Auckland could have teams in the men’s and women’s A-League as early as October next year, according to news reports in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age say an announcement is imminent that the A-League will introduce four new clubs over the next three years, boosting the competitions to 16 teams each.
Auckland and Canberra had been identified as the “clear standouts” to provide teams 13 and 14 in the expansion plan, according to Danny Townsend, chief executive of the Australian Professional League.
The reports say that instead of inviting bids from Australia and New Zealand, the APL had conducted “extensive” research to determine which untapped markets held the most potential for the men’s and women’s leagues.
As a result, Auckland and Canberra had been designated “preferred market status” by the APL.
If the plans go ahead, Auckland would have a team for the first time since the New Zealand Knights were replaced by the Wellington Phoenix in 2007.
The reports suggest an Auckland club would use Mt Smart Stadium as their home ground.
“The organisation’s chiefs have already begun consulting football community leaders, governments and other potential stakeholders to gather support.
“They will spend the next few months searching for investors, before ideally awarding club licences to the new owners in June — giving them about 14 months to prepare both men’s and women’s teams for kick-off in October 2024.”
Townsend said: “We want to go and look at all the things that you need to deliver a really successful football club … so we can sort of build a club in a box, and then find the right owner for the box.”
The report says the APL will see expansion fees of about A$25 million for the new franchises, which is in line with recent prices for the sale of clubs and with the valuation of the A-League by Silver Lake’s $140 million private equity deal for a third share.
“This is not about investing in the A-League today, it’s about investing in where we’re headed, and we’re really confident the direction we’re headed is going to be one that will drive a lot more enterprise value in those licences,” Townsend said.
‘Not overly concerned about why Knights didn’t work out’
Townsend said the failure of the NZ Knights should be learned from.
“You obviously look at why the [New Zealand] Knights didn’t work, and you learn from that and ensure you don’t follow the same path. We’re confident that there is a better path than the one they took.
“We want to take A-Leagues professional football to as many people as we can across those two countries. It was sort of a no-brainer.”
Townsend said: “Are we a league that is an Australian league with a Kiwi team, or are we an Australasian league that embraces the whole country off to our right?
“Our view is, we’ve got an opportunity to embrace the whole nation. Auckland is the biggest metro city in Australia or New Zealand without a team. We’re not overly concerned about history and why things worked or didn’t.”