'We are ready' - South Melbourne hopeful FFA won't delay A-League expansion

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Constitutional reform has seemingly overtaken expansion in the governing body's priorities, prompting speculation the bid criteria will be delayed

South Melbourne have called on Football Federation Australia (FFA) not to delay releasing its A-League expansion criteria, while another bid insists it won't make a huge difference.

With FFA spending this week in meetings with key stakeholders regarding constitutional reform, there has been plenty of speculation the governing body will fail to meet its own deadline of the end of February to publicise the criteria it will judge expansion on.

South Melbourne hope that's not the case.

FFA release reform timeline

The NPL Victoria club believe they are one of the front-runners to join Australia's top tier in the 2018-19 season and South Melbourne's A-League advisory board chairman Bill Papastergiadis wants to prove that as soon as possible.

"We were advised by [FFA CEO David] Gallop and [Head of A-League Greg] O'Rourke that we would have [the expansion criteria] in February. We're hopeful that will be the case," Papastergiadis told Goal.

"We are ready. We hope it's not delayed because we'd like to think that it's pretty clear what the current lay of the land is, in terms of the clubs that are capable of putting in compelling bids and we think we're at the top of that, and we don't think a delay will change that scenario in any meaningful way."

Broadcasters to have a say on expansion

Papastergiadis has previously argued South Melbourne could be ready for next season - as have other groups such as FC Tasmania and Brisbane Strikers - and the four-time NSL champions clearly believe a quick decision will benefit them as they already have infrastructure in place.

But with FFA's focus elsewhere the chances of increasing the A-League beyond 10 teams for 2017-18 are incredibly slim, with spokesperson for Geelong's bid Steve Horvat indicating his group will keep patiently working on developing their proposal and building a new club.

"One way or the other, it really doesn't affect us. I think we're moving on with whatever the timeframe is," the ex-Socceroos defender told Goal.

"Obviously, FFA has known of our intentions for a long time and whether it's this month, whether it's in six months. You know, whether the expansion is delayed for another 12 months or what have you - because time is creeping up on everybody - it doesn't matter because we're in it for the long haul."

Geelong's A-League bid names board

South Melbourne and Horvat's group - known by their working title Victoria Patriots - are two of three groups looking to become the A-League's third team in Victoria.

State league clubs and local councils in the Dandenong-Casey area of south-eastern Melbourne are also working on a bid.

Of the three, South Melbourne have distinct advantages with their 40-year lease at Lakeside Stadium, impressive social media presence and existing fan base, plus a pre-existing youth development system and women's football set-up.

"I don't think any other bids coming into the A-League are sustainable unless you've got an appropriate stadium deal," Papastergiadis said.

"We have that and we can make our bid work with 1,500 supporters."

Is FFA missing A-League expansion opportunity?

Meanwhile, Papastergiadis claims the club are continuing to exploit their partnership with Real Madrid, which was established in 2015.

"We're continuing to create the interest and the hype around the club in the absence of the bid criteria being released and the beauty of having a live club is that it's not difficult to sustain interest in South Melbourne because things are happening continuously," he said.

"We're trying to bed down our senior coach in the A-League - Roberto Carlos - so we've continued those discussions with him.

"We're bedding down the technical development role, the general management role with Chendo, the former games record holder at Real Madrid and the assistant coach there."

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Papastergiadis has previously claimed South Melbourne were in talks with Didier Drogba about becoming the club's inaugural marquee player in the A-League.

But negotiations with the former Chelsea striker broke down when it became clear South Melbourne didn't have a licence yet.

 

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