Expansion race is on

Take me on: Wollongong Wolves player Ben Zucco (left) slides for the ball against Sydney FC in the FFA Cup game at WIN Stadium earlier this year. Picture: Rob Peet

Take me on: Wollongong Wolves player Ben Zucco (left) slides for the ball against Sydney FC in the FFA Cup game at WIN Stadium earlier this year. Picture: Rob Peet

FOOTBALL Federation Australia has long had its gaze on creating the southern Sydney super club.

The imminent framework for A-League expansion is expected to allow it to become a reality.

The great southern franchise, involving Sutherland, St George and Wollongong, would almost certainly have been the replacement for Wellington Phoenix, had the New Zealand club failed to resolve their issues.

However, any Wolves bid deserves to be treated with great respect and not just because of the club’s rich National Soccer League history.

Two competing sets of priorities and structures, with completely opposing beliefs on the future of the region at the elite level.

So after months – it feels like years – of arguing about the various merits of expansion model, Game On attempts to rank the hopes of the expected bids.

1SOUTHERN SUPER CLUB

If it was a horse race – even though we’re still without a finish line to sprint for – Football South Coast have been bowling along at the head of this field.

The Sutherland, St George and South Coast connection fits FFA chief executive David Gallop’s mantra of “fishing where the fish are”.

The problem, as we’ve seen with St George Illawarra in the NRL, is the people of Wollongong are yearning for a team to call their own.

If you’re a Sydney FC of Western Sydney Wanderers supporter in the existing A-League, are you willing to defect when half you’ll still be travelling to the city for at least half the southern super club’s games? Then there’s the turf war with Sydney FC, determined to prevent their support in the Sutherland shire being eroded by a new team.

2 SOUTH MELBOURNE

LIKE the Wolves, South Melbourne are an NSL giant wanting another shot at the big time.

They have already declared their readiness and face a likely showdown with Tasmania, with a Geelong bid an outside hope, for entry into the A-League.

Accepting South Melbourne’s bid would also be a strategic move towards long-term promotion and relegation plans.

The big concern lingers around Melbourne City’s attendance figures and the capacity for a third team.

3 BRISBANE STRIKERS

Adding another A-League derby seems like the perfect solution.

The Strikers already have their own identity on the national landscape from the NSL days and it could help heal some of Queensland’s pain following the demise of the Fury and Gold Coast United.

The sticking point centres around whether they would play home games at Suncorp Stadium, where the Brisbane Roar are based, or find a home elsewhere.

4 THE WOLVES

The Wolves have been quietly working away in the background on an A-League bid for some time.

They are certainly capable of having the financial clout, with or without WIN Television owner Bruce Gordon’s involvement.

Even after a decade of turmoil and internal politics, there would be a lot of sentiment and support in the Illawarra community about their return. 

However, they still face a grand task to convince those making the decisions on expansion they should be prefered to the southern Sydney super club.

5 TASMANIA

The islanders have been the big movers this week. They carry plenty of financial and political clout, but a bit like the Wolves, have a job ahead to convince the FFA their supporter base and broader appeal is big enough.

6 PERTH

As in Brisbane, there’s a lot to like about another A-League derby and Perth is a growing market. 

UNLIKELY

Put a line through Canberra. A second New Zealand team seems a stretch given the Phoenix’s troubles. Adelaide and Geelong appear rank outsiders.

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