16 March 2023

Canberra closer than ever to securing an A-League Men’s team

| Tim Gavel
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Grace Maher celebrating

Grace Maher celebrates after a penalty goal: the Women’s team has long been the standard-bearer for football in the capital. Photo: Canberra United.

The Australian Professional Leagues, which runs the A-League competitions in Australia, has moved a step closer to awarding Canberra an A-League Men’s licence.

APL CEO Danny Townsend said Canberra and Auckland had been nominated as the two preferred locations for the 2024/25 season expansion.

June this year has been listed as the notional deadline, with a number of factors required to fall into place before Canberra is finally across the line, but the signs are increasingly positive.

Mr Townsend said the factors included a stadium agreement, training facilities, and corporate and government support. He has been encouraged by the level of support in the city, including from the ACT Government.

He went on to say the Canberra market was ready for an A-League Men’s team.

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Securing investors in the franchise could be the key, although according to former bid leader Michael Caggiano, interest has been high.

“I don’t think there should be any problems getting investors. The APL is going about this in the right way,” says Caggiano.

If anybody understands the interest in investing in an A-League Men’s team, it’s Caggiano, who has lived and breathed the dream for the past five years.

While the Australian Professional Leagues are now the leaders of a potential Canberra licence, much of the groundwork has already been done by previous bids led by Caggiano and Ivan Slavich.

“After we suffered the disappointment of the expansion bid loss in 2018, I vowed to the community that I would keep pushing until Canberra had an A-League Men’s team to call its own,” Caggiano says.

“Today is a deserved reward for the amazing football people here that have never wavered in their support for me and the team, for making this dream a reality.

“This needs to be a team for the people of Canberra, built by people from Canberra, and the community and stakeholders here will be integral to making that happen.

“My team and I have secured top-level investors for a club in Canberra on multiple occasions in the past and am confident we can do it again.

“On those occasions the timing wasn’t right, but with APL Co now in charge and committed to Canberra, we have never been better placed.”

Danny Townsend said it is early days to secure potential investors but has been encouraged by the level of interest in the city towards securing an A-League Men’s team.

The proposal would see the Australian Professional Leagues take over the operations of the Canberra United W League team, which is managed by Capital Football.

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In many aspects, the proposal is totally different from the 2010 and 2018 efforts when Canberra went close to securing a licence for an A-League Men’s team with the APL rather than a local consortium driving the bid.

Mr Townsend indicated that while the proposed new stadium would add viability, the licence coming to Canberra was not contingent on a new stadium.

There’s no doubt the signs are incredibly positive towards Canberra securing a men’s team to function alongside the two-time champions in the A-League Women’s, Canberra United.

Many of the potential investors don’t have an interest in rugby league, rugby union or AFL, but have a passion for football, so to suggest that there is little left in the corporate bank lacks an understanding of the support the code has in the city.

Hopefully, they emerge to get a Canberra team off the ground. As Caggiano said yesterday: “This is a significant day for Canberra and a significant day for the A-league as a whole.”

This story was updated at 9:15 am with additional quotes from Michael Caggiano.

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