Sutherland Shire mayor Carmelo Pesce has thrown his support behind Southern Expansion’s bid for a standalone A-League team to represent the area.
Football Federation Australia chief David Gallop and his management team will make their recommendation on the expansion process to the board on December 12, where they will state their preference for the next teams and timelines for their entrance to the A-League.
Though Fairfax Media have reported A-League expansion is at risk of being delayed by another season with an announcement on the two new teams to enter the competition potentially delayed to January next year.
Southern are one of the six remaining bidders along with rivals South West Sydney, Canberra and a trio of Victorian bids – South Melbourne, Western Melbourne and Team 11.
Team 11 and South West Sydney are understood to be FFA management’s preferred bids but, a week out from the potential announcement, Sutherland Shire Council have publicly announced their “strong support” for Southern’s bid.
“We’ve been behind Southern Expansion from day one,” Cr Pesce said.
“We have thousands and thousands of footballers and our local parks are straining with the demand every weekend and we are particularly strong in women’s football and have more female participants than any other football association in the country.
“We all want a professional club in our area.
“We need it to complete elite pathways locally and to connect this huge football area properly. Kids in the shire shouldn’t have to travel into other areas to get their development opportunities.
“The thousands and thousands of local football fans who haven’t been engaged by existing clubs in the A-League want their own club who will play games here in Cronulla.
“We’re a grassroots football giant. And the giant is rumbling. It’s time to give us our own club.”
Sydney FC have made the St George district in particular a priority in recent months since losing Allianz Stadium.
The Sky Blues plan to use Jubilee Oval at Kogarah as their major temporary home for the duration of Allianz Stadium’s three-year redevelopment.
A sell out crowd of more than 19,000 packed into Jubilee last month for Sydney FC’s first home game of the season at the venue against Melbourne Victory.
But more than a third of Sydney FC’s membership also lives in Sydney’s south, including the shire.
The Sky Blues also run an academy program at Endeavour Sports High School and have played a number of W-League games in the shire in recent seasons, including their clash with Brisbane Roar at Seymour Shaw Park on Sunday.
Southern CEO Chris Gardiner claimed FFA’s own data showed Southern Expansion beat the remaining five A-League bidders in terms of participation, with the Sutherland Shire Football Association’s more than 25,000 participants underpinning Southern’s bid.
“According to FFA data, Sutherland has, by itself, more player participation than each of the other bid areas... and it will take a decade of projected population growth for South West Sydney to catch up,” Gardiner said.
“Even after a decade, Canberra will still be behind and the Melbourne bid areas won’t come anywhere close. With St George and Wollongong added, no-one comes close even by 2030.”