Western Melbourne and Macarthur South-west Sydney have won the A-League expansion race, with an 11-team competition set to be formed next season.
The winning Victorian bid will join the A-League in 2019-20, before the South-west Sydney bid enters in 2020-21.
Western Melbourne will play out of Kardinia Park for the first two season before moving into a boutique rectangular 15-000-seat stadium in Tarneit, which they’ve vowed to build with their own funds.
The 20,000-capacity Campbelltown Stadium – which is 50 kilometres from Parramatta Stadium via road – will house the South-west Sydney team, with a lease agreement already in place.
Tense 11th hour negotiations went late into last night after the FFA board meeting, with both bids understood to have been asked to up their final bids.
Both clubs signed their A-League participation agreements in the early hours of the morning, with the four losing bids – South-east Victoria (Team 11), South Melbourne, Southern Expansion and Canberra United believed to have been informed this morning.
FFA was due to announce the two winning bids at a press conference at noon today (Thursday, AEDT) fronted by FFA chief executive David Gallop and A-League chief Greg O’Rourke.
The South-west Sydney bid was always favoured ahead of Southern Expansion, but the Melbourne license was hotly debated.
South-east Victorian bid (Team 11) was pitched as a strong option before the board went with Western Melbourne, who are understood to have paid a significantly higher license fee.
The Team 11 bid was proposing to play out of a newly built 15,000-seat stadium in Dandenong’s CBD, required around $120 million in government funding, with Casey Fields used as the temporary home.
It’s understood South-west Sydney’s preference was to start next season (2019-20), however Western Sydney Wanderers were keen to have a season of clear air at the refurbished Parramatta Stadium.
The staggered expansion approach was decided during a five-hour-long board meeting, having kicked off at 3pm Wednesday at FFA HQ in Sydney.
If South-west Sydney get up, they are expected to commence talks with ex Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak, now with Championship club Aston Villa, about joining them in their inaugural season.
Property mogul and BRW Rich Lister Lang Walker is the main backer of the Macarthur bid, after two local consortiums merged last August, with local businessman and fellow investor Gino Marra fronting the bid.
Canberra United’s bid has been well received, although there was a belief that they fell short in several areas including financials.
However Canberra could still be considered for the 2020-21 season, with Wellington Phoenix’s future up in the air.
Phoenix have one more year to run on their contract and must meet a series of performance metrics – including crowds – which they are now falling well short of.
South-west Sydney tried to join the A-League this season (2018-19), making an offer to merge with Wellington Phoenix at the end of last A-League season. FFA blocked the deal.