Heavyweights back calls for A-League expansion
MELBOURNE Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro says his club supports A-League expansion and has demanded Football Federation Australia release its criteria for prospective licence bidders.
In his most pointed public remarks in some time, the Victory boss used his speech at a club function at Crown on Friday to call on the game's governing body to give clubs a far greater say in running the A-League.
It comes ahead of a week of decisive talks that could lead to a huge political shake-up, with pressure mounting on FFA to change its membership to reflect the changing landscape of the game.
With FFA chief executive David Gallop in attendance, A-League clubs displayed a rare show of public solidarity on Friday, with heavyweights from Melbourne City, Western Sydney, Sydney FC, Adelaide and Perth present at the Victory in Business luncheon.
The guest speakers, Fox Sports chief Patrick Delany and Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, also backed expansion calls.
Tensions have been boiling since the clubs were sidelined during negotiations of the recently announced six-year, $346 million TV deal.
Clubs claim 35% of A-League revenue has been redistributed to other areas of the game in the past two years, something they are hellbent on stopping.
Di Pietro said decisions made by the governing body now "are going to affect the future of football in Australia for years" to come.
"The viability of the league since its inception has hinged on the club owners meeting the significant operational funding challenges of the league," Di Pietro said.
"These challenges are made harder knowing that A-League-generated revenues are diverted to other matters, and that's outside of our control or say."
FFA has said two new teams will finally be introduced to the A-League in 2018-19, but no concrete plans are in place.
Di Pietro said Victory supports expansion and even intimated he would welcome another Melbourne rival.
"New teams will bring more content, which will enable more broadcast games, potentially reaching every household in Australia and more revenue to grow the game," he said.
"When thinking about expansion criteria we've seen that derbies are a proven winner. We need to pack stadiums.
"At this stage we haven't had any visibility on the strategic thinking. What we would like to see is a high level of consultation with all of the key stakeholders to work through the criteria.
"At the core of any expansion, we must be confident that any new licences don't compromise the mainstream integrity and the marketability of the competition.
"They must embrace all of us who enjoy sport. We've got to learn from lessons past, both good and bad."
Delany said expansion and marquee players were crucial to growing the game.
"We need to invest in things that sustain fans emotional engagement and bring new fans into the sport," he said.
"That is why I am encouraged by the talk of expansion - as long as it happens in the right places and by the promise of new high-profile marquee players.
"Players that can catch the attention of the general public, not just those in this room. They don't have to be the best in the world but they do have to be marketable."