New Western Sydney club to join A-League
Football Federation Australia has unveiled plans for a new A-League club based in Western Sydney from next season, with the name, colors and logo to be determined after public consultation.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard joined FFA chief executive Ben Buckley on Wednesday to outline the government's $8 million funding package for the club, which will enter the league for 2012-13.
Previous moves to establish a second A-League club in Sydney had failed. The need for another team was made more urgent by major doubts over the future of the Gold Coast team after its owner was stripped of his A-League license. Gold Coast United was the third club in the national league to fold since 2007.
''From next season western Sydney, the heartland of Australian football, will be represented in the A-League,'' Buckley said. ''Yes, it has taken time to get a club into western Sydney but now the time is right and I believe that the model is right.''
While Buckley said a decision on the troubled Gold Coast club would be announced within next 24 hours, the business consortium bidding to keep a club on the Queensland state tourist strip issued a statement critical of the FFA.
''We were transparent about our model and we put it together in just two weeks. Do I feel like we've been strung along? A bit like that, yes,'' Gold Coast businessman and mayoral candidate Tom Tate said. ''I would have thought if they were considering our bid seriously then Western Sydney would have been put on hold. Western Sydney can't just be born overnight, so it's obvious to me that our bid wasn't taken seriously.''
The FFA will finance the western Sydney club but Buckley said future plans are to establish community ownership within two to three years.
The A-League's expansion has been haphazard in recent seasons, with the North Queensland Fury folding due to financial problems. Billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer was stripped of his A-League license for Gold Coast United last month after a string of outspoken and scathing criticism of the A-League management. Palmer's critics said his club never fully engaged local football fans.
Buckley, as recently as Tuesday, said the FFA was in negotiations with a consortium to keep a club on the Gold Coast but said it could not be guaranteed. The FFA wants to maintain a 10-team league next season.
The A-League experiment in the traditional rugby league markets of North Queensland and Gold Coast has been a failure so far, but Buckley said the strong support for football in Sydney's west would make it successful.
The A-League's precursor, the National Soccer League, drew enough support to sustain several clubs from the area.
''We intend to build a model that will be driven by the passion of the football people in Sydney's west,'' Buckley said. ''This is a great project that could change the landscape, not just of the A-League, but for football.
''Today's announcement shows the game's confidence to keep on growing and to keep on building.''