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FFA's A-League expansion delay continues to confound

1:08 AM EDT 5/5/17
Steven Lowy David Gallop Football Federation Australia 20122016
The number of groups interested in Australia's top tier has reached 12 and yet head office says football can't afford to grow


Ahead of Sunday's A-League grand final, two more groups have officially declared their intention to one day compete for the title of Australian champions.

The widespread interest in joining the A-League is unquestionable - FC Brisbane City have become the 12th group to publically launch a bid, while Casey-Dandenong have received local government support at an official event this week.

FC Brisbane City joins A-League expansion race

Last week, a Canberra consortium threw their hat into the ring alongside the likes of Southern Expansion, FC Tasmania and Wollongong Wolves.

So why exactly has FFA put expansion on the backburner?

Having previously made expansion "a strategic priority", FFA CEO David Gallop declared at the start of March that the A-League and W-League need a "new ownership and operating model" before the competitions or the governing body can afford to grow.

That statement remains puzzling considering the deep pockets of some of the bids' backers.

FFA target new A-League model before expansion

Southern Expansion is backed by Chinese property mogul Shen Yuxing, Sunshine Coast Fire are in discussions with Indian entrepreneur Nirav Tripathi,  and FC Tasmania's investors Harry Stamoulis and Rob Belteky were former owners of Melbourne Victory.

Victoria Patriots, which is looking to bring the A-League to Geelong, and Southern Expansion have both made public pledges to build new stadiums, while Goal understands FC Tasmania are also looking into that.

Why is the governing body's board that includes high-level business people with experience at the likes of Westfield, Caltex, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank unable or unwilling to harness this potential investment?

With the focus on the A-League's championship decider, this week could have been an ideal moment to either reveal FFA's long-awaited expansion criteria or - if the governing body had prepared better earlier - even announce the successful bids.

FFA: A-League funding proposal includes 26 per cent increase

Instead, FFA continues to battle governance issues - earlier this week, A-League club owners furiously rejected a funding model for next season - and has failed to provide a sense of progress for football in Australia.

As has been argued before by Goal, FFA could exploit this incredible interest in A-League expansion and give the game in this country a huge shot in the arm.

An expanded competition will provide more opportunities for players, coaches, investors, broadcasters, administrators and fans.

In fact, the ongoing buzz around joining the A-League, which many pundits consider is limping along at the moment, could also be used to simultaneously expand the top tier and create a national second division.

A-League second division for 2018-19 'a realistic goal'

But to do that requires brave and bold leadership, with a sense of confidence and panache that Gallop and FFA chairman Steven Lowy appear to lack.

Every new expansion bid promises the possibility of a more exciting and interesting future for the A-League, while simultaneously reminding us that this opportunity is being squandered.