The Smith Report recently suggested a freeze on A-League expansion until the competition had stabilised and the FFA had sorted out its finances, so it was very interesting to see the news this week that a Western Sydney franchise appears to be back on the agenda – so what’s really going on here…

The past – a couple of years back, with three rival bids on the table for West Sydney, the FFA stepped outside of their own bidding process and hand-picked a team they felt was more capable of getting a franchise up and running – in the process, via some pretty shonky communications, they alienated those who were involved in the previous bids.

The FFA approved bid team, featuring Ian Rowden and Charlie Yankos, figures steeped in football knowledge, then failed dismally in their attempts to get the required funding. The FFA have placed all responsibility for this failure on the bid team that they selected, whilst taking no blame for their own incorrect decision.
The present – reports are that former Perth Glory owner Nick Tana and ex Soccer Australia chairman Remo Nogarotto have been lined up by the FFA to head a new West Sydney bid.

However, whilst Tana could afford to run a franchise by himself, he has indicated that he is not prepared to cover the inevitable losses of operating a club in the current system, and as a result he will be AN investor rather than THE investor, and requires additional backers – the same backers than Rowden, Yankos and Co were unable to find during the previous bid. If this bid fails to come off, one wonders if the FFA will again blame the team rather than those who hand-picked them?

This week Melbourne Victory, the most succesful club in the competition, posted losses of almost $1.5m, a major warning sign to all involved in football that we are spending too much. With all ten A-League clubs already operating beyond their means, and with more than one in serious trouble of not even existing next season, we can’t afford to over-extend ourselves. Yet the FFA continues to look for more investors rather than servicing the needs of the existing owners, continues to find it’s own bid teams rather than opening the doors to interested parties.

The future – the A-League model is based around being a brand to itself. The exclusion of the traditional soccer clubs that we grew up watching was about changing the image of the game, the ownership of all elements of the brand by the FFA is about controlling that image… Yet those running the game seem to struggle with the idea that every failed franchise, every disatisfied owner, every debt ridden season, reflects badly on the brand and scares off future investors.
The FFA also seem to struggle with the notion that by excluding long standing clubs they also reduce their options in areas like West Sydney – areas already supported by several succesful, long standing clubs… We could have clubs there tomorrow if we simply invited Marconi and Olympic to make bids.

But how would that effect the FFA’s brand?