FFA: Do not give the Southern Expansion bid an A-League franchise spot!
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This petition exists to discourage the FFA from approving a combined St George, Sutherland Shire and Illawarra A-League franchise. Despite having the backing of Craig Foster and Chinese investors, the bid is seriously misguided for the following reasons:
- Geographical and cultural disconnect between Southern Sydney and Wollongong would likely see poor support from the Illawarra region. Many Illawarra locals have consistently made it clear on social media that they will only support a standalone Wollongong team. The Wanderers have exemplified the success that comes with representing a specific region and having a clear identity - it would be a mistaken decision to go the other way.
- The farcical nature of ground-sharing across the 3 regions is demonstrated by the fact that 55km separates WIN Stadium from Jubilee Oval, as opposed to 23km separating Moore Park and Parramatta Stadium - the homes of two different clubs.
- 25% of Sydney FC's member base live south of Mascot, and 40% of junior members (2015 data). A new team would deeply cut into their support and already diminished catchment area (post-WSW). It is important to note that Jubilee Oval (St George region) is only a short 12km from Moore Park.
- Adding a third Sydney team creates 6 more derby fixtures each season, yet the potential success of these manufactured 'derbies' is questionable. The current Sydney Derby has been so successful because it captured a real and pre-existing social and cultural dynamic in Sydney.
- Additionally, the Wanderers were established to represent a specific area and have a clear identity - something a combined Southern team would not have. Again, despite the combined St George, Sutherland Shire, Illawarra region boasting a population of nearly 1 million, this raw number does not automatically convert to passionate fans, especially when there is such a physical and cultural separation across that population. Despite having a smaller population on its own, the Illawarra region already boasts a historically successful club in the Wollongong Wolves - a club that has a pre-existing and visible connection to the area and fans. Their standalone bid should be seriously considered and favoured over the combined regional one.
To conclude, and with all respect to Craig Foster, the Southern Expansion bid is not the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, it would be detrimental to a pre-existing club in Sydney FC and stifle any chance a standalone Wollongong team has of joining an expanded competition. Expansion is vital to the future progression of the A-League, but it must be done right. Without any clear fan engagement conducted by the FFA, this petition hopes to demonstrate the sentiment of the public and encourage the future path taken by the FFA.
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