Football Federation Australia (FFA) boss Ben Buckley declared his confidence in the financial future of a new Western Sydney franchise, as he prepared to deliver the axe on a third A-League club.
The FFA will initially financially underpin the new franchise over the first two to three years.
“We’re very confident of the business plan that we’ve put together,” Buckley told reporters in announcing the new team’s introduction for the 2012-13 season.
“We will explore a community ownership model.
“We think we can use this club as a benchmark that others may want to follow in time by offering some investment into the club from local investments or from members or from the local community.”
Despite Buckley’s declaration the FFA had been working on the western Sydney project for some months, he offered no substantial details in terms of name, colours, venues and staff.
“We have a prospective list of CEO and candidates to run football departments. We’ve been in discussions with prospective coaches,” Buckley said.
He said an announcement on the future of the Gold Coast would be made on Thursday, but then seemed to herald the certain demise of the team by reiterating that the competition for next season would remain at 10 teams.
A senior member of the consortium trying to keep Gold Coast in the A-League felt the FFA had been stringing them along.
“I would have thought if they were considering our bid seriously, then Western Sydney would have been put on hold,” Tom Tate said.
“I feel that the commitment from FFA for professional football to remain on the Gold Coast was not there.”
Leading rugby league identities expressed no concern about the round ball code joining the AFL’s GWS Giants as another rival in the battle for the hearts, minds and dollars of western Sydney residents.
Australian Rugby League commission chief executive David Gallop said football was already a competitor to his code, which he felt enjoyed a generational loyalty stretching back over 100 years.
“While we focus on continuing to improve our development plans in western Sydney, we should remain very confident of how rugby league is placed in that area,” Gallop said.
Bulldogs’ star Michael Ennis didn’t feel threatened by other codes, no matter how much money they spent.
“Money doesn’t change people’s passion for rugby league. I think we’re pretty safe there,” Ennis said.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler suggested the FFA should address areas closer to home.
“From what I see in the papers and from what I hear in the media, it sounds like they’ve got to get their admin sorted out and the way they run the game before they even think about becoming a threat anywhere,” Hasler said.
Prospective cross-town rival Sydney FC welcomed the imminent arrival of the new club.
“We live in a city of five million people and we have always said there is room for two professional football teams,” Sydney FC acting CEO Stefan Kamasz said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced an $8 million funding pack for football development in western Sydney.
It includes $5 million to be allocated to improvement of facilities with $1 million of that to go towards the development of women’s football and the W-League, while the remaining $3 million will be used for the redevelopment of the Football NSW headquarters.
The package was attacked by another prominent female Labor politician in former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally, who is now chairman of Basketball Australia.
“This sort of major expenditure cannot continually be made on behalf of a select few sports at the expense of other high participation codes like basketball,” Keneally said.