Multi-millionaire property developer Ross Pelligra - the cash powerhouse behind South Melbourne’s A-League bid - has outlined his vision to take the club “to the next level” as a “multi-cultural entity others will seek to emulate”.
Describing his emergence as South’s dominant stakeholder as a “beautiful opportunity”, Melbourne-based Pelligra has vowed to fund further upgrades to the former NSL giant’s Lakeside Stadium, as well as bankrolling marquee signings and attracting nationalities to the game which haven’t typically embraced football on a grand scale in Australia.
The man whose family owned company has commercial, retail and residential projects here and overseas, is South’s big financial weapon as they seek go all guns blazing into Wednesday’s FFA boardroom vote on A-League expansion for next season.
They are one of three Victorian bids vying for a license, with Team 11 and Western Melbourne Group the others.
“The game has come a long way but still has a long way to go here in Australia, and I’d like to be hearing people talking about the A-League in the coffee shops and in the office, just like they do about they’re teams in Europe,” said Pelligra, who was in the youth ranks at NPL side Green Gully as a youngster.
“I’m all about trying to give the club that extra oomph to get us up to another level of interest.
“I’m going to leave it to the experts but the money will be there to bring out a top coach and marquee players.
“I’m in this for the long haul - it’s not about a quick entry, grow and then move on.
“It’s just like in our business: every project we’re involved in here or overseas is all about taking the long-term view.
“If we get the go ahead from FFA (as one of two new teams for next season) we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and getting it to the level it needs to be at.
“For us, it’s a great fun challenge. I’ve always been a football fan growing up, and I’ve been looking for the right opportunity to come along, and South Melbourne is that opportunity.”
Pelligra, whose roots are Italian, views traditionally Greek-backed South as a vehicle to promote diversity in the years ahead.
“The chance to be become a major investor gives me the opportunity to make decisions that will benefit the club, grow the club for the kids and the members,” he added.
“The club has an existing fanbase and we’ll be looking to grow that without encroaching on Melbourne Victory or Melbourne City.
“We want to appeal to kids from China, Somalia, India and elsewhere who maybe haven’t embraced the game here yet. “We’re going to be a multi-cultural hub. We want to make everyone part of it.”
Pelligra is also looking to turn the club’s home into a “seven day a week hive of activity”, with upgrades to seating capacity and function room facilities.
“I have the ability to make decisions without having a board sitting there just twiddling their thumbs over who puts the next dollar in,” he added.
“We’ll grab the checkbook and will make it happen.
“This is a beautiful opportunity, there’s a lot of growth to be achieved and bringing it all together excites me.
“I want to leave a legacy behind at this club that other clubs can emulate.”