FNR hosted A-League expansion candidates in a 90-minute expansion forum which saw representatives from four of the six bids discuss why their respective bids are worthy and answer the big questions.
Team 11 – Matt Windley
Why they deserve entry
Currently based and branded as South-East Melbourne, Team 11 seek to cast a wide net over Victoria’s south-east and not limit themselves to what they believe are endless opportunities to grow the game.
Team 11 is ultimately incentivised by the region not being represented at a national stage, with Victoria’s two existing clubs based in the state’s capital.
Matt Windley says the bid does “not want to be a third Melbourne team” but have its own identity, representing the people of Victoria’s south-east who do not identify themselves as ‘Melburnian.’
The bid has attracted strong community support according to Windley who, despite conceding it taking time to get around to clubs, is convinced the bid has the backing of the community, local regions and small businesses.
The region boasts an enriched football history with teams like the Morwell Falcons competing in the NSL in addition to both Dandenong clubs playing in Victoria’s top-tier NPL competition. The region’s profound love of the game correlates with significant multiculturalism, with the City of Dandenong home to 160 different nationalities with over 116,000 residents having both parents born overseas.
The Burning Question – How will the stadium be funded?
Much of Team 11’s bid revolves around their stadium and while the designs excite it questions surrounding its funding get louder as the announcement looms.
Windley confirmed on the program it will be “100 per cent government funding” and the result from last month’s State election had no impact proceedings. According to Windley the State government has made no promises yet and will await the announcement from the FFA on December 12 before making a decision.
A two year wait for the stadium to be constructed would see the club use Casey fields as a temporary home ground. The oval has a capacity of 12,000 and is used by the AFL for pre-season games as well as during the AFLW season.
Windley says the ground will still be in “oval mode” but believes it will have a different feel to watching football at the MCG or Marvel, allowing fans to be close enough to the action to create atmosphere.
South Melbourne – Bill Papastergiadis
Why they deserve entry
Love them or loathe them South Melbourne sells papers.
A club which generates so much interest from both sides of the fence can only do wonders for the A-League and football’s growth should they be afforded the chance to return to the highest level.
The bid prides itself on being labelled as a ‘club’ as opposed to a consortium like the five other bids and has a strong existing and vocal supporter group, reflected through the ratings of club’s FFA Cup semi-final against Sydney FC which exceeded 70 per cent of A-League games that season.
The bid’s mission statement, as highlighted by Chairman Bill Papastergiadis, is to “draw a bridge between the past and present and building a future based on the South Melbourne story.”
While the club has and will continue to have strong ties to its history, which saw them crowned Oceania’s Team of the Century, Papastergiadis says the club has done well to “re-invent itself” in the NPL after the disbandment of the National Soccer League.
“We bring a profitable club from day one,” Papastergiadis said.
In addition, the club’s existing home ground Lakeside Oval will be used should they be successful where temporary stands behind the goals will be put in place.
Burning Question – Do they appeal to more than just the Greeks?
As part of the club re-inventing itself after the disbandment of the NSL, South Melbourne has created “strong relationships” with clubs and communities overseas such as China and India.
The FFA requires bids to have a catchment area of over 500,000 people and South Melbourne tick this box, using Melbourne’s South and South-East which encompasses 1.5 – 2 million people and is where the club’s schools program exists, allowing the club to reach over 7000 students.
While the club is proud of its Hellenic roots, Papastergiadis says they do not consider themselves a ‘Greek club’ as reflected through a diverse range of cultures and people involved at the club in addition to developing and housing many players not of a Greek background.
Southern Expansion – Morris Iemma
Why they deserve entry
Of all the bids Southern Expansion has made the most noise since day one, putting their foot down as one of the favourites to be given the all clear.
Bid Chairman and former NSW Premier Morris Iemma believes the bid will “immediately inject new life and energy into the A-League” the same way the Western Sydney Wanderers did when they joined.
The bid has made its ambitions known, planning to build a high-performance centre of excellence and sports science centre which draws inspiration from some of Europe’s top clubs.
This centre would be significant in enhancing player pathways especially considering the club’s training centre will be located next to ANSTO, who will work with the club in this area.
“We’ve had our people travel the world and pick up the best aspect of what clubs do to give youth players the best opportunity in football,” Iemma said.
“I want to give players the best opportunity to achieve their ambition and give them the qualities to suits them after football.”
Burning Question – They have the money and political power, but what about the fans?
Representing the St George district, Sutherland Shire and Football South Coast the catchment area is quite large and there is potential for the club to replicate what the Wanderers achieved in the stands from the beginning.
As a means of attracting support and building rapport with fans, the bid will play home games across three stadiums in the “short to mid-term” based in each of the respective councils before ultimately building a new stadium.
“I’m a firm believer in playing in the heartland,” Iemma said.
The three stadiums are “fit for purpose” according to Iemma and will not require any additional government funding.
In terms of supporters, Iemma revealed on the program the bid has identified 57,000 football fans in Southern Sydney who are yet to affiliate themselves with an A-League side and is who Southern Expansion will look to represent.
Macarthur South West Sydney – Sam Krslovic
Why they deserve entry
A dark horse in the expansion race, this bid is the amalgamation of United for Macarthur and South West Sydney who look to become the first professional sporting identity in Sydney’s South-West.
The bid will look to play home matches out of Campbelltown Stadium which according to Krslovic is likely to receive an upgrade, should the bid be successful.
Sydney is a city with distinct geographical distinctions as reflected through the bitter rivalry between the two existing clubs.
Adding a team in the South-West will only add to the fire and create more rivalries fuelled by such distinctions, creating more derbies and sell out attendances.
In addition to a strong community presence, the bid also has billionaire Lang Walker funding the bid as well as having a substantial input into the Campbelltown Stadium upgrades.
This region is also one of the biggest growth corridors in Australia, expected to house over 1 million residents in the next 15 years.
Burning Question – Do we know enough about the bid to be certain it will succeed?
While Macarthur South West Sydney has not been as active in releasing information as the other bids, they have established a strong social media presence having amassed over 16,000 likes on Facebook, whereas their competition Southern Expansion has only reached a little over 3,400.
Albeit in contrast to Southern Expansion, the football public does not know as much about this bid and what they will bring to the table, other than tremendous community and council support.
But this could prove to be a big factor in getting the bid over the line with the team at Macarthur South West priding themselves on being “100 per cent Australian owned” not seeking international ownership as other A-League clubs have done.
“We need locally based Australian ownership, it’s very important to maintain this identity and ethos,” Sam Krslovic said.