Tense talks see 11th hour expansion surprise
Western Melbourne has emerged as the likely winning Victorian bid in the A-League expansion race, and could join the competition next season.
The Macarthur South-west Sydney bid looked set to win the Sydney expansion license, although their entrance was likely to be delayed until 2020-21.
Tense 11th hour negotiations went late into Wednesday night after the FFA board meeting, with Macarthur South-west Sydney set a deadline to up their original offer. It's also believed another bid was asked to up its original offer.
FFA is due to announce the two winning bids at a press conference at noon (EDT) today (Thursday) fronted by FFA chief executive David Gallop and A-League chief Greg O'Rourke.
It's understood that the FFA board debated which of the Melbourne clubs to include, with the South-east Victorian bid (Team 11) pitched as the preferred option before leaning towards Western Melbourne..
The Western Melbourne bid has said that it will pay for its own 15,000-seat stadium in Tarneit, without needing Government funding, while playing out of Geelong's Kardinia Park in the interim - at least four years.
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.
Sources have indicated that South Melbourne were never seriously considered, and were in fact due to be eliminated in the last round of cuts before a last-minute FFA backflip.
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.
The 20,000-capacity Campbelltown Stadium - which is 50 kilometres from Parramatta Stadium via road - is has been locked in as South-west Sydney's home venue, with a lease agreement already in place.
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