How many teams in the A-League? This is what some journalists would term a ‘whoary old chestnut’ that is a question that comes around again and again with no one agreeing and with no resolution.
But it is something that will not go away. A couple of twitters, who must admit have been anti A-League in their comments, tweeted that the ‘A-League is dying’ because the are the same old teams year after year. This also calls into question the issue of relegation and promotion, which is another old chestnut. But there is a point that a 10 team competion does risk to become stale, and also potentially reward mediocrity as we have seen teams with average seasons can be in finals.
Inevitably though, once you open the Pandora’s box of new teams you enter the realm of which areas should be represented and claims and counter claims. Canberra as the capital needs a team and there is already have a W-League team and the locals already worked hard for a bid. Then there is Woolongong. They had a successful team in the NSL and a tradition of football there. But what about Tasmania? They are not represented in any national football league and great opportunity to grow the code there…etc. etc. and then there are the two Queensland teams that have failed: Gold Coast and North Queensland Fury. And in fact the reason why I got reminded by this topic is an article in the Guardian by Vince Rugari which raises the possibility of a Gold Coast team again, and because I am on holiday here in Coolangatta with a view of the skyline of the Gold Coast I got thinking whether a team here may have another go. Vince Rugari say it can.
My view is that I am never against any A-League expansion, the issue is as many would agree, we don’t want to risk another failure, it is not good for the competion or the code.
It is interesting to see how all codes expand according to see what is ‘the market’. Rugby League created the Melbourne Storm as it felt had to have the second biggest city in Australia represented, as the AFL did by moving South Melbourne north to Sydney to become the Swans decades earlier.
More recently as demographics shifted the AFL also felt it had to have a presence in the Gold Coast, and West Sydney which also has become a major population area.
The issue is though whether because an area is not represented in a code, or has become a major centre in population it needs have a team there. Most Association Football fans would be relieved that the FFA did the right thing with Western Sydney, which has been a ‘Soccer Zone’ since post war migration there. On the other hand it is still bare ground for Australian Rules Football, as it has no tradition there. But make no mistake, the AFL is persistent and will pour money, resources and allow the best players there to make it a successful team planning that this will entice people to follow the team and create a sustainable level of support.
While Western Sydney could have been described as ‘our turf’, what can be said of places like the Gold Coast or Tasmania? Now I am sure that perhaps someone somewhere perhaps reading this will put forward reasons why a team may work in these areas. In fact Rugari mentions a common one which is registered players. But really, do the number of registered players translate in support for an A-League team? If that was the case we would get lots of support for NSW and Victorian teams, and that’s not the case. It is not proof, but I’ve known cases of kids playing soccer, but never going to an A-League match but supporting their AFL team instead.
I think that in all codes seems to think that because a place as people, it is ripe for the picking for a team. But this is not always the case. Western Sydney worked because there is a tradition of Association Football there, and I think Woolangong may work as well (although as a Victorian I would baulk at yet another NSW team!) But this may not be the case in other areas of Australia, where other codes have captured most of the hearts and minds. This is the case for the AFL in Western Sydney or the A-League in places like Tasmania, or even Geelong. The issue is that the AFL has plenty of resources to support a team with low support and membership for a long time, not sure whether it is the case for the FFA.
Again I reiterate that I am all for A-League expansion and I will hope all new teams will succeed. As a Victory supporter I wasn’t convinced that a second Melbourne team would work (yet another case of a simplistic people= support?) but once the Heart came into existance I hoped it could become sustainable, and I think the Manchester City buyout is great news. But if it happens, let’s hope it works.
I for one would love to come back to the Gold Coast to see Melbourne Victory play.