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A-League expansion a 'strategic priority'

FFA chief David Gallop says he's open to a bigger pot of funds for guest wages next season.
A-League expansion a 'strategic priority'
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Expansion is officially back on the A-League agenda after a meeting between club chairmen and Football Federation Australia head honchos in Melbourne.

According to a FFA statement, there was a "broad agreement" reached between all parties that expansion of the competition should be a "strategic priority", but only if economically sustainable.

It's believed FFA and the clubs see expansion as a way to add content, and thus increased value, to the A-League's new broadcast deal, which is currently in negotiation.

"Everyone recognises a new club needs to be successful in its own right, but equally importantly, should be a benefit to the entire game and help grow the pie for everyone," FFA chief executive David Gallop told AAP.

It is a further sign the A-League is poised to grow in the near future after Gallop said at last week's season launch that he wants to add new teams "fairly quickly", but refused to set a timeframe for the process.

The new A-League TV deal will kick in from the 2017-18 season, and a sizeable increase in money paid for the rights is the key to any form of expansion given existing clubs are unwilling to divide their current distributions any further.

Expansion remains a hot-button topic in football circles, with Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou in his new book urging FFA to grow the league and rebuking the governing body for its over-cautious approach.

The A-League has kept the same 10 clubs since the demise of Gold Coast United, replaced for the 2012-13 season by Western Sydney.

However, there is a growing sense the competition is becoming stale and the sport's boom in popularity is not being adequately catered for, with only nine of those clubs based in Australia.

There is also increasing debate around the concept of promotion and relegation as well as the introduction of a national second division.

Meanwhile, talks between FFA and the clubs will continue over finding the "best operating model" for the A-League following their recent power wrangle.

A-League clubs want better representation in decision making at FFA and also an improved share of revenue, with some calling for the competition to be run independently.

However, Gallop said that would not be happening.

"The suggestion that a break away from the FFA is imminent is off the mark," Gallop said.

"The recent FIFA/AFC visit has seen an in-principle agreement to make some changes and FFA is committed to work collaboratively with all the game's stakeholders to reach a model that meets the game's future needs."

Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin - also the head of the Australian Professional Football Clubs' Association, formed last month to give owners more lobbying power - said the meeting was collaborative and productive.

"It included extensive discussion about exploring the optimum commercial model for the Hyundai A-League and its next phase of growth and expansion," he said.

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