After a two-hour meeting with Football Federation Australia on Wednesday night (8 May), Canberra football fans left with no assurances about the future of the ACT’s A-league bid and the likelihood of Canberra having a team in the competition in the coming years.
Canberra’s A-league bid was snubbed in December when the Western Melbourne and Macarthur South West Sydney teams were given the two coveted A-league spots.
Canberra hosted FFA chief David Gallop and A-League boss Greg O’Rourke on Wednesday night as part of a nation-wide tour to talk to fans about the future of the game in Australia.
The duo talked about grassroots growth, equal pay for female players, the battle for television rights revenue, the deteriorating state of facilities around the country and the A-league expansion.
There was a clear sense of frustration in the room as questions were raised about the “bias” against Canberra and no real desire to invest in the ACT region.
“I understand that sitting here, you feel people made decisions about Canberra but we made very consistent decisions against different bids,” O’Rourke said. “I understand the frustration but we only had two to choose from and we had four or five really good bids.
“I think we chose two really good bids and I think the football community will see when these two bids come on that they were the two best bids.”
O’Rourke said the league is moving away from its current 27-round season to a 26-round season, which will provide a potential 14-team competition to play 13 home and 13 away games each season.
But O’Rourke said that while the Capital still has as good a chance as any to clinch an A-League spot during the next round, guaranteeing its selection would be providing false hope.
“I understand the frustration but I don’t think we are as far away as people think to the next round of A-League expansion,” O’Rourke said. “But it would be false hope to any expansion bid, whether here or anywhere else, to say it will be on a certain date.
“We are strategically targetting 14 teams and Canberra is very much in that lens in the next round or two of expansion to 14 teams. The idea of Canberra being in the A-League is very real.”
Canberra A-League bid-leader Michael Caggiano pleaded with the pair to give fans a concrete timeline for Canberra’s bid and whether it would be one of the next teams considered for a licence.
In response, David Gallop said the next couple of years will dictate where the game is at financially and whether the league would be in a position to expand.
“We’ve got to find the revenue because otherwise, we won’t be talking about expansion but I think Canberra is well placed to be one of the next cabs off the rank,” he said. “But it would be irresponsible of us and to the whole game to make any expansion guarantees.
And while the next expansion will not take place anytime soon, Gallop indicated that they are keen to start the process as soon as it is deemed viable.
“Will it be in six months? No. But will it be in five years? Also no, because we want to get back onto the expansion path ASAP.”