Coast bid is a winner -- Soccer chief says time right for A-league entry

By GEOFF ROUNDS

A MEETING tonight is expected to formally unveil the Gold Coast's bid to establish an A-League team in an expanded national competition.

Gold Coast Soccer (GCS) has now thrown its weight behind the campaign for the region to field a team in the A-League by as early as 2008.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) is considering expanding the A-League beyond its current eight teams with a report expected early next year on the best timeframe and locations for new franchises to be added. The Gold Coast consortium's plans to secure entry into the national championship are reportedly well advanced but they remain locked in a four-way battle with outfits from Townsville, Wollongong and Canberra also vying for inclusion.

GCS chairman Peter Gray believes the Gold Coast bid is destined to succeed but he warned timing would be crucial.

Gray said should a Gold Coast franchise be accepted within the next 18 months it would give the club a head start over the AFL which is determined to establish a full-time presence on the Gold Coast in readiness the 2010 season.

AFL club the Kangaroos have committed to play 10 games at Carrara Stadium over the next three years but Gray said the A-League had the chance to get the jump on the rival code.

"I think soccer will realise that they should move on this straight away," Gray said.

"From my point of view soccer supporters on the Gold Coast need and want this to happen. It's a reality and over due I feel." If an A-League team is established on the Gold Coast it would join the ever-growing number of national teams now popping up in the region; following in the footsteps of the Titans NRL side, the East Coast Aces in the inaugural Australian Rugby Championship and new club the Blaze in the National Basketball League.

Gray said those behind the Gold Coast bid were now prepared to present their submission to the FFA but said the team could be up and running by next season. "There are some top people to help fund it ... very influential local people and very heavy people from outside the Gold Coast," Gray said.

"We're ready to go.

"\"We could be in the A-League next year, I mean from our end whenever they (FFA) say go we will." While the FFA has yet to give expansion plans the green light, there is an expectation that a youth league will be run in conjunction with the top-flight competition.

He said this region was already producing top-line players. "We are already producing young players for the QAS," he said.

"If we had an A-League team with a youth team, what a great thing it would be for our kids."

Gray said the recent trip to Australia by soccer superstar David Beckham would only enhance the code and add to the Gold Coast's chances of its own team.

"With Beckham here, that's the sort of publicity that we as a code should get every week.

"Really, it was tremendous. It's great for our cause with the massive publicity around it all. The thing to realise is that the game will come to the Gold Coast sooner rather than later."



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