A-League to nominate ‘preferred bidders’ rather than make expansion call on Wednesday

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The FFA board is likely to turn its back on an expansion big bang when it meets to discuss growing the A-League on Wednesday night, opting instead for a go gently approach.

Six hopefuls — South Melbourne, Western Melbourne Group and Dandenong’s Team 11 from Victoria, South West Sydney, Southern Expansion from NSW, and Canberra — will learn whether they’re in line to join the A-League on Wednesday night.

Instead of unveiling two new teams, it’s likely two “preferred bidders” will be named on Thursday, giving FFA wiggle room before a final January announcement.

Rather than giving the green light to join the league next year, it’s likely both new sides will be waylaid until 2020-21.

The move won’t please players or fans, desperate to see some life back in the stagnant league.

The mooted delay is an acquiescence to existing A-League clubs, wanting focus on a new operation model and seeking to protect their own turf.

A huge range of considerations are in play for the decision; the first test of the new FFA board since their election last month.

It’s also understood the future of Wellington Phoenix is far from certain beyond next season as New Zealand’s representatives struggle to expand their footprint.

Last-minute jostling between FFA and bidders over license fees — believed to begin at $13 million — and other matters continued this week.

FFA chief David Gallop acknowledged the fast-moving feast, saying it was “literally a game of snakes and ladders with movements occurring on almost an hourly basis.”

“Expansion of the A-League is a critically important decision for the league but also the whole of the sport,” he told AAP.

“We are confident we’ll be in a position to make a strong responsible decision which will secure further growth not just for the years to come but the decades to come.”

A-League clubs have made their feelings on timing well-known to FFA, with at least one — Brisbane’s Nirwan Bakrie — happy to go public.

“We need expansion. Before that happens the [operating] model needs to change. Identify the clubs now and give them more time to prepare. Next season is too soon,” he told AAP.

With no new teams added since 2012, players are eager to see growth.

PFA head John Didulica wrote in September that “should expansion be hijacked or compromised by politicking it would be a betrayal” but, equally, the player’s union doesn’t want to see a rush-job on new sides.

Ex-Socceroo Archie Thompson spoke out on Tuesday, arguing in favour of adding new clubs, and soon.

“The old NSL, with so many teams, had so many opportunities for young players,” he said

“It needs to happen now. If they could do it for next season then do it, go. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

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