Tana's recipe for A-League expansion

Perth Glory’s former owner and fast food king, Nick Tana, has dished up his recipe for A-League expansion which includes a third team in Sydney, a second in Brisbane and a Canberra franchise.

Sage

Tony Sage, right, and former Glory owner Nick Tana, left, at the round one A-League match between Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners Source: Getty Images

With growth the competition’s hot topic, there is no place on Tana’s menu for a third side from Melbourne, or even another from Victoria as a whole, or a second from Adelaide, or a team from Tasmania. Let alone his home city of Perth.

With Tasmania, West Adelaide, Brisbane, South Melbourne, Geelong and southern Sydney all throwing their hats in the ring as FFA looks at enlarging the competition by as many as two teams next season to coincide with a new TV rights deal, Tana agrees that expansion must happen “sooner rather than later”.

The ex-owner of the Chicken Treat and Red Rooster chains - who presided over two national league titles before handing back the Glory licence in 2006 - sees an optimal number of A-League teams as 14, but would welcome 12 next seasons.

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“We need more matches … the game is faltering, and it needs a boost. The standard and the quality, notwithstanding the referees, is not where we were,” said Tana.

“I don’t care what anybody says … in the time of the NSL some of the teams and the games, while not dramatized as they are now, were still, I believe, better in football terms than what we are seeing at the moment.

“Expansion is one way if tacking that. In an ideal world you’d need about 14 teams. There’s room to expand in the eastern states.

“But FFA has to make a conscious decision to prop up whoever it goes with and support them heavily. I like Canberra ... but it’s got to a five or 10-year plan.

“Canberra is a hot favourite of mine, there are a lot of nationalities there, and they are from countries which love football, so give them something to follow and support.

“I’d target Brisbane because of its population base … a team out of southern Sydney is also fertile territory. Sutherland Shire has the highest number of registered players in the country.

“I know the FFA is keen on that market and I’d bring them in but also involve Wollongong with games being staged there to tap into that audience.”

Tana, who In 2011 came close to taking the A-League license which ultimately went to Primo Smallgoods boss Paul Lederer at Western Sydney Wanderers, is a strongly against the formation of a second Perth team, insisting it would be a short-cut to financial pain for its backers.

“I’ve always maintained that a second team in Perth is not what is needed and should not come in just to prop up a certain number of games,” said Tana, a devoted Glory fan who still attends virtually every home game.

“Otherwise, there’s going to be some real pain for any number of operators over here. You have to Glory are still only playing in front of about 10,000 people, and sometimes less but never much more.

“You have to be three-quarter filling nib stadium before you can support a second team in Perth.

“The game over here has to get back to the heights it enjoyed many years ago before the city can sustain a second team.

“Bringing one in just to rev up the existing team is all well and good but, as I said, they’d be some severe hemorrhaging happening.

“Yes, there are always people prepared to put their hand up, but unless they have exceptionally deep pockets, and do it for the right reasons, then they will start losing interest.

“Any number of people have called to get my views and they have not changed.”

Worth an estimated $200 million, Tana abandoned his Wanderers bid because he wanted to spend more time on marketing than FFA was prepared to grant.

“The reason I was involved was that I was quite certain it would succeed … it was really a no-brainer,” he said.

“Harry Kewell was involved at that stage and he wanted it done straight away and the A-League needed it done straight away because of TV agreements but I was not ready for it. But I am very happy how it worked out for them.”

While Tana supports a third Sydney team, he sees no value in a third Melbourne franchise.

He says of former NSL giant South Melbourne’s quest for a license, “I can’t see how there is room for a third team so close to the centre of the city.

“City are struggling for crowds already and even Victory’s attendances have gone off the boil somewhat. So I’m not sure how South Melbourne can work.

“I am not sure Geelong is up to it, quite frankly, either … I don’t feel from a financial or catchment put of view that it’s big enough.”


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5 min read
Published 21 November 2016 at 2:38pm
By Dave Lewis