Would Southern Expansion be better off ignoring the Illawarra?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    It would make more sense for Sydney and Wollongong to provide two new A-League teams, so why does Southern Expansion want to represent both cities?

    The most impressive element of Monday’s surprise announcement was undoubtedly the fact that Southern Expansion – surely a working title only – has already attracted a $12 million bank guarantee from Chinese property investors the Jia Yuan group.

    That’s some serious coin in a league hardly flush with cash, and the fact the club has also pledged to build a boutique football-specific stadium strikes all the right chords.

    There’s no denying a steering committee featuring former Socceroo Craig Foster and ex-SBS commentator Les Murray also boasts some serious football nous, when a common refrain has been that there aren’t enough ‘football people’ involved in running the game.

    In many respects, Southern Expansion looks exactly like the sort of expansion team the A-League desperately needs. So why do some key elements still seem somewhat askew?

    The elephant in the room has got to be Sydney FC – who have every reason to fear that another Sydney-based side will cannibalise their support.

    Unlike the obvious geographic and cultural ties that make Western Sydney a clearly-defined part of the city, there’s no such delineation the further south you go.

    And if Southern Expansion are to join the Wanderers in the league – and it’s worth remembering the Central Coast Mariners have long coveted the northern suburbs of Sydney – it begs the question of how much of the city is left for Sydney FC to represent.

    But perhaps the biggest head-scratcher is the inclusion of Football South Coast as part of the bid.

    Covering the Illawarra and South Coast regions of New South Wales, the association is also home to two-time former National Soccer League champions Wollongong Wolves.

    The Wolves have their own expansion plans, a suitable venue in WIN Stadium ready to go, and the supposed backing of billionaire Bruce Gordon.

    WIN Stadium at night

    If Gordon was serious about investing in the Wolves, it’s fair to ask why he hasn’t done so already.

    And if Southern Expansion spurs other expansion bids to get their affairs in order, so much the better.

    But if Southern Expansion are to represent the St George, Sutherland and Illawarra regions as proposed, then where will they play?

    And if they build a football-specific stadium, where will it be? And if the stadium happens to be built in St George – one of the spiritual homes of football in Australia – why would Wollongong fans travel some 70 kilometres up the motorway to watch them?

    If those fans don’t already travel to watch Sydney FC or Western Sydney Wanderers, will they support a club that could potentially play as little as four games a year in their own backyard – and then only for a limited time?

    You only need to look to the St George Illawarra Dragons to witness the awkward reality of cross-regional clubs, although Southern Expansion has already tweeted that it would be “nice to emulate them”.

    At the end of the day, Foster is right when he says that football in Australia needs substantially more investment, and Southern Expansion deserve kudos for taking the initiative – even if the move potentially coincides with Foster’s current employer SBS losing their A-League broadcast rights.

    And attracting foreign investment is also a good thing, although it remains to be seen how backing an A-League club might affect the Jia Yuan group’s other commercial interests.

    But while any club that brings $12 million worth of backing to the table will almost certainly get the green light from a Football Federation Australia no doubt keen to retain control of the expansion narrative, plenty of questions still remain.

    Foremost among them is perhaps the simplest question of all: why doesn’t Southern Expansion simply service the St George and Sutherland regions, and leave Illawarra to the Wollongong Wolves?

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (81)

    • March 10th 2017 @ 3:44am
      Peeeko said | March 10th 2017 @ 3:44am | ! Report

      Do you seriously think the team would get its own purpose built stadium?
      Have you been following NSW politics?

      • Roar Guru

        March 10th 2017 @ 6:05am
        Ben of Phnom Penh said | March 10th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

        I believe the comment comes from the concept paper released by the bid which mentions the eventual construction of a purpose built stadium. Given the long term nature of such a proposition the nature of NSW politics will undertake several transformations before any earth is turned.

        Still, the primary fact remains that the club has a stated long term ambition of a single home and unless the stadium is on wheels one would assume a single location.

