Two new teams will join the A-League in the coming seasons, with the Western Melbourne and Macarthur South-West bids winning the league’s expansion race.
The Western Melbourne club will enter the competition in the 2019/20 A-League season, while the Macarthur South-West team will follow a season later.
The Victorian team will play at a newly built football specific stadium that will undergo construction in the coming months. In the interim, they will play their home matches at Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium.
The Macarthur South-West team will play at Campbelltown Stadium in Leumeah.
While the decision may not please all fans, the fact that this is only the first phase of expansion will keep bidders and supporters hopeful that more teams will be added in the future.
The addition of the Western Melbourne bid is a positive for the region, with the guarantee that there will be many A-League matches played in Geelong and in the western suburbs of Melbourne in the future. It is important to recognise the clubs that play in this region, either in the NPL or in the lower divisions, and this will benefit the players. It gives them a greater chance to be scouted and further develop their careers.
Additionally, playing in a football specific stadium will provide a fantastic experience and limit the problems associated with venue sharing, such as poor-quality surfaces. The Western Melbourne Group have the potential to recreate the atmospheres seen in the MLS, where a high-quality matchday experience is made.
While the introduction of the Western Melbourne club is good for the region, the area covered by the Team 11 bid will continue to be ignored until it potentially is included in the next phase of expansion. However, the FFA announced it will continue to look to expand and there is every chance that a club from the south-east could be formed.
The inclusion of the Macarthur South-West team is also a good move and will benefit football in the district. There are several junior footballers and clubs in this area and these numbers will continue to grow. The Macarthur region is booming, with housing and infrastructure set to explode.
The Macarthur South-West club will play at an already existing rectangular stadium. Campbelltown Stadium is an ideal size, with a capacity of 20,000. It means that an intimidating atmosphere will be created, as opposed to an oversized stadium with empty seats. A possible upgrade to the stadium has been discussed.
A potential limitation of the Macarthur South-West team is that it could attract fans of both the Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC, which would cut into their supporter base. However, there are still football fans in the Macarthur region that do not follow an A-League club and the inclusion of the new club will no doubt catch their eyes. Travelling to the current A-League stadiums in Sydney from the Macarthur region is not ideal, making a south-west Sydney team logistically positive.
The inclusion of another team in Sydney will no doubt have its opposition, particularly from the Western Sydney Wanderers. Excluding a handful Wanderers and Sydney FC matches, the stadium has not been consistently used in the A-League. The addition of a new team will allow the district to be represented on the national stage.
As for the unsuccessful bids, not all hope is lost. This is only the first phase of expansion and the league will continue to grow. All the bids were impressive and in a perfect world, they all would have been accepted. Canberra should get an A-League team in the future, while the creation of a second division and potentially promotion and relegation will give South Melbourne a big chance to return to the national spotlight.