Five regions the A-League should expand into

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The A-League expansion was one of the most critical decisions in recent memory, but did the Football Australia get it right?

With homeless Western United setting the record for the lowest ever A-League crowd and Macarthur FC diluting the Sydney market, let us take a look at five alternative regions which deserve A-League expansion.

5. A second Perth team

This one may seem controversial, but Perth needs a second A-League team.

Being isolated from the rest of Australia, Perth Glory currently do not have a clearly defined rival.

No particular clash feels special, so locals have no specific reason to attend one fixture over another.

The whole ‘Distance Derby’ concept with Wellington Phoenix, albeit a bit of a joke, reeks of desperation to create a marquee encounter.

Facilitating a Perth derby could give the local football public a buzz and a reason to love their favourite team harder.

Such derbies have brought the best out of fans in Melbourne and Sydney, so why not in Perth?

A city of two million people can sustain two A-League teams, especially with sufficient investment into marketing.

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On a downside, HBF Park would be the only viable stadium option. As such, this would not be much of a geographical expansion in literal terms.

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives here.

4. Tasmania

An A-League team in Tasmania would provide instant grown to the league.

It is a bold claim, but one to defend.

Firstly, it is a state with a population of more than 500,000 and no professional football, AFL or rugby team and only a basketball team set for the NBL in 2022.

This alone may not be a good enough reason to create a team, but their football crowds were.

When Melbourne Victory played two preseason games in the state in 2007 and 2014, they got attendances of more than 7000 people.

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That is impressive for a club which does not even represent the state.

Surely it is reasonable to assume that similar figures could be achieved by a local A-League side too.

Of course, there is an issue of constructing a rectangular stadium to meet A-League standards.

As a worst-case scenario, UTAS Stadium could be tolerated for the greater good of the game.

3. Wollongong

The A-League has found a home in Wollongong due to the pandemic this season, but only on a temporary basis.

Yet, Phoenix games in the city showed the country just how good Wollongong’s WIN stadium actually is.

After all, having a suitable stadium was an important criterion in FA’s decision-making approach.

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There was a basis to be optimistic about potential crowd figures too.

Local NPL side Wollongong Wolves managed to draw more than 8000 fans for a mid-week FFA Cup clash with Sydney FC in 2016.

Half of those fans may have been Sydney’s, but local interest was still strong.

The Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners fans would undoubtedly travel in numbers for away days in Wollongong too.

Unlike Macarthur FC however, a Wollongong side would not have infringed upon a market already occupied by the Wanderers and Sydney.

It is hard to see many flaws in this expansion idea, rather than uncertainty about potential attendance figures.

Although this did not seem like a concern when Western got their licence…

2. South-East Melbourne

Considering FA chose to expand in Melbourne, it came as a shock they rejected the South-East region.

Firstly, it is a rapidly-growing metro area with a population of 1,755,000 – already greater than the Western suburbs.

It also helps that this area boasts the highest football participation rate in the state.

In total, there are 115 grassroots clubs and over 23,000 local players who serve as a sizeable ready-made audience.

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Dandenong, which was considered as a location for a potential stadium, also features a highly-developed public transport system. No new roads or train stations would have been needed to reach the venue, unlike Western’s Tarneit proposition.

This was the safest bid which would have satisfied the region’s hunger for football.

It only misses out on top spot due to a lack of a football stadium in the area, but the local council did promise to build one if a team was created.

1. Canberra

Having a professional football team represent the capital of Australia would have made sense logically and emotionally.

This is why it claims the top spot on the list.

Local W-League side, Canberra United,  boast one of the highest attendance figures in the entire competition.

In fact, they did not host a single home game with less than 1000 spectators in the 2020/21 season.

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There is also a ready-made 25,000-seater stadium which would look presentable with a crowd of 10,000 people.

Just as importantly, it is an untapped market by AFL and the cricket, which would have placed the A-League at the top of local sporting headlines in the summer.

There are really not many negatives to this expansion as it seemingly ticks all the boxes.

Hopefully an A-League team from the Australian capital is a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

Feature Image Credit: Breanna Redhead

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Bogdan Vlasyuk
Bogdan Vlasyuk
Total football fanatic. Supporter of the Melbourne Victory and Dynamo Kyiv :)

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