Canberra’s chances of getting a team in the A-League are better than ever.
Sadly, when we’ve tried in the past, political machinations have stood in the way. The goalposts appear to continually shift as Canberra’s bids, presented with optimism, local support and enthusiasm, have fallen by the wayside.
In 2005, Frank Lowy said Canberra had been identified as a site for future expansion.
Since then, it has been hard to keep track of the various bids lodged to secure a side in the A-League’s national men’s competition.
By my count, five bids have been lodged by three different groups in support of the establishment of a Canberra-based team.
A-League for Canberra lodged three bids before winding up in 2012.
The toughest setback of the three unsuccessful bids came in 2009 when the A-League licence was awarded to the Sydney Rovers.
Four years after the A-League for Canberra group wound up, we saw the emergence of the Canberra and Capital Region A-League consortium, which submitted an unsuccessful bid in 2018.
This was also hard to take as this bid had strong community and corporate support but fell at the final hurdle when it was revealed that the television deal with Fox Sports stipulated that additional payments to Football Federation Australia would only come with the expansion of teams in Sydney and Melbourne.
Out of this team emerged the Capital Region Football Collective, which submitted a bid in 2020. Similar to the Canberra and Capital Region A-League group, the Football Collective is a community-supported model.
Much has happened since that bid. There has been a new television deal, with ViacomCBS signing a $200 million deal to broadcast A-League and W-League on Network TEN and the streaming service Paramount Plus.
As part of the five-year deal with the Australian Professional Leagues, ViacomCBS has acquired a minor shareholding in the leagues, which means the broadcaster has a vested interest in making it work.
What gives Canberra hope is the fact that there is now financial certainty in domestic football in Australia.
Another cause for optimism is speculation that the competition will expand by four teams, bringing the league to 16 clubs.
This week I spoke with Canberra bid leader Michael Caggiano whose energy and passion has kept the campaign alive. He is very optimistic that Canberra would finally get a team in the A-League.
But given past events, in the minds of many, that optimism comes with a sense of caution.