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Les Murray fronts southern Sydney A-League bid

04:13 GMT+3 06/03/2017
Les Murray 17122013
Sydney's southern suburbs have been one of FFA's target areas for expansion and they finally have an official bid that includes two heavyweights

Australian football icon Les Murray will spearhead a bid to expand the A-League into southern Sydney, with a Chinese property development firm set to fund the group.

In a statement released on Monday, a group fronted by Murray - the former face of SBS' football coverage - and his long-time colleague Craig Foster announced they will attempt to win one of two A-League licences when the competition is expected to expand for the 2018-19 season.

COMMENT: FFA dither as A-League stagnates

The group is supported by the local associations of St George, Sutherland Shire and Football South Coast, with Foster arguing the proposed club will not "sit atop the grass roots but alongside".

 

"This is a very exciting day in Australian football," Murray, who is the bid's steering group chairman, said in a statement.

"What we have in mind is to bring best quality professional football to a vast, diverse region full of football tradition and history.

"I have no doubt that the communities of Sydney's southern reaches will be heavily enriched by having their own professional football club."

The timing of the group's announcement is intriguing as Football Federation Australia (FFA) announced just over a week ago that expansion would take a back seat to ownership and operational reform of the A-League.

FFA had stated on numerous occasions that 2018-19 was its preferred season to grow the A-League to 12 teams and reiterated that desire last Tuesday.

FFA target new A-League model ahead of expansion

But the southern suburbs of Sydney have long been one of FFA CEO David Gallop's preferred options for A-League expansion.

"We are not impatient and are content to wait until expansion is given the go-ahead," Murray said.

"But when it does we will be ready."

COMMENT: Is FFA missing an expansion opportunity?

The JiaYuan Group, which was founded by Shum Tin Ching, will financially guarantee the bid for A-League and W-League licences.

If the southern Sydney bid was to win an A-League licence they would become the second club funded from China, with Newcastle Jets currently owned by Martin Lee's Ledman Group.

Foster - a former Socceroos midfielder and the steering group's head of football - claimed that a southern Sydney club would invest heavily in training facilities, marquee players and "our own purpose built stadium".

Gallop: Fish where the fish are

While the chance to adding a third Sydney-based team will undoubtedly appeal to FFA and A-League broadcaster Fox Sports, Sydney FC are likely to be opposed as they consider the southern suburbs part of their catchment area.

The A-League clubs are set to be involved in defining expansion bid criteria and - potentially - choosing which proposals are successful with FFA showing willingness over the past month to give club owners more power.

The southern Sydney bid is unlikely to be welcomed by NPL NSW club Wollongong Wolves, who also have expansion aspirations.