|By VINCE RUGARI
The only way for the A-League to approach expansion in the future is for aspiring bids to use the Australian Premier League as a foundation, according to Northern Fury chief Rabieh Krayem.
Fury's standing CEO when Football Federation Australia closed the club down in March 2011 has masterminded a plan that would see them back in the top tier within five years.
The first step in that process came earlier in October, when the Northern Fury were granted a license for the Queensland conference of the APL - the new, reorganised second tier of football in Australia.
By 2014, every state league in Australia will be overhauled and dragged under the APL umbrella.
FFA will seek a national naming rights sponsor for the competition and attempt to drive media interest in state-level football.
It would be happening next year were it not for a handful of leagues - in Victoria, WA and Northern NSW - that still have commercial commitments they must honour.
Designed primarily as a development league and an elite pathway for players and coaches, some regions are embracing the APL as the perfect opportunity to prepare for the big jump into the A-League instead of beginning as start-up clubs like the Fury and newest addition Western Sydney Wanderers.
Using the new APL spotlight as a starting block, the reborn Fury intends to build from the ground up. Within two years, Krayem wants a National Youth League side. Then he wants a W-League team.
The end goal is by 2018 to have a cash reserve and a case for re-entry into the A-League that is so strong the FFA could not possibly say no.
And Krayem has a very simple message for all the other regions - Gold Coast, Canberra, the South Coast of New South Wales and even the Sunshine Coast - who still harbour A-League dreams.
"I think it's the only way forward," he told Goal.com.
"From Fury's perspective, in hindsight, this is how the club should have been built in the first place.
"If you have aspirations to be playing at the A-League level, you have to build your club from grassroots up and capitalize on it and build a sound financial base, and make sure that you've done the planning and got the financial backing to do it.
"I don't believe you can rely on just one or two benefactors. It's not going to work. The community has got to own it."
Krayem believes his failed 'Save the Fury' campaign - underpinned by a model of community and business ownership - needed only minor tweaking to accommodate an APL license and the ambitious plans for beyond.
"The last 12 months we've been working together [with Football Queensland and civic and business leaders in Townsville] and, with the restructure and the APL, it was really an easy way for us," he said.
Critical of FFA's conduct when the governing body pulled the plug on the Fury, this time Krayem may find an ally at Whitlam Square when the time eventually comes to talk A-League re-entry - former NRL head and incoming FFA CEO David Gallop.
Krayem will be able to draw upon a previous relationship with Gallop, given his own experience as chief of the North Queensland Cowboys NRL club.
"I think David Gallop understands the importance of growth, and the importance of regional Queensland," he said.
"At the NRL, David played a big hand in ensuring the Cowboys survived and continued."
The decision to keep the old Fury name for the APL push was a no-brainer, according to Krayem.
He confirmed the club will still wear green and white and keep their old badge, although a new kit design is currently being worked on.
"People have a strong connection with the name and the colours," he said.
"It's interesting - since we announced that we're in the APL, the response that we've had from previous sponsors of the Fury, people who supported the Fury.
"They've said 'welcome back, we're ready to go, we look forward to seeing you guys back in the A-League in the coming years'.
"The corporates that we're talking to are buying the vision - not just the APL for next year. What we will have is a club from under-12s, straight to the A-League. There's not many A-League clubs that have that."
A home ground has not been settled on for Fury's return next year, although Krayem said a several are on the table, including the Townsville Sports Reserve and the Murray Sports Complex.
If they eventually arrive back in the A-League, it is highly unlikely they'll be playing at their former venue, Dairy Farmers Stadium.
"I don't think we need to be playing in a stadium with over 27,000 seats, because it won't suit us," he said.
"Ideally we want to be in a location that has between 8,000 and 12,000 seats. There's a couple of options for that in the region."
Krayem is very clear - it is a when, not an if the Fury will return to the top flight.
"This is a reality. It's not a pipe-dream," he said.
"The Fury never went away anyway. We were just on hiatus for 12 months. Now we're back.
"We're taking the small steps rather than saying we're going to do everything in a year - we know that's not going to happen.
"You don't set yourself up to fail. What you do is set a process."