26 August 2020

Canberra makes another pitch to join the A-League

| Dominic Giannini
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CRFC co-directors Bede Gahan and Michael Caggiano are confident the FFA will agree to the proposal. Photo: Region Media.

The Capital Region Football Collective (CRFC) has officially submitted a multi-million dollar offer for an A-League team for the 2021-22 season. While no exact figure has been linked to the bid, it is expected to be worth between $5 million and $10 million.

The bid put forward to the FFA (Football Federation Australia) has the backing of an “experienced Europe-based investment group” which would locate key staff to Canberra if the bid is accepted. A local “high-net-worth” family is also behind the venture.

The European investors will supply players, coaches and administrators “to ensure the club is positioned to make a splash as soon as we arrive”, CRFC co-director Bede Gahan said, while an Australian manager has been targeted to run the team.

If successful, Canberra would become the league’s 13th team.

Another option is to purchase the Central Coast Mariners’ licence although it is understood Mariners’ owner Mike Charlesworth is seeking around $4 million for the licence.

“The Mariners are a foundation A-League club with a strong history, so we would like to see the club given every opportunity to survive,” Mr Gahan said.

“We will be seeking a newly issued A-League licence; however, if the best way forward for all parties involved is for us to purchase the Mariners’ licence, then we are open to that.

“The A-League needs regional teams, in areas independent of the metropolitan markets to fully maximise its potential with the grassroots of the game. This is particularly important in the ACT region which hasn’t had a chance previously and has done everything ever asked of it to be part of the league.”

Canberra’s most recent bid was rejected in 2018 when the two licences were given to a third Melbourne team for the 2019-20 season and a third Sydney team for the 2020-21 season.

There is also the possibility of the Canberra-based A-League team merging with Canberra United, the capital’s W-League team, after CRFC held discussions with Capital Football.

The CRFC has been given four to six weeks to complete the deal before the investors decide to pull out of Australia, but co-director Michael Caggiano is confident the FFA will agree to the proposal.

“This is a significant, fully funded financial offer that we have been building towards for quite some time,” Mr Caggiano said.

“We have been speaking directly to [CEO] James Johnson at the FFA and have submitted detailed financial statements that prove we can guarantee our ongoing operations, and we only add value to the league.

“The A-League is in a state of transition and we feel that this is an opportunity not only to take football in the Canberra region to a new level but to give the A-League the shot in the arm it needs to reinvigorate the competition.”

The Canberra bid team wants to finalise terms in August to provide certainty to players, staff and fans, Mr Caggiano said.

There are more than 8000 foundation members who want to see the A-League come to Canberra, Mr Gahan said.

“This is what the A-League needs right now: a fresh and exciting team that opens the competition up to an entire new region, a springboard into a new broadcast rights deal.

“This decision needs to be for the game. It is time for Canberra.”

Original Article published by Dominic Giannini on The RiotACT.

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