Southern Expansion denied entry to A-League after FFA make call on expansion

Rejected: Southern Expansion will not enter the A-League. Picture: Peter Braig
Rejected: Southern Expansion will not enter the A-League. Picture: Peter Braig

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Southern Expansion will not be part of the A-League next season, with Football Federation Australia rejecting the club’s bid for entry into the competition.

Southern, one of six remaining bids, have missed out on a place in the expanded competition. Rival Sydney bid Macarthur-South West Sydney and Western Melbourne Group have been granted licences.

Western Melbourne Group will enter the competition next season, with Macarthur-South West Sydney the following campaign.

It took more than nine hours for the FFA Board to deliberate over A-League expansion, the timeline and number of teams to enter the competition, eventually settling on two teams in a tiered schedule just after midnight on Thursday morning.

The Macarthur-South West Sydney bid will be based at Campbelltown Stadium. They will be given an extra year to be ready to enter the A-League in 2020. That decision gives Western Sydney Wanderers the chance to play an entire season in their new home at the rebuilt Parramatta Stadium.

Sydney FC had been strong opponents of the Southern Expansion bid, making a number of public statements against the bid that would have represented St George, Sutherland Shire and Wollongong.

The Sydney Morning Herald have reported that the FFA will land $32 million in cash after selling the two A-League club licences.

It's understood Western Melbourne Group paid about $19m for their A-League licence while sources suggest the Campbelltown-based bid will pay about $13m for their licence, beginning in the 2020-21 campaign.  

Southern Expansion offered a licence fee of $16m, another $4m in operational expenses and were prepared to pay a further $1m more for a W-League licence.

Southern expressed their disappointment in a statement on Thursday, claiming FFA voted against its own metrics and data in ignoring their bid.

Southern CEO Chris Gardiner thanked the bid’s financial backers, chairman Morris Iemma, head of football Craig Foster, the three local football associations and councils as well as football fans in the region.

“Sadly, we believe this an opportunity lost not only for the Southern region, but the whole of the A-League and W-League,” he said.

“As we know, Southern Expansion ticked all the boxes. 18 months ago, we started with the late and great Les Murray as our chairman. Les passionately advocated for a professional football for the region where he grew-up. Southern Expansion was to be Les’ legacy. His instinct was that the region was the best location for a new club and the FFA’s data proved him right.

“From day one, we had guaranteed financial backing, with $20million cash up-front, deposited in an Australian bank account for the licence fee and club establishment. Our backers were wholly committed to Southern’s financial sustainability, to investment in world-best training facilities and infrastructure and also to constructing a purpose-built stadium in the long-term.

“We had secured land at the ANSTO site in southern Sydney for our training centre, we had three great local stadia to play out of immediately, we had the support of all three local football associations with over 40,000 players, we had a pathway into the Chinese super league competition and we had the most respected football and governance leadership in place, led by our head of football, former Socceroo and champion of the game, Craig Foster.

“We had committed $3million for marquee players and we allocated $1million for a W-League team, in an effort to expand the popular women’s game, in the lead-up to the Matildas playing at the World Cup.

“That’s why it’s so surprising that the FFA has voted against its own assessment data, which emphatically showed that our bid was the strongest on participation, projected TV audience, attendance and membership, and for overall revenue potential, all of which confirmed its own work previously pointing to St George, Sutherland and the Illawarra as the perfect location for a new A-League club.

“Unfortunately, it will now take at least a decade of projected growth elsewhere in Sydney to even come close to what Southern had put on the table. If FFA wanted immediate success for A-League expansion, it’s surprising that they’ve voted against Southern Expansion.

“It’s disappointing that this region has lost out on getting their own A/W-League club and that our financial backers’ potential investment in the A-League is now lost to the game.

“We wish the two successful bid clubs well in their endeavours on and off the field and again, on behalf of Southern Expansion and our steering committee, we thank everyone that supported us over the past 18 months.”

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