two newest teams will be successful is yet to be seen but it is no less an exciting day that hopefully leads to the continued growth of Australian football.
The possibility for more teams and a second division behind the A-League is now clearer, but today is all about the Western Melbourne Group and Macarthur South-West Sydney bids.