POLL: Football South Coast pushes Wollongong A-League dream

Ambitious Football South Coast boss Eddy De Gabriele has hinted an A-League franchise for the region could be a reality within three years, with several major backers already being courted.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Mercury, De Gabriele also said a W-League and National Youth League equivalent could be up and running next season.

The news comes as a big boost for the region's football fans, still stinging from FSC's $7.4 million Home of Football having its initial funding scrapped earlier this month.

But it's the prospect of an A-League franchise that will truly excite, with De Gabriele bullish about Wollongong's chances of being the competition's 11th franchise.

"Three years is possible," he said. "We have not stopped one day [working towards it]. In the football sense, the opportunities for us are totally within our own hands.

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"Think about it: where else is the next A-League franchise going to come from? The other thing about the South Coast is this: it doesn't give home and away. It actually gives it home and home. With Western Sydney and Sydney FC . . . you suddenly have four games which are attendable [for away fans].

"We can pitch to this whole region and all the way down [the South Coast] . . . this is your team."

The Mercury has also been told there is a growing sense of confidence within FSC that they are Football Federation Australia's preferred option when expansion is next on the table. The logical time would be when the A-League's broadcast rights deal is up for renegotiation before the 2017-18 season.

Upwards of $4.5 million in bonds and bank guarantees would be the minimum requirement for a bid to even be considered, with the South Coast bid makers already speaking to a number of potential backers.

Failed franchises in North Queensland and the Gold Coast have already left a bad taste in the mouth of the relatively young A-League. But it hasn't stopped De Gabriele planning to step in to fill a breach in a South Coast market struggling in its support of the Dragons and Hawks.

"There is a massive opportunity on the South Coast now to link into what's happening on the national and international platform," he said. "Now is the time for us. That is where the opportunity is.

"You've got to pitch into the biggest market and the biggest market is the Sydney population. You could drag in a South Coast team, even if we get between 6000 and 10,000 [initially] and if we really get humming we could get 12,000, then all of a sudden you've got this whole big parochial group and you could get them travelling.

"All of a sudden, you might get 15,000 at WIN Stadium and then there would be a hell of a buzz."

The start-up costs for a W-League and National Youth League side are far less significant, with the bonds set as $250,000 and $350,000 respectively. Several W-League and National Youth League games have already been played at WIN Stadium, while the venue has provided the Matildas with an adopted home.

All would have benefited from the West Dapto development, which had its funding pulled in a Coalition post-election spending cut.

FSC were convinced the facility would have housed visiting Asian sides, while also leasing it to various community, sporting and school groups.

"Don't worry, we're going to continue with that," De Gabriele warned of a renewed push for it to be subsidised.

"It's about that being a regional hub for the southern part of NSW.

"The thinking has to be about how sport will become embedded as part of our social fabric as far as our day-to-day," De Gabriele said.

"It needs to be tied into its community as a group.

"Unfortunately, some people at the table of sport are self-centred. I believe the community cannot be fragmented in its support."

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