Football people in Canberra – and there are plenty of them – have long lamented the lack of an A-League Men’s team in this city.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that yet another consortium seeking to secure an A-League licence has emerged.
With the Capital Region Football Collective headed by Michael Caggiano still regarded as a live bid, the emergence of this new syndicate means there are now two groups actively bidding for a Canberra team in the A-League Men’s competition.
There have, of course, been several unsuccessful ‘Canberra for A-League’ bids, most notably in 2009 and 2018. But there remains ever-lasting optimism within the Canberra football community that the city will secure a coveted licence.
The new syndicate is headed by Canberra football identity, former Socceroo, Andy Bernal.
“We’ve already put a basic proposal to the Australian Professional Leagues,” says Andy.
“It would be a privately owned club and we have financial backing. Our proposal incorporates a business and football plan. It is a commercial model that is sustainable and is community-oriented at all levels.”
It will be up to the Australian Professional Leagues to make the final decision on new clubs coming into the competition.
There is a push to increase the number of teams from 12 to 14 by 2023, eventually rising to 16.
Andy Bernal says his group is well down the track regarding a management structure should they be successful.
“Richard Peil is the CEO of our bid. He is the founder and director of Anytime Fitness Australia and will be the CEO of our club. With over 550,000 active members, he specialises in building brands with passion and spirit, working with stakeholders to bring the community together for a common cause.”
Bernal says his role will be as director of football and he has already identified a head coach and academy director. He says the bid proposal goes further than finances and football operations.
“MATE internet and mobile telecommunications are part of our bid team. They are already active in the APL landscape with both team and broadcasting involvement.”
More than anything else, though, he says he wants to create a pathway for young male footballers from all walks of life in Canberra. He says his international connections will be important in the pathway process.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Michael Caggiano’s rival bid for an A-League Men’s team in Canberra. Bernal, though, has moved to downplay the perception of rivalry.
“We’re not in competition. Our model is completely different to theirs, and it will be up to the Australian Professional Leagues to decide.”
Canberra has been left at the altar of the A-League Men’s competition several times, but there is optimism within this new bid team that the planets have aligned.