Investment is great but the Football Federation Australia (FFA) needs to be wary of allowing overseas clubs to buy into the A-League – especially if they intend to rebrand teams in their image.

A report by Dominic Bossi in the Sydney Morning Herald has claimed that Scottish giants Celtic are looking at potentially buying an A-League club, with either the Central Coast Mariners or the Brisbane Roar being the likely choice. According to Bossi, representatives of the Glasgow club attended Central Coast’s 2-0 win over Sydney FC earlier this month, though no offer has been made.

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Celtic are no doubt buoyed by the prospect of unearthing other gems like Tom Rogic but – beyond player development – it’s too early to tell what the club’s intentions would be were they to acquire an Australian club. If history is anything to go by Mariners and Roar fans may have reason to be concerned.

City Football Group’s acquisition of Melbourne Heart in 2014 has undeniably lifted the profile of the Victorian club but – with a change in name, badge and colours – it also came at the expense of its young identity. Heart were just four years old so not a lot of tears were shed over the makeover. But what happens if Celtic pursue a similar path?

When Celtic’s great rivals Rangers bought Northern Spirit FC in the early 2000s they were quick to change the Spirit colours to royal blue and emblazon the jersey with the Rangers badge. Anecdotes of Australian Celtic fans turning their backs on Spirit after the changes were not unheard of and it’s easy to imagine something similar happening with Rangers supporting fans of the Roar or the Mariners.

The Scottish diaspora in Australia is significant but not so significant for that to be reason alone to oppose Celtic’s involvement. However the FFA should seek assurances that clubs like Celtic, Ajax, or companies like Red Bull – who were also named as potentially interested in investment – won’t alter the existing branding of current A-League clubs.

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Unfortunately, Ajax and Red Bull have a history of doing just that. Ajax are the majority shareholder of South African club Ajax Cape Town (formerly the Seven Stars) whilst Red Bull own Red Bull Salzburg (formerly SV Austria Salzburg) and New York Red Bull (formerly the New York MetroStars).

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With the FFA proving feeble in their attempts to stop the City Football Group from changing Melbourne City’s colours, it’s hard to imagine that they’d be successful in preventing changes by the likes of Celtic or Red Bull if they pushed for it hard enough.

The A-League is young and so are its clubs but that doesn’t mean there aren’t identities worth protecting. The league should welcome investment but not at any cost.

 

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Football fan, writer, and post-grad journalism student at the University of Technology Sydney. Joined the team in 2017 to cover Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners.