A few people in football circles were caught by surprise yesterday when Football West announced that they were aiming “to secure a second A-League licence for WA in the next three to five years to provide new opportunities for players, officials and fans.”
This announcement tends to imply that the relationship between the state body running the game and the current A-League franchise are not as rosy as they are made out to be. The fact that Perth Glory has moved into the Rugby WA administrative offices would have been a body blow to Football West’s bid for a government-funded “Home of Football,” as Perth Glory were to be their number one tenant.
First of all can Perth, or Western Australia sustain another A-League side? Secondly is this Football West’s role?
One message it does send is that maybe the FFA is realising the error of its ways with the franchise model it adopted for the A-League and is looking to try and form more genuine community-based, or community-linked clubs. Where will that leave the original A-League clubs in the future?
With Perth Glory expected to make yet another loss in 2016, one that is rumoured to be around the $2-3million mark, some would say only a fool would try and launch a team in this market. With Sydney FC also expecting a loss in the coming season of allegedly around $2million, some would say only a fool, or someone who can afford to lose money, would buy into the A-League at all.
There is no doubt that a rivalry in the West would certainly re-invogorate the game. One of the problems with the A-League is the size of the league, and the fact that there are only ten teams in the competition. Each team plays each other three times in a season and to many fans this is becoming a little monotonous. The league desperately needs expansion.
Another team in Perth would also establish a legitimate derby, rather than the painfully made up “desert derby” and “long distance derby,” that would make anyone in marketing cringe at the desperation and childishness of such manufactured rivalries. A second team would give Perth the chance to have six games a season – in the current format – where the crowds would be good and where the atmosphere would be electric, with the away team actually having a decent number of supporters at the game. A very rare sight for games in Perth.
Already on social media it has been thrown up that the team should not be called anything to do with Perth, as Glory already have that covered. Suggestions have been that the team should carry the Fremantle name. Others from the North of the city have suggested Joondalup or Clarkson. While those in Rockingham and Mandurah feel the team should be based there and named after their suburbs.
This will be a major conundrum for Football West as after all they are a body that is supposed to represent everyone in football throughout the state. So if they opt to base themselves in one area, they are going to alienate many other areas. So something with “West” or “Western” would make the most sense.
Alienation is something that desperately needs to be considered, as Perth Glory have suffered from that by the actions of the past. There are some fans who have vowed not to attend after the salary cap breaches of two seasons ago. There are others who will not go as long as Tony Sage remains the owner, there are others who will not go because of the way the club has treated the feeder state league clubs in the past. Perth fans are passionate, but many do not like to be crossed. So Football West will have to be careful when planning a base, and a name.
As the Chairman of Football West, Liam Twigger, was quoted as saying in the press release “having a second team in WA will double the number of opportunities for players, officials, coaches and fans to engage in the game.”
That is very true, but how will it leave an already struggling NPL competition? Already the Perth Glory are poaching many of the talented youngsters in various age groups. This impacts on the local clubs should these players become professionals as the development fees will go to the Perth Glory and not them. To make matters worse the Perth Glory junior teams have larger squads than many of the other NPL sides they play against, which means that each week there are some of these talented players not playing football.
When one considers that the magical figure is 10,000 hours before players are ready to make the step to the professional ranks, such a process is actually holding talented players back. They would actually benefit from staying at their NPL club, and having a regular game.
If Football West does manage to find an investor to fund an A-League franchise, how will they fast track their junior development? There would be a huge conflict of interest if Football West’s youth teams were fast-tracked into the NPL at the expense of longstanding clubs in Western Australia.Also will they charge youngsters to be a part of such a program?
Then there is the issue of the finances of running an A-League franchise. When you consider that only two A-League clubs have finished in the black, who will be responsible for any debts incurred by the club? Will the already heavily cash-strapped clubs around the state be expected to charge more money to their players to top up the sports administrators bank balance? Or will the board be held financially accountable?
