Sydney 'super club' ready for lift-off

A ‘super club’ representing southern Sydney and the Illawarra could be ready to go for next season, insists one of its key collaborators – Football South Coast.

WIN Stadium

Wollongong's WIN Stadium hosted Sydney FC during last year's FFA Cup Source: Getty Images

The regional heavyweight’s chairman, Eddy de Gabriele, has been involved in regular meetings between the FFA and potential partners in the franchise – FSC, Sutherland Shire and the St George FA - over the past 18 months.

And, with A-League expansion the buzz word of the competition looking beyond this season, De Gabriele says all parties are on the same page in what has long been FFA’s favoured option - a third Sydney team, notwithstanding disquiet from Sydney FC in what they view as a looming turf war.

With combined population numbers of 1.25 million and 33,000 registered players between them, collaboration between Sutherland Shire and the Illawarra fits the FFA model espoused by CEO David Gallop.


However, there is plenty of competition for potential expansion franchises as bidders queue up from Tasmania, Geelong, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane to state their case for inclusion in an expanded 12 team A-League in 2017-2018.

“We are 100 per cent ready to go for next season ... we have the entire infrastructure in place,” De Gabriele told The World Game.

“With the population growth in this region, I have no doubt Sydney can sustain three teams … imagine the extra derbies and the interest they would generate?

“We've sat at the table over the past 18 months on several occasions with FFA, Sutherland Shire and St George to discuss the feasibility of a team representing Sydney’s southern region.

"From our perspective, everything is in place to make that happen.

“We are not aware whether FFA will pick one region, two or an amalgamation of all three … of course our preference is to stand alone, but the second option is Sutherland Shire and us.”

De Gabriele is unsure how the FFA’s preferred may, or may not unfold; acknowledging FSC is only part of a multi-pronged process.

“We have not been aware of an active bid process but that didn't happen either with Western Sydney as such," he said.

"FFA did all that themselves. That was their model. Maybe it will be again.

“Maybe they are going to market to see what people are thinking, and maybe they will say 'not good enough' and do it themselves.

"What we are sure about is that Football South Coast is at the table, and we have stayed in touch with FFA on this about once every three months.

"There is no point in us going it alone ... look what happened with Townsville and Gold Coast. It was always a struggle.

“Success means longevity, and that means sustainability and that means you have credibility.”

With TV mogul Bruce Gordon long touted as a potential backer of a team from the Illawarra, and perhaps Sydney's southern extremities as a whole, De Gabriele said he was unsure of the depth of his interest.

“Those type of benefactors go straight to David Gallop or Steven Lowy … they operate at a level where they say 'let’s make it happen, or no I won’t it happen', he added, "If he is involved, I doubt know about it, but what I do know is that Gallop and FFA are looking at this region, with us included, as an option."

In De Gabriele’s estimation the new entity would split games split between WIN Stadium and Shark Park, with a minimum of six home games on the Illawarra in the regular season “We have the best surface going around, all the coaches who come here say that," he declared. "Maybe we need some work to the southern stand but we have a brand new western grand stand with great corporate facilities, “If there are 12 teams next season … that’s 33 games in three rounds and 16 home games roughly.

"Even in the worst scenario we’d have a game here once every three weeks.”

De Gabriele is happy to part of a united front, rather than disappearing down a standalone furrow which would likely be a dead end.

“People say 'don’t you think you are selling out to Sutherland shire like St George Illawarrra (in the NRL).

"But remember, St George Illawarra started out with 14 home games. They are now down to three.

“We currently have zero and that will be the same the next year and the year after that if we try and bully our way towards a standalone franchise.

"We are not foolish enough to chase an all or nothing option … we’d much rather take six to eight home games and stack them up with 12,000 to 20,000 people, depending in the opposition. We need to be realistic and practical in our approach."

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5 min read
Published 21 November 2016 at 8:35pm
By Dave Lewis