Full credit to ’em, the A-League has done an absolutely genius job of rebuilding association football in Australia since taking over from the hot mess that was the old NSL just over ten years ago.

Some shrewd scheduling, a solid marketing plan, and clever TV deals has seen the league grow from scrappy beginnings to the point where it’s now drawing in crowds that are, on their best days, comparable to the AFL.

Sure, the administration has its problems – a curiously hostile relationship with fans that rates as one of the least logical in all of world sport, for starters – but with each season the league goes from strength to strength.

And come season 2018-19, that growth will manifest in the form of two new teams, officially revealed to be part of the A-League’s expansion plan late yesterday.

A full blueprint for expansion will be revealed by the league in February, as talks between league administrators and broadcasters advance towards securing the league a highly lucrative new broadcasting rights deal.

Most free-to-air networks, along with Optus, BeIN Sports, and current rights holder Foxtel are said to be vying for the new deal, which the A-League hopes will double its current revenue of $40million per-season.

League boss Greg O’Rourke stated that the FFA is investigating how, and when, the league could sustain a 14-18 team competition. But for the time being, the league will expand to 12 teams for the 2018-19 season. Rourke suggested that any new clubs would be granted expansion licenses, rather than establishing any second-tier competition with a subsequent promotion/relegation system.

“The FFA have got a shortlist of consultants that we are talking to regarding the project scope which will help us build the framework. We expect that that framework will be ready to put to board in February and if that’s approved it will form the guidelines to add an A-League team to an expanded competition with a view to this coming in the second year of the deal of broadcast, 2018-19.”

“Our primary focus will be on the expansion of the A-League over the next 5-7 years and primarily focused on what is the right number of teams and what are the right geographies. That’s not to suggest that inter-dependencies of future promotion and relegation or a second division will be ignored but it won’t be primary focus.’”

All bidding broadcasters are said to have preferences for bigger TV markets, and at least 10 consortium groups are known to have an interest in bidding for an expansion franchise.

Among the front-runners are the historic South Melbourne FC, with Hellas officials meeting with the FFA last week to discuss a potential bid that would see all non-derby home games played at the 15,000-seat Lakeside Stadium in Albert Park.

In Sydney, a combined bid from Sutherland/St. George-Illawarra is believed to be on the cusp of being formally submitted. Bids from groups in regional Victoria (read: Geelong), Brisbane, and Tasmania have also long been making public chatter about expansion bids.

The current A-League season rolls along, with Week 10 of the season scheduled to start Friday night, as Sydney FC clash with Melbourne City.

Source: Herald Sun.
Photo: Ashley Feder/Getty.