The $140 million reason to properly expand the A-League Men

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In the coming months, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) will be doing a strategic review into the expansion of the A-League Men’s competition.

From this, decisions will be made in relation to the league and its structure for the short and mid-term future.

With the news that a second-division competition will likely be created by 2023, it would be easy for the APL to simply halt expansion until the new competition is fully functional.

Whilst this would be the easy decision, it doesn’t make it the correct one.

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With the confirmation that American company Silver Lake has purchased approximately a 30% stake of the A-Leagues for $140 million, the time is now to expand the domestic game in Australia and solidify a competition which is sustainable for the future.

This does not mean expansion like we have all seen before. Another Melbourne or Sydney team is not on the menu, and quite frankly a second team in any city should only be a fall-back option.

Instead, it is time to finally take the leap and make the A-League Men a truly national competition, with the addition of teams from places including Tasmania, Canberra and Wollongong.

A 14 or 16 team A-League Men’s competition is inevitable, it just makes sense. The APL has confirmed that it is certainly on the horizon, with a 26 or 30 game full home-and-away season, plus finals, being the best-case scenario.

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Simply expanding the competition will not bring long-term success, rather it is the selection of the appropriate teams that will.

In the past, expansion of the A-League Men has ultimately lacked a bit of creativity and risk. It was clear that there were portions of both Melbourne and Sydney who did not resonate with a team, and inevitably they would be the target of fans.

Whilst these new clubs would likely not break records for crowd attendances, they had a solid platform to build off, and financial backing to pair.

However, we are at the stage where new teams in Melbourne and Sydney, at least whilst there is only one division, are not a possibility. The risk of overpopulating an existing market is far too high.

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This is where these teams from outside the major capitals can help expand the game, tap into new fanbases and solidify the competition’s future for years to come.

With the sale of part of the A-Leagues and the 0 million that comes with it, there truly isn’t a better time to finally get the A-League Men’s competition to a place of sustainability and longevity.

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Not only will the influx of funds help to support these new expansion clubs when they are starting out, but that type of clear financial backing will help draw in others to help these teams.

For Tasmania, Canberra and Wollongong there is already a base there to build off.

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Whether it be an already established A-League Women’s club, ready-made facilities or a large footballing community who are dying to become an A-League Men fanbase, everything is there to make it a success.

Bids from these regions in the past, most notably the Canberra region bid of 2018, saw international backing already on the table before the APL and Silver Lake came along.

If the confidence in the league was already high enough to get considerable financial backing for these proposals, imagine what it would be like now?

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International investment like the Silver Lake deal should only be the beginning, and by giving those currently outside the A-League Men’s system a chance to financially contribute to football in the country with new franchises, this can become a reality.

If the APL takes the conservative option, they run the risk of missing out on this major opportunity. Who knows where the game will be in five years time, no one can predict that.

We do however know where the A-Leagues, APL and Football Australia are now, and that is in the perfect position to make an A-League Men’s competition that reaches its full potential.

The decision to expand the A-League Woman’s competition was done at the perfect time, it’s time for the men to follow suit.

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It is an exciting time to be a football fan Down Under, and the APL has proven over the last year that they want nothing more than for the A-Leagues to succeed.

If they go through with this, they won’t just be expanding the A-League Men’s competition, but also solidifying the league for years to come.

Please APL, you have this golden opportunity. Take it for the betterment of all Australian football fans.

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William Makepeace
William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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