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Promotion and relegation the "ultimate prize" in A-League expansion

Soccer

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop has promised to expand the A-League to 12 teams, potentially in as few as two years, with promotion and relegation the long-term goal.

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But he would not say exactly when – and where – this would occur.

Until very recently, growth was off the agenda for the next four years as FFA prioritised stabilising the 10 existing teams.

But calls for wholesale change have been gaining traction, with Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou the latest high-profile figure to demand the governing body start catering for the sport’s massive growth in Australia.

Gallop responded at the launch for the 2016-17 season by pledging to introduce two additional teams “relatively quickly”.

“Expansion will come sooner rather than later,” Gallop said on Tuesday in Sydney.

“Ten teams is not enough to have in our competition.

“We want to move to 12 teams relatively quickly.

“Importantly, people need to know they are on the horizon – they’re not being dismissed.

“The groundwork being done at the moment will put in a good position to make those things successful when they do happen.”

Promotion and relegation was the “ultimate prize”, a move Gallop insisted was not in recognition of external pressure from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.

That has no discernible time frame and, to do so, FFA would have to re-negotiate the clubs’ existing licences which run until 2034.

“Pushing sustainability into the existing 10 clubs, moving to a 12-team competition, investing in the tier below through things like the NPL and the FFA Cup, and then ultimately moving to a situation where promotion and relegation can happen,” Gallop said.

“I would see expansion coming first. It could happen within that period (four years).

“Let’s get some commercial deals in place, have a look at the size of the pie and then assess the suitability of moving quicker to an expanded competition.

“A road map that puts us in that position could be two, three or four years.”

Everything hinges on money from a new TV deal.

FFA will test the market in coming months after the September expiry of the exclusive negotiating period with incumbent rights holder Fox Sports.

Free-to-air networks Seven, Nine and Ten were all said to be interested, while the organisation would welcome the involvement of new English Premier League rights owners Optus and beIn Sports in any bidding war.

Gallop stopped short of confirming that FFA’s ambitious target of $80 million a year – double that of the current deal – still stood.

He said the fact some big Socceroos games, the Asian Cup and the Asian Champions League would no longer be included could impact on the value.

“We’ve got to be confident about our value; we’re not necessarily putting a figure on it,” he said.

“It is a different package than what we sold last time, but we know the game is growing and it’s a sport where an investment from our broadcasters will directly lead to more money for clubs, which means better playing rosters and better quality.”

-AAP

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