The long road south

They want more football in Tasmania and Melbourne Victory playing one game a season on the Apple Isle is just the start.

They want more football in Tasmania and are determined to get it. Melbourne Victory playing one game a season on the Apple Isle is just the start.

The long-term view is to one day have a Tasmanian side in the Hyundai A-League, and although CEO of Football Federation Tasmania John Boulous is willing to admit it is a very long-term plan, small gains are being made.

The next? To have a match take place in Hobart to build on the success of the games they have had in Launceston.

“It-s great for the people to see the next level of football,” Boulos tells footballaustralia.com.au.

“We need to make sure we-re getting the game at the right time of the season in Launceston, but to also look at moving a game to Hobart, which has its own challenges.

“We want to grow to include a game in the north and a game in the south. We believe that will fully engage the state. We-d like more people at the game, but it-s a work in progress.

“We-re very keen to work with FFA on this. Victory are not in a position to dislodge any of their home games, but certainly we will look at the opportunity to bring matches from areas that may have too many matches for their market or some type of match that FFA might have as a community round to Hobart.

“I-d like to think it-s something we could work into next year-s roster in the short term but certainly in the final term of the deal.

“The obvious option is Bellerive Oval but that-s heavily tied to cricket in the summer months. The option is North Hobart Oval which is generally seen as the home of the AFL down here.”

The AFL is, of course, the dominant code in Tasmania, with a sterling history in that code, locals naturally flock towards it.

But with the highest participation of any code on the island, Boulos is confident those numbers can turn football into the second-highest rating sport in the state.

“A lot of people still follow the AFL so our challenge is to engage those people to look at the A-League as the next level of competition,” Boulos says.

“The A-League gives sports lovers a football code 12 months of the year to follow and we hope through this that the Victory becomes the team of choice for Tasmania.”

Melbourne Victory-s sponsorship of the Tasmanian league is one reason the game is growing in the southern state and Boulos sees it as the start of a number of stepping stones to getting the long-term dream going - an A-League team for Tasmania.

While he concedes the league isn-t in an expansion position he also realises that to get there they have to do the little things right in the first instance.

“In most quarters it (a team for Tasmania) is still the goal but it is long term. Certainly we need an existing relationship with an A-League club and we can get no better than having one with Melbourne Victory.

“The state government have made it very clear they will be working with FFT to increase the foothold of football in Tasmania and then if opportunities present themselves that is there, but for now it-s about our relationship with Victory and increasing the presence here.”