EXCLUSIVE: A-League hopefuls South Melbourne to announce marquee signings

Ambitious South Melbourne have upped the ante in their bid to land an A-League spot by locking down a European marquee player and star coach – both of whom could be announced as early as next week.

South Melbourne

Reigning NPL Victoria champions South Melbourne have their sights on becoming the A-League's newest club. Source: Football Federation Victoria

While the signings of the duo are dependent on the former national league giants being granted entry into an expanded 12-team A-League when Football Federation Australia makes its decision in the New Year, the investment is testament to South’s determination to make sure they are one of two teams chosen from a field of up to 12.

The club's advisory board chairman Bill Papastergiadis sees the coup as a statement of intent, but declined to divulge any further details, saying only: “We will making an announcement soon. I already have a marquee player and coach.

"We are talking and I am hoping that sometime next week I will confirm it. They are both European and they are big."

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FFA chief executive David Gallop, head of corporate strategy Mark Falvo and A-League boss Greg O’Rourke met with Papastergiadis two weeks ago, whose bid to jump back into the mainstream is more a calculated gamble than a reckless spin of the roulette wheel.

An 80-page preliminary bid document, as well as a video presentation, were unfurled during the meeting, and Papastergiadis believes it struck a chord with the FFA delegation.

“I told them that if (when it comes to expansion) they want to be where the action is, where there are bums on seats they should look no further than us. I have no doubt they were interested in our story.

“We are not sleeping giants – we are giants. We set record attendances in the NSL around the country, we were awarded the FIFA-Oceania Club of the Century, and we have special relationship with Real Madrid and our juniors and coaches go across there every year for two weeks. We also have five full time professional coaches in our junior ranks who hold full pro licenses.

“We are a football club, not a franchise, not somebody’s plaything like when Clive Palmer came in and bought Gold Coast United. We are not trying to buy a community, we are the community.

“It’s hard to build passion when you don’t have a community and don’t give back to it … all the money we make we pump back into the community.”



South, who were cast aside with the formation of the A-League in 2005, believe they hold the key to reconnecting the competition with legions of supporters “disenfranchised” when so-called “old soccer" was kicked into touch.

“Our message to the FFA was also that they need to reach out to thousands upon thousands of founder NSL supporters,” added Papastergiadis.

“They are out there … a lot of them haven’t found new teams and just felt they had been shut out of football.

“I think the FFA understands that there's an opportunity here to mend bridges between the past, the present and going into the future. Deep down, I reckon they get it.”

Papastergiadis is dismissive of claims that a third Melbourne team, in a market dominated by Victory and cash-rich but crowd-poor City, would compromise an already fragile eco-system.

“We already have our own supporters,” he declared. "We were the best supported club in NSL. I feel Melbourne Victory and City have maxed out in terns of their membership bases.



“We are offering the opportunity for nine derbies in this city and we will fill their stadiums.

“We attracted 7,000-plus to an NPL finals match against Oakleigh ... most teams in the competition are getting in the hundreds.

“Our catchment area is south-east Melbourne with a population base of 2.5 million. That's untapped because Victory and City are in the northern suburbs.

"We will be an A-League club that people will love to hate,  as well as love to love.”


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4 min read
Published 14 December 2016 at 9:27am
By Dave Lewis