Football heartland unites to be a part of FFA’s expansion plans

Issued Thursday 4 May 2017

Soccer in the South East
Three local councils join forces to bring the A-League to South-East Victoria.

Three local councils in the heart of Melbourne’s booming south east signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today, to officially kick start the push for an A-League/W-League club in the region.

The Mayors of Greater Dandendong, Casey City and Cardinia Shire formalised their partnership at the signing event, which was held in the centre of Dandenong.

Former Socceroo and Springvale City junior Vince Grella was announced as an ambassador for the region’s quest to bring professional football to its backyard.

“If Football Federation Australia’s preference is to locate a new team in a heavily populated centre - to ‘fish where the fish are’, if you like - then south east Melbourne is the ideal place,” Cr Memeti said.

“With more than 1.2 million people, which is bigger than Adelaide, we are one of the fastest growing populations in the country.

“Greater Dandenong is Victoria’s most multicultural municipality and the second most multicultural in Australia (behind Auburn in western Sydney) representing 156 different nationalities.

“We may be culturally diverse but we all share the one language of football. An A-League club in the region would be a multicultural club for all the community, seeking to represent all the local clubs in the region.”

South east Melbourne is a football heartland with 32 local clubs and more than 5000 registered players residing in Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia.

“This is a combined A-League, W-League and youth league bid - all equally as important as each other,” Cr Aziz said.

“Our aim is for our youth teams to be made up largely of players in our catchment area. We would not rule out fielding a youth league side and/or a W-League side before the senior men’s side.”

As well as former Socceroo Grella, who represented his country 46 times and played at two FIFA World Cups, the region can make claim to an array of outstanding local talent. The roll call includes rising Dutch-based star Ajdin Hrustic, past and present Socceroos Jackson Irvine, Bailey Wright, Scott McDonald and Ljubo Milicevic, Australian youth international John Maisano, and the rising star of Australian women’s and world football Jacynta Galabaadaarchchi.

“We have spoken to many of the local clubs and they all endorse the concept of a representative ‘Super Club’ and the opportunities this would create for players, coaches, trainers and administrators at all levels of the game,” Cr Owen said.

“They want an organisation the whole community can be proud of, a club that is built and sustained from the ground-up. We don’t want a club to be the plaything of a wealthy investor. Rather, we want our club to be backed by a thousand investors.

“Our club can provide a great sense of purpose and belonging for all members of the local community. We want to have strong ties to our local schools and local community groups.

“We want to provide a national pathway for local boys and girls and also establish a national identity for the region,” Cr Owen said.

The officially sanctioned MoU, thought to be the first of its kind in the football industry, outlines a community-owned vision for football that includes:

  • A commitment to supporting the construction of a new football stadium located in Greater Dandenong, which is purpose designed and built for game days and other local football and community based content.
  • Greater Dandenong City Council will explore opportunities to provide a parcel of land for the new football stadium on a long-term lease arrangement.
  • A training and administrative base to be located at the ‘Casey Football Centre of Excellence’ in Casey Fields. Casey City Council aims to pursue this development in stages. Headline features include three synthetic soccer fields, a natural turf field and supporting pavilion infrastructure, and a regional level stadium pitch that has the capacity to serve as an A-League/W-League training facility.
  • Cardinia Shire Council to be responsible for developing talent recruitment pathways and promoting the game within the region and beyond (e.g. Gippsland) through the introduction of Youth Academies and other club strengthening initiatives.

“Across Australia, the sport's stakeholders are crying out for football-specific stadia to be built,” Cr Memeti said.

“We believe a boutique stadium located in Dandenong - that can be easily expanded when the demand necessitates it - would be a jewel in the crown of this bid, but also be of benefit to Australian football as a whole.”

Grella said the vision and case for south east Melbourne were both “compelling and complementary” to FFA’s future expansion plans.

“The region is incredibly strong in terms of its football culture and history,” Mr Grella said.

“It has produced more than 40 national league players for the National Soccer League and A-League, more than 20 Australian youth internationals and more than 15 Socceroos learnt to play here in the backyards and fields of south east Melbourne. The region is blessed with so many incredibly talented and committed clubs, coaches and players.”

The Mayors of the three Councils said that securing an A-League, W-League and a National Youth Club, in one of Australia’s great soccer heartlands, would galvanise the community and transform the region. They said that other Councils in the region would also be approached to join the cause.

Members of the community can find out more about the Councils’ push for an A-League/W-League club in the region by emailing weareteam11@outlook.com