Former Socceroo Scott Ollerenshaw believes the St George district is an “untapped market” for football and that “tens of thousands” of football fans will not connect with the A-League until they have their own team.
Ollerenshaw grew up in the area and built his international career at St George Football Club.
He played professionally in England and Malaysia before joining Australian National Soccer League club Northern Spirit but the winger was forced to retire at just 31-years-old after suffering a serious hip injury.
Ollerenshaw, who made 14 appearances for Australia, has backed Southern Expansion’s bid to form a new A-League club representing St George as well as Sutherland Shire and Illawarra.
Southern expect to learn by the end of this week whether they are on the short list, expected to be between six and eight franchises, to be given one of two professional licences by Football Federation Australia for the 2019-20 season.
While Sydney FC have represented the area since their inception in 2004, Ollerenshaw said the region needed its own team if it was going to properly connect with the sport.
“I know this region. I speak to people in the region all the time about the game and about their kids’ involvement in the game. They’re not connected,” he said.
“I don’t want to talk up other codes but the [St George Illawarra] Dragons and the crowds they’re now getting at Jubilee [Oval, Kogarah] and WIN [Stadium, Wollongong] because they’re playing locally are the very clear example.
“Sydney FC’s local fans will no doubt stay loyal but there are tens of thousands of football fans and players who won’t connect to the A-League until they get their own club. That’s the reality. And the club in this area would be a success immediately because of that untapped market.”
Southern chairman Morris Iemma welcomed Ollerenshaw’s endorsement.
“The southern region is a football community that wants and can sustain its own club,” he said.
“St George Illawarra Dragons see it as a single region, fan and player base and market and have certainly never seen themselves as part of Sydney.
“I’ve lived here all my life, represented the area in parliament for over a decade.
“Scott Ollerenshaw as a St George boy is right. The southern region wants and will make great from day one, its own football club.”
Ollerenshaw also maintained Illawarra was necessary to Southern’s success.
A final decision from FFA on expansion will come in late October.