http://www.news.com.au/sport/football/push-for-third-team-in-sydney-as-aleague-aims-to-cash-in-on-world-cup-hype-and-record-sbs-ratings/story-fnk9a3dc-1226962606206Push for third team in Sydney as A-League aims to cash in on World Cup hype and record SBS ratings
June 21, 2014 10:00PM
Football Australia chairman David Gallop says “the connection to the grassroots and our massive participation base is what sets our game apart”. Source: Getty Images
AUSTRALIAN soccer wants a third Sydney team in the A-League — smack bang in NRL territory — as part of future expansion and its next broadcasting deal.
Former NRL boss David Gallop plans to attack Sydney’s south, where the Cronulla Sharks are struggling and St George Illawarra have all but abandoned Kogarah Oval.
Cashing in on the World Cup hype and record SBS ratings, the subject of A-League expansion and long-term strategic planning have been discussed among FFA heavyweights in Brazil.
Corporate powerhouses Westfield and Nike have already indicated they will support the new venture.
There is talk of Socceroos legend Tim Cahill, who recently purchased a waterfront home in the Shire, becoming the face of the club.
Home grounds under consideration include Shark Park, Kogarah Oval and Wollongong.
As World Cup fever sweeps the nation and gives soccer another huge growth spurt, FFA is firming up plans that they hope will become a reality with the next TV deal in 2017.
The competition has remained stable at 10 clubs for the past three seasons, but several key stakeholders, including Frank Lowy, are pushing for a 12-club comp. The new markets under consideration are not likely to include provincial cities in the wake of FFA’s disastrous Townsville and Gold Coast play.
Instead, the major capital cities are under the spotlight.
On day one in the job as FFA chief executive, Gallop said A-League expansion should happen in markets where there are “millions of potential fans, not just hundreds of thousands”.
In Rio for the World Cup, Gallop told me: “The connection to the grassroots and our massive participation base is what sets our game apart. It makes sense to link clubs and communities in any expansion plan to keep the growth trajectory of the A-League on a steep incline.
“We need to fish where the fish are.”
Ironically, Gallop was the man in his rugby league chief executive days who always insisted that nine Sydney clubs and a saturation coverage of the city was the way to go.
For soccer, that means the focus will be Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Of these major markets, it’s understood that Sydney’s south and south-west and Brisbane’s west and south-west are regarded as prime territory for expansion.
Outside of the Shire, the other Sydney option is to take advantage of the south-west growth corridor from Liverpool to Campbelltown, where the planned new Badgery’s Creek airport will supercharge the economic growth in a region where soccer already has a massive following.
A third Sydney team to join Sydney FC and the Wanderers might seem ambitious at first glance, but the numbers show a huge market potential and a third club would deliver more of the
A-League’s hottest property — Sydney derby matches.
There is talk of Socceroos legend Tim Cahill, who recently bought a waterfront home in the Shire, becoming the face of the club. Source: AFP
In the 2011/12 season, Sydney FC had the city’s market to themselves and had an average crowd of about 12,000 and membership of 7000.
The next season, the Western Sydney Wanderers were born and the Sydney soccer market changed forever.
Two seasons later, the market growth is phenomenal. Last season, Sydney FC had a crowd average of about 20,000 and membership of almost 12,000. The Wanderers packed Pirtek Stadium every week and ended with a 16,000 crowd average and a capped membership of 16,000.
On a fortnightly basis, the Sydney market went from 12,000 average attendances in 2011/12 to a combined 36,000 average in 2013/14. Membership went from 7000 to a combined 28,000.
They are staggering increases.
The Sydney basin is the heartland of Australian football, with 40 per cent of all registered players in this region. That’s more than 200,000 participants. Not only that, there are hot spots that don’t have a direct connection to an existing A-League club.
In my patch in the Shire, you’ll find the biggest suburban soccer association in Australia, the Sutherland Shire Football Association with about 20,000 players in 26 clubs, including Lilli Pilli, the biggest in the country.
Next door is the St George association, where the late, great Johnny Warren first kicked a ball on the fields of Botany.
This combination of grassroots numbers and heritage makes for a powerful case, just like the
Wanderers in the west of Sydney.
Western Sydney Wanderers already have a massive fan base. Picture: Mark Evans Source: News Corp Australia