A Football Federation fan forum in Canberra earlier this year moved to assure the local football community that the ACT would be one of the next to be considered for an A-League Licence. The assurance followed disappointment that Canberra had once again been overlooked in favour of a third team in both Sydney and Melbourne.
The FFA though gave cause for optimism suggesting a Canberra team was likely in the next round of expansion, which could happen sooner than most people are anticipating.
The issue facing the A-League is sustainability, with Foxtel indicating it is looking to cut costs, including rights paid to sports in Australia. This could result in a reduced revenue base for teams.
In many respects, this will put pressure on a number of teams relying heavily on the television revenue stream to cover costs.
The Canberra and Capital Region A-League bid was based on long-term sustainability underpinned by a community ownership model. An estimated 10-12 million dollars is anticipated as required to run the team each year, with funding sources including the ACT Government and television revenue, gate receipts, corporate support and financial investors.
On the surface it would appear as though the Canberra bid has less reliance on television revenue than some of the existing teams but without access to all the figures it is hard to estimate.
What isn’t in question is the general support for soccer in Canberra with over 30,000 registered players. What is obviously required, if Canberra is to get an A-League team, is a large percentage of those already involved in the sport actively coming along to games.
October 10 represents the first opportunity, since the announcement that Canberra had missed out on A-League expansion, to gauge continuing support for the code, which will be interpreted as support for an A-League team in Canberra.
The Socceroos will play a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Nepal at GIO Stadium with officials also looking at using Canberra facilities in the future. They will be keeping a close eye on attendance figures.
It is the first time the Socceroos have played in Canberra since 2015 when 19,500 turned up to watch Australia play Kyrgyzstan. In 2009 over 20,000 attended the Asian Cup qualifier between the Socceroos and Kuwait, a game at the time seen as a litmus test for inclusion into an expanded A-League.
Canberra has already proven that it can successfully and sustainably run a national team with Canberra United in the W League but that is dwarfed by the financial commitment required to run an A-League team.
This is why it is as important as it was in 2009 and 2015 to again provide tangible evidence of support for soccer in Canberra because no doubt it will be used to either strengthen or weaken a bid for an A-League team in the next round of expansion.
Tim Gavel is a consultant to Capital Football.