        • March 10th 2017 @ 6:15am
          peeeko said | March 10th 2017 @ 6:15am | ! Report

          fair enough, wanting a stadium and getting one are two different things. Kogarah is rarely used and would be a good fit

          • Roar Guru

            March 10th 2017 @ 6:48am
            Ben of Phnom Penh said | March 10th 2017 @ 6:48am | ! Report

            Indeed, peeeko. It may be in the concept note primarily to add weight to the bid as opposed to a part of any detailed planning.

    • March 10th 2017 @ 5:47am
      Swanny said | March 10th 2017 @ 5:47am | ! Report

      I’ve read this week on the roar that Bruce Gordon has has talks before with f f a but been knocked back .

      Anyhow bugger another Sydney team . Illawarra deserve a team before another Sydney mob

      • March 10th 2017 @ 11:24am
        Arnold Krewanty said | March 10th 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

        If Newcastle can have a team, so can Wollongong.

        • March 10th 2017 @ 1:20pm
          Lionheart said | March 10th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          what about Dubbo?
          and Canberra?

          • March 10th 2017 @ 11:48pm
            Swanny said | March 10th 2017 @ 11:48pm | ! Report

            Dubbo Canberra Shepparton Bendigo
            Anything other then another Sydney team

    • March 10th 2017 @ 6:08am
      Lesterlike said | March 10th 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

      If Sydney are so insistent that a substantial amount of their fans come from the south then why are they persisting with the constantly empty SFS and it’s bog pitch?

      Maybe they should actually back up their talk and play out of St George?

      The fact that they didn’t even consider temporarily doing that when talks were happening over closing the SFS during renovation makes me totally unsympathetic to their moaning.

    • March 10th 2017 @ 6:17am
      Paul said | March 10th 2017 @ 6:17am | ! Report

      This bid is the FFA in disguise.
      It is a stupid bid.

      The locations for new franchises/clubs are
      Tasmania
      Wollongong
      Brisbane

      • March 10th 2017 @ 10:43am
        Rodger King said | March 10th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        And Canberra or Ipswich maybe even a new Adelaide team, what about Perth?

    • March 10th 2017 @ 6:30am
      Paul said | March 10th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

      This bid is the FFA in disguise.
      It is a stupid bid.

      The locations for new franchises/clubs are
      Tasmania
      Wollongong
      Brisbane

      With the Phoenix to be be replaced

      • March 10th 2017 @ 8:19am
        Fadida said | March 10th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        “FFA in disguise”?

        You’re one paranoid Chicken Little Paul….

        • March 10th 2017 @ 10:52am
          Paul said | March 10th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

          #GALLOP_OUT

    • March 10th 2017 @ 8:18am
      AR said | March 10th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      “the club has also pledged to build a boutique football-specific stadium strikes all the right chords.”

      Not sure that’s right. I haven’t seen anywhere that the “club” has pledged build a stadium.

      Foster has cleverly spruiked the idea, sure – but I’d be amazed if they built a $150m+ stadium for club to use for 6months.

      • March 10th 2017 @ 10:55am
        Nemesis said | March 10th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        “I’d be amazed if they built a $150m+ stadium for club to use for 6months”

        The ALeague season is currently 135 Home & Away matches. With expansion it’s likely the Aleague season will increase to 200+ matches with each team playing 15-16 times at home. This will be more than any other professional sport in Australia.

        The stadium will, most likely, be used 12 months each year for football: ALeague, WLeague, NYL, NPL. A purpose-built football stadium will get more use than any other proper home stadium in Australia.

        Casey/Dandenong, Tasmania & Geelong have all got plans for their pupose-built stadiums & training facilities. The stadium issue is likely to be a Core Criterion for new ALeague clubs.

        • March 10th 2017 @ 3:50pm
          AR said | March 10th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

          First, I take it you agree there has been no announced plans by the Southern bid for a new stadium..?
          At this stage, that’s Foster puff.

          Second, you think a club-owned stadium will a “core criterion” for a new franchise licence?

          Shirley you can’t be serious?

          • March 10th 2017 @ 4:16pm
            Nemesis said | March 10th 2017 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

            “Second, you think a club-owned stadium will a “core criterion” for a new franchise licence?”

            No. I never said that.

            What I did say was:

            The stadium issue is likely to be a Core Criterion for new ALeague clubs.

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