Of course this will depend on how ‘the members’ of Football West vote. ‘The members’ being those sitting on the Standing Committees and the Zone Reps. If these members vote on behalf of the clubs that they represent that they do not want Football West to pursue an A-League licence then the dream is over before it has even started.
It will be interesting to see how many of these representatives canvas all the clubs in their area for a consensus on how they should vote. In truth it would be interesting to know if the Standing Committees and Zone Reps were consulted prior to the announcement, as now they will find themselves under even more pressure when it comes to giving the idea the go-ahead.
It will be interesting to see if this dream is pursued, if the overall view from the clubs at all levels of the game are against it. If that proves to be the case then Football West constitutionally will have to forget the idea and go back to its key role which is to administer to these clubs needs first and foremost.
If of course any of the Board wish to pursue personal ambitions of owning a football club, they would need to look at whether there was a conflict of interest them continuing on the Board and being privy to key information on the game as well as clubs.
The idea of having a community based club is a great idea. However Football West running the club is a peculiar decision. What would be their priority if they were granted a licence? The administering of the game locally, or the running and promoting of the A-League team?
There is already a groundswell that wants to see the A-League run as a stand alone league, rather than under the control of the FFA. This is something that the FFA are under pressure to achieve from the Asian Football Confederation, who want every league in their region to be seperate from the game’s governing body; the aim being that this is achieved by 2019. So how would it sit having a local governing body running a team in a National competition?
The biggest hurdle though is the one that faces every A-League franchise, the ownership of the ground on which you play your games. With no A-League franchise owning their own ground they are immediately up against the wall when it comes to making money on a match day, let alone generating income on non-matchdays. Football West would need to try and find a ground to call home, or combine with Perth Glory and try and screw Venues West, who manage NIB Stadium, on a long term lease. Suddenly the sport as a whole would have strength in numbers.
However the stadium issue throws up another real possibility, which if true would show that the Board of Football West have been extremely shrewd. Possibly the FFA and the state Government support Football West’s bid because the Western Force Super Rugby side will indeed be leaving Western Australia. That would free up the use of NIB Stadium. NIB Stadium would desperately need a new tenant. With football the only rectangular sport in a national competition at this point in time they would be ideally placed to become the major tenant. With Football West’s offices across the road from the Stadium and the organisation wanting a “Home of Football” maybe this is the deal that has been brokered with the Government. Football West have a State Funded team taking on a name such as “Western …” they may even get management rights at NIB Stadium, as the WAFL have with Subiaco Oval. The only problem is this would be moving along way from the current role that Football West has, and the Constitution would need to be changed. However it has a great deal of merit, makes a lot of sense and could be very good for the game as a whole and the two A-League clubs.
The Government would then transfer funding that currently goes to the Western Force to Football West. They offload the management of the stadium to a third party, Football West which allows them to focus on the running of the new Perth Arena.
There are plenty of questions that still need to be asked, and plenty of answers that will need to be found in the next three years. Local clubs would certainly be wise to sit around a table and work out what fees they want for any local talent that is signed up by either Western Australian side, and it needs to be more than what the FFA currently offer if more of their youth players are going to be poached. The clubs will also have to stay on top of monies due to them when players sign a new contract or move club. Without this injection of money two A-League clubs with junior development set ups could end up crippling an already financially stretched NPL.
One thing that is for sure is Football West would have to structure their football club in a far more streamlined fashion than they are currently structured. As with a similar proportion of people in management roles and wanting commensurate salaries would be a receipe for disaster.
There is merit in having a second team and there have been plenty who have considered such an option. There are three different parties that Not The Footy Show knows about, and all ended up walking away. Two because of the issue of owning their own ground and the fact that every game day you ran the risk of losing money. So if management of NIB Stadium could be negotiated it could definitely be a winner for the game
Tell us what you think, do you believe Perth Should have a second team?