Football and council figures who would be prime movers behind any move to establish an A-League club in southern Sydney anticipate having dialogue with the competition’s new boss, Greg O’Rourke, once he has settled into the job.
Speaking at a media conference to announce his appointment on Thursday, O’Rourke, a former president of the Sutherland Shire Football Association, made it clear he was a fan of the 10-team A-League expanding.
“I think expansion is inevitable, and it’s exactly the right thing to do,” O’Rourke said. “But we need to make sure the 10 teams we have are sustainable. There’s no use bringing in teams that are shaking.
“Expansion is a matter for the (FFA) board, but it should be sooner rather than later. Not saying next year, but we need to capture excitement. Part of my transformational background is making sure they [the clubs] are solvent. Then we can begin that conversation, and it will be exciting.”
Southern Sydney is an area that has been identified as a likely site for an expansion team and the SSFA has previously voiced the possibility of them joining forces with the St George Football Association and Football South Coast to form a club.
It appeared such a plan might be fast-tracked when Wellington Phoenix was in danger of not getting a new licence to continue playing in the A-League next season, but in the end the New Zealand club held their place.
Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce and SSFA president Wayne Schweickle each told The World Game on Friday that now a new head of the A-League had been appointed they would watch for developments.
Pesce said he hoped the fact O’Rourke knew both the area and the SSFA well would help southern Sydney when expansion talks finally heated up.
“It (expansion talk) has gone a bit quiet in the last six months, but I hope that at the right time the new A-League boss looks at it very seriously and knows there is some great talent coming out of the shire,” Mayor Pesce said.
“I wouldn’t look to contact him at this stage, he has got to settle into his job and that takes time, but he obviously knows how strong the junior football is here in the Shire. We have the biggest junior association in the southern hemisphere.
“We’re getting close to 20,000 registered players and 97 per cent of those players live in the Shire. We’ve got a fair bit of development happening in the area, which means it’s only going to get bigger, so I believe the number will tip over 20,000 in the next 12 months.
“In terms of business and the community it would be a great thing for the area to have an A-League team here, but I don’t want to rock the boat with the new boss before it leaves the shore.
“He needs to settle into his role and once the opportunity comes up I’m sure we’ll get together. The door is always open to him and I’m sure we’ll end up in a conversation at the right time.”
Schweickle told The World Game he wouldn’t expect any favours from O’Rourke, but that it certainly wouldn’t hurt the area that the new boss knew first-hand of its potential.
“We stand by our conversations that we’ve previously had, that if we were approached by the FFA or the A-League we would be positive about the idea of having a team here,” he said. “We would look to see if we could work with them, and if we could then establish a club that would be great.
“Knowing Greg, he would show no favouritism and his decisions would be in the best interests of the A-League and football itself, but when you’re dealing with someone who knows what your strengths are it makes the job of selling yourself so much easier.
“It’s a lot harder if you’re dealing with someone who isn’t familiar with the area and you’ve got to try to convince them of the positives.
“If expansion becomes real than I’m sure we would have the appropriate conversations with Greg at the A-League and with the FFA as well at the right time. I anticipate our area would be seriously considered.”