Canberra’s A-League bid team have struck an alliance with Wollongong Wolves which would see the club stage at least one home match in Illawarra should they win entry into an expanded competition.
While the long anticipated admission of two new teams for next season looks like being shelved by the in-coming FFA board until 2020-2021, Canberra remain among the favourites to land a license.
Wollongong’s hopes, though, have already been scuppered, for the time being at least, after they failed to make the shortlist of six for the next round of expansion.
But recent talks between Canberra’s bid leader Michael Caggiano and Wolves chiefs have sealed an agreement which covers a multitude of bases.
Canberra will provide access to coaching resources at the AIS, assistance with developing the Illawarra region’s football infrastructure, and a pathway for elite junior players to professional football.
Caggiano sees “value for both parties” as they chase their individual A-League goals.
“The Illawarra region is rich in football history and hopefully they’ll be a part of the A-League one day, along with us,” Caggiano said.
“They have a good set-up and a lot of football brains are already working there.
“There are things we can do for them and things they can do for us and together we can achieve both our aims.
“We want to work with them, not replace them.
“Having Wolves join the A-League would create a derby for us, and really fulfill the game’s potential in southern NSW.
“I believe in all regions being represented in the league and for me Wollongong is a standout.”
Wolves spokesman, Socceroos great Luke Wilkshire, said the agreement is designed to help ensure Wolves are “A-League ready” for the next round of expansion.
“This agreement will help us build our juniors, our players, our club and our region,” Wilkshire said.
“They are going to help us in terms of developing facilities for our juniors, which is really lacking in our region.
“We wanted to be there (in the A-League short list) ourselves, and we will continue working to achieve that.
“Until then, to be able to bring a game or two each year up to Win Stadium is a great opportunity for our local football community.”
With expansion likely to be held up as a new FFA new board takes the baton, Caggiano remains undeterred.
“We’ve said all along that we will be ready when the league is ready,” he said.
“We’re one of the best prepared bids right now. We have government money locked in, we have a stadium and the AIS as our training base.
“We are ready to kick off next year, but if that means kicking off the year after, that’s fine with us too.
“We already have serious international clubs among our backers, the infrastructure is in place, we have 7,500 members and that will only grow. The key principles don’t change in time.
“I am not going anywhere, the bid is not going anywhere and we will be here until we have an A-League team.
“We are building and have a 10-year vision for the future. That doesn’t change if there’s a nine-month delay.”