Southern Expansion 'not worried' as A-League licence rivals join forces

Not worried: Southern Expansion CEO Chris Gardiner at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah. Picture: Peter Braig
Not worried: Southern Expansion CEO Chris Gardiner at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah. Picture: Peter Braig

Southern Expansion are not worried about the merger of their two rival Sydney-based bids for new A-League licences, believing bids from Melbourne and Brisbane remain their biggest threat.

Fairfax Media reported earlier this week that South West Sydney Football Club and United for Macarthur, two of the 10 aspirants shortlisted by Football Federation Australia five weeks ago, had joined forces in an effort to secure their future in an expanded national competition.

The joint venture will be pitted directly against Southern Expansion, who plan to represent St George, Sutherland Shire and Wollongong, in a head-to-head contest to be named as the city’s third A-League club alongside Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers.

But Southern CEO Chris Gardiner told the Leader his group remained “very confident” despite the new developments.

“I’ve spoken with the South West guys and we’re not too worried about it,” he said.

“We think the metrics between the two [bids] still justify our decision to focus on the southern region as we’ve defined it.

“I can put hand on heart to both our investors and the FFA and say that this is the place to put an immediately successful club. We have three tremendous associations, great chambers of commerce, existing grounds that service the whole of our area.

“We wish South West good luck but we’re focused on putting our final proposal to the FFA and we’re confident in our bid.

“I think [South West is] a stronger bid than it was before. I think our main competition is Brisbane and Melbourne because I think the metrics suggest ours is the strongest bid in the next five years in the greater Sydney area.

“I think someday there should be another licence in the south west and we’d be committed to working with the current clubs Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers to prepare for that.

“But if what [FFA] want is an immediately successful club with members and viability, then Southern is still the strongest Sydney bid.

“One of the biggest metrics to take into consideration is participation. We have 40 to 50,000 existing football players in our region to be turned into fans and A-League television viewers. That stands out immediately. And also the fact our grounds service the whole of our area and will deliver content to the whole of the community we serve.

“In 10 years the south west is clearly going to have a huge population. That impacts five to 10 years from now. The biggest [metric] we’ve got in favour of us is the number of players and we’ve got at least twice as many registered players.”

Gardiner confirmed that town hall style community consultation meetings had been put on hold until the formal announcement of the successful bids.

Would-be expansion sides have less than three weeks to finalise their bid documents by the August 31 deadline.

Along with Sydney bids Southern Expansion and South West, remaining bids include the Wollongong Wolves, Victorian outfits Team 11, Western Melbourne Group and South Melbourne, Western Pride/Ipswich, Brisbane City and Canberra.

FFA will make a final decision by the end of October with an expanded 12-team competition to start next year.