They’ve graced the TV screens of Australian football fans for years, now Craig Foster and Les Murray are attempting to bring a new A-League club into the competition.
The duo are at the forefront of a new A-League bid that would see a new south Sydney-based club join Australia’s top footballing tier. The new side would cover the St George, Sutherland and South Coast associations.
While the A-League has often struggled for outside investment in its clubs, the new bid has the financial backing and clout of Chinese property group JiaYuan International Group.
Murray is the chairman of the bid’s steering group, while Foster is head of football.
“This is a very exciting day in Australian football,” Murray said. “What we have in mind is to bring best quality professional football to a vast, diverse region full of football tradition and history.”
The FFA said last week that A-League expansion will not occur before the 2018-19 season, however Murray said the group is happy to be patient and wait until there is an available spot in the competition for a new team.
“We note and understand the FFA’s preferred timing on expansion. We are not impatient and are content to wait until expansion is given the go ahead. But when it does, we will be ready. We are also confident that a club from our vast market of fans and players will heavily benefit the existing A-League and W-League clubs in the transition process.”
Unsurprisingly for such a well-known advocate of grassroots development, Foster said the side would have strong pathways for junior footballers in the region to make their way to the professional side.
“Engagement with our grassroots partners is at the heart of the club,” he said.
“Parents will be pleased to know that in this club, females and males are equal, and our Academy will include both girls and boys from the beginning at no cost to the players and the region’s juniors will have a direct pathway to their own A-League and W-League teams.
“Our shared vision is to become the strongest football region in the country in every aspect, administration, infrastructure, development and professional success.”
The group also has the support of former NSW PCYC chief executive Chris Gardiner, who is the bid’s chief executive. Gardiner said a focus on more derbies would give the new club strong involvement from its local fan-base.
“A southern team will provide six more A-League derbies and four more W-League derbies each season,” he said.
“Our new club means players in the three local football associations finally have their own local A-League and W-League teams after not having a presence in the top flight since the NSL.
“Matches will be shared equally between our three partner associations with plans for a purpose built football stadium underway for the longer term. This will deliver approximately eight professional games in each area so that everyone has an opportunity to see Southern play.”
— Adrian Arciuli (@Adrian_Arciuli) March 5, 2017
It is not known what impact the bid will have on National Premier Leagues side the Wollongong Wolves, the club which has been at the heart of a number of calls for the creation of an additional A-League side based in the Illawarra.