Despite losing its inaugural CEO after just four months, there is optimism new A-League club Macarthur FC can build a strong club and can be a model for future expansion.
This season a new 11th club in the A-League kicks off when Western United FC become Melbourne’s third club.
The Green and Black are based across a multicultural, population growth corridor in western Melbourne.
Macarthur Bulls will enter the A-League in 2020 as the 12th club, representing another eastern seaboard growth corridor with over 100 nationalities to call on.
For the voice of the A-League on Fox Sports, Simon Hill, the Bulls’ growth potential remains strong despite the news that inaugural CEO Archie Fraser had resigned last week after just four months.
“I think Macarthur has a strong enough regional identity,” Hill told FTBL.
“They have Campbelltown council behind them, and they are going to redevelop their stadium at Campbelltown.
“Plus, they have Ante Milicic as a coach and are trying to connect with the community and the Indigenous community via their academy.”
The Macarthur and south-west region of Sydney is a 500,000-plus population area, with around 25,000 registered football players male and female.
Australia’s population is tipped to surge – both Melbourne and Sydney are expected to reach eight million populations over the coming three decades – the ABS suggest Australia could add a further 10 million to our current 25 million by the year 2043.
Can the Macarthur model be a blueprint for future A-League expansion?
A blueprint that focuses on new A-League clubs in areas of population and housing growth as major cities expand out.
The A-League has a golden opportunity over the coming 20 years.
And with football’s grip on grassroots as strong as ever, the theory appears sound.
Though Hill offers a note of caution.
“We have all those advantages,” he says. “But we’ve had those advantages for many years.
“We also, unfortunately, have disadvantages. We’re seen not only as a challenger sport but an outsider sport by mainstream Australia. That’s a cultural problem.
“Economically other codes have an iron grip on the finances available to support professional sport in this country, and they’re not going to give that up easily.
“And the fact is, we still don’t have enough people in football with influence in positions of power.
“Government money, there’s a lot. It’s changing slowly.
“I think the FFA has done some good work in that regard of late, but too much money still go to other sports that don’t have nearly as many participants. Particularly in females, which is the big growth area as football does.
“So we must fight much harder for that corporate dollar.
“If we can, those natural advantages should see our game kick on and become much bigger than it is.
“But we need inclusivity and if the huge participation base is disconnected from the A-League the professional game then we’ll remain where we are. A big participation sport. And that’s all we’ll ever be.
“We have to translate those advantages into commercial opportunities and media coverage. And we still struggle in that regard.”
The Bulls’ inaugural CEO Archie Fraser departed the club last week four months into his tenure.
It was a shock to many and raised some concerns.
But as a new Sydney derby looms in 2020 when the Wanderers and Bulls meet head-on, Hill believes the new club won’t cannibalize the existing A-League market.
And the fans will turn out for the Bulls as the A-League powers forward in western Sydney.
“It becomes a more crowded market in western Sydney but there are more than enough football fans out there,” Hill added.
“And if the Bulls can get that strong local identity. And I know they have some good ideas around that, then that’s what building a club is all about.
“That’s what the Wanderers did so well. They built their identity from day one, and that’s why it’s worked.
“Unfortunately it’s just faded away, temporarily we hope, because of the move away from Parramatta during the construction of their new stadium.”