Third Sydney team firming as Victorian bid sweats on stadium boost
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Third Sydney team firming as Victorian bid sweats on stadium boost

Football Federation Australia is unlikely to bow to pressure from Sydney A-League clubs arguing against a third team in the city as it emerges that the federal government could help build a stadium for Melbourne bid entity Team 11.

It's understood the chairmen from Sydney FC, Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar met with senior FFA management on Thursday to discuss the impact of expansion upon the existing clubs.

Heavy hitter: Team 11 investor Gerry Ryan has used his government contacts to garner support for his A-League bid.

Heavy hitter: Team 11 investor Gerry Ryan has used his government contacts to garner support for his A-League bid.Credit:Josh Robenstone

After initially opposing expansion from its outset in March, the biggest clubs entered collaboration with FFA on the eve of the submission of final bid papers to the board.

However, it's understood that privately and individually, Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers have staunchly opposed the introduction of a new team in Sydney that would be based in either of the club's fan base regions. The Sky Blues have fought against the introduction of Southern Expansion in the city's south while the Wanderers are opposed to FFA granting a licence to Macarthur-South West Sydney FC, based in Campbelltown.

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Sydney FC say one third of their membership is based in the southern suburbs while the Wanderers have a strong supporter base in the Liverpool-Fairfield area.

Senior FFA sources told Fairfax Media that while the concerns of both clubs have been taken on board, it remains "a very strong possibility" a third team from the city will win the race for expansion.

Sources close to the board suggest the FFA does not want to be beholden solely to the interests of existing clubs as they attempt to grow the professional game.

With more registered players than any other city in Australia, there is a desire to provide more pathways for junior players in Sydney and unblock the bottle neck of player development.

Mewanwhile, Fairfax Media understands the Morrison government has expressed an appetite to partially fund Team 11's proposed stadium in Dandenong, in Melbourne's south east, which is required for the bid to be accepted for expansion next week.

The federal government is viewing the construction of a boutique stadium in the region as a potential vote winner amid concerns about the possibility of losing the seats of Dunkley, La Trobe and Casey at next year's election. Team 11 investor Gerry Ryan is believed to have used his contacts to help garner support.

Sources have confirmed the federal government has held preliminary discussions over the funding and has shown support for the bid at the 11th hour but is yet to provide any firm commitment.

There is believed to be strong support for the bid within the newly-elected Victorian state government - particularly with Team 11 supporters Martin Paluka, Gabrielle Williams and Luke Donnellan now in cabinet.

However, that support is also yet to translate into an iron-clad agreement. Whether the Labor state government could work in tandem on the project with Liberal federal government remains to be seen.

Funding will likely be required from all three tiers for the $170 million stadium to go ahead but it appears FFA is caught in an awkward chicken-and-egg scenario.

The Team 11 bid is understood to be FFA's preferred option in Melbourne but it hinges entirely upon the stadium, while the Victorian government won't open talks with FFA over funding until an expansion licence has been granted.

“It is for the FFA to decide which, if any expansion bids they go with,” Victorian sports minister Pakula told Macquarie Sports Radio on Thursday. "If they go with ‘Team 11’, the government will have a conversation with the FFA and that consortium about what their needs are.

"We aren’t going to be making FFA’s choice for them by announcing stadium deals or anything of that nature ... we’ve made it really clear to them [FFA] that they’ve got to make the call first."

Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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