Australian Professional League’s CEO Danny Townsend was part of a telephone hookup with media organisations on Tuesday (14 March) to provide an update on plans to expand the A-League Men’s competition.
We were told that Canberra and Auckland had been identified as sites for expansion following an assessment of 11 potential markets.
The APL, which controls the A-League Men’s and Women’s leagues, is looking to expand the competition by two teams beginning in season 2024/25.
Given Canberra has been identified as one of the two centres to secure an A-League Men’s license, I asked Danny Townsend whether Canberra’s inclusion was a fait accompli.
In other words, was Canberra over the line and will it definitely be awarded a licence?
He said it was not a formality, but suggested that it was as close to that as possible.
What needs to happen before it’s a formality is the securing of investment in the Canberra team.
Mr Townsend said there was a nominal deadline of June to have everything in place, including a stadium deal. That’s not necessarily a new stadium, just a ‘stadium deal’.
Former Canberra A-League bid leader, Michael Caggiano, is extremely optimistic that investors are ready to come on board.
In fact, potential investors may be even more encouraged to do so now that Canberra is in the box seat to secure a licence.
“My team and I have secured top-level investors for a club in Canberra on multiple occasions in the past and I 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,” says Caggiano.
Michael Caggiano’s optimism is contagious, and it is one of the main reasons why Canberra is almost there.
Another reason the optimism is high is the direct involvement of the Australian Professional Leagues in the process.
This has not been the case in the past.
The APL said it would also be looking to take over the running of the Canberra United women’s team, which makes sense to have both the men’s and women’s A-League teams under the same management.
Apart from the requirement to secure significant investors in the Canberra team, there is further reason to be cautiously optimistic.
The four previous failed attempts to join the A-League can’t be forgotten.
I well remember being told that Canberra was over the line before the licence went to a second Sydney team.
We were also told that the city needed a much larger population to justify having an A-League Men’s team.
I was also a supporter of the Cosmos, and we all know how that went down.
But this time, there is a completely different feel. There appears to be an even stronger commitment from the community.
This has been largely driven by Caggiano and his team, which has reinvigorated support for the code.
Says Caggiano: “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.”
It is so close. You can almost feel it. But a couple of things need to happen before it’s a done deal.