The football rivalry in the city of Sydney has ramped up in derby week but not due to the Wanderers or Sky Blues.
A bidding team for an A-League licence in the city’s south took a major step towards gaining entry for an expanded competition after receiving council approval to build a 30,000 capacity stadium, as well as a training centre in the Sutherland Shire.
Southern Expansion – a consortium looking to establish a football club representing Wollongong and the south of Sydney – were given the green light by Sutherland Shire Council on Monday for “in principle” support for the establishment of a professional football precinct in Loftus and an academy in Barden Ridge.
It includes eight full-sized pitches at the Ridge Sporting Complex to be used for potential W-League, A-League and National Youth League teams as well as its junior academies.
However, the jewel in the crown of the proposal is a football-specific stadium to be built at a nearby site in Loftus that will seat between 25,000 and 30,000 supporters. It’s understood the funding for the stadium will largely be provided by Southern Expansion’s Hong Kong-listed investors, JiaYuan property group.
The group has reportedly pledged $300 million towards a privately owned football stadium for the A-League expansion group and councillors unanimously approved a feasibility study put forward to them at Monday night’s meeting.
The land in Loftus is used by TAFE and the University of Wollongong who must also approve Southern Expansion’s plans for the new stadium before construction can take place.
Southern Expansion are looking to gain entry to the A-League, but only once expansion is confirmed after the establishment of a new A-League operating model which would need to be agreed between Football Federation and club owners.
“The Shire is central to our region and is the best place for our facilities,” Southern Expansion chief executive Chris Gardiner said.
“The stadium site is on the main railway line, served by two stations, connecting our St George, Sutherland and Wollongong communities. We envisage our stadium as part of a major sport and education precinct. Our head of football Craig Foster returns this week from his visits to football training centres in Europe and we have the location now to build the training centre he wants for our club.”
Southern Expansion have been met with opposition from Sydney FC who boast a strong membership base between St George and Sutherland regions.