United we stand: government secures Canberra ALW future

Canberra football's governing body has cast fresh doubt on the capital's inclusion in the A-League Men (ALM) competition for next season, after the future of Canberra United's women's team was secured.

At the very least delaying the foundation club’s exit from the competition, the ACT government has given United $200,000 as the search continues for a bidder to fund the proposed ALM team.

Capital Football had previously raised doubt it could continue financially backing the club and hoped a bidder would take over operations of both the men's and women's sides.

A Canberra United fan with a sign.
A Canberra United fan holds up a sign at a recent ALW fixture against Sydney FC at McKellar Park.

CEO Sam Farrow doubted any investors would be able to have a side ready for the 2024/25, as the Australian Professional Leagues had been initially targeting.

"It's all still going through the processes the A-League and the investment team need to go through," she said.

"It's difficult because we're not part of the bid, so we (don't have) the inside knowledge.

"For us, it's just waiting to hear ... but those parties are still involved and are still at the table talking, so that for me is a very promising status.

"I imagine it'd be quite difficult for 24-25, but I don't rule out the ability of this investment team to pull things together if they need to when they get the go-ahead."

Despite the extra government coin - and their promise they will play ALW in 2024/25 - Capital Football still estimate the club have a $200,000 shortfall.

They remain seeking new sponsorship deals and working with crowd-funding movement 'Save Canberra United' on fundraising initiatives, with any money raised to be spent "providing extra services to professionalise this team in every way".

But after narrowly avoiding the women's side being forced to sit out next season, the extra funding is a massive win for Canberra's football community.

"We thank the football community for supporting Canberra United through the ‘Save Canberra United’ fundraising campaign, and that, coupled with this generous contribution from the government, certainly helps the club in our immediate requirements," Canberra United said in a statement on Thursday.

It was feared the uncertainty around the future of the women’s side could lead to a mass player exodus, although as yet the only player to announce their departure is star midfielder Vesna Milivojevic.

The 22-year-old Serbia international has joined Swedish side IFK Norrkoping.

Securing ALW all-time leading goal-scorer Michelle Heyman is a key priority, with the 35-year-old's value surely sky-rocketing after her recent return to the Matildas side.

"I really hope she'll be a part of it, she has been a big part of Canberra United for the last few years and I certainly would like to welcome her to continue," Farrow said.

Canberra were selected by the Australian Professional Leagues as one of two preferred expansion locations for the 2024/25 ALM season.

But unlike the franchise for Auckland FC, which was bought by American billionaire Bill Foley and has appointed Steve Corica as inaugural coach, United have yet to confirm an owner.

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