South Melbourne target marquee signings as part of A-League bid

A-League aspirants South Melbourne have sounded out agents over marquee signings and a marquee coach as the club ramps up their case for inclusion in an expanded national competition.

South Melbourne

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

Stereotyped by some as “old soccer”, the former national league powerhouse insist they are rooted in the present, not the past, and have all the foundations in place to become Melbourne’s third A-League entity as early as next season - should Football Federation Australia take a leap of faith as they refine their blueprint of expansion.

Bid committee chief Bill Papastergiadis revealed the depth of South’s ambition and preparedness by disclosing the club are in a position to make an offer to “a European marquee" and a high-profile coach if what they believe is a compelling bid for inclusion wins FFA approval.

“We are deadly serious and have spoken with a few agents we are close to and we are looking at a couple of marquee signings, and coaches too,” Papastergiadis said.

“We are talking about big-name Europeans here.”

With expectations for average gates of 10,000 at its purpose-built 14,000-seater Lakeside Stadium base, a plethora of backers and sponsors on board, a social media reach of 85,000 and a slick marketing video set to be released, the club with Greek heritage believe they stand out in a field of 11 entities seeking A-League licenses.

The multiple NSL champions have been on a mission for a place at the top table since being overlooked for inclusion in the A-League during its formation, even though ex-NSL sides Adelaide United and Perth Glory got the nod.

Now, they believe, their time has come.

“It’s a bit like a player who has been training 20 years of his life and finally gets a call-up to play for Manchester United ... it’s not the call up that makes the difference but all the training you have done and the history behind it," Papastergiadis said.

“We have a 40-year lease at (Albert Park’s) Lakeside Stadium, which is the best infrastructure deal in the country, and we basically break-even with 1500 people turning up.

“We have a social club within the facility, which no other A-League club has and on the field we’ve been winning titles and we are also the most successful junior club in Victoria.

"We have increased out sponsorship by 500 per cent in two years. It’s not a matter of when we are ready. We are ready."

Confident they already have the $7 million start-up costs in place, the club - which nurtured the footballing talents of Australia coach Ange Postecoglou and Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat - wants to be judged by what it offers in the now as it seeks to escape the cul-de-sac of the National Premier League.

Proud of their Greek ethnic roots, they do not want to be defined by the past.

“We are basing our bid on excellence and we believe we will meet the bar wherever it is: be that training and football development, financial stability, social media, or grassroots involvement," Papastergiadis said.

"And we won’t be cannibalising the supporter bases of Melbourne City and Victory. We bring our own fans: we are not another franchise or a business. We are not in it to make a profit ... we are in to re-distribute our resources to develop football.

“If we are judged on excellence and achievements and we will beat any of the bidders. What will they bring? Just a franchise.”

To hammer home the message, South have enlisted leading advertising agency Ogilvy to go with a slick video presentation ready to be viewed by the FFA.

While founded by Greek migrants, South insist they are now inclusive of a far broader church.

“The ethnic thing is part of our history … AC Milan were set up by the British and many clubs overseas have ethnic histories but that’s not how they are defined going forward," Papastergiadis said.

“We have an advisory board on which I am the only one with Greek heritage.

“We bring a lot of passion to the table and just imagine (all the extra interest) generated by five more Melbourne derbies each season?"

Papastergiadis said the club would also give youth the chance to flourish, a commitment which doesn't resonate at many A-league clubs.

“There’s a bottle neck of junior players at A-League clubs never getting a jersey, well, we will guarantee them an opportunity and we’ll be developing young players,” he insisted.

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
4 min read
Published 22 November 2016 at 8:59pm
By Dave Lewis