The battle to land new A-League licences has taken a major twist, with two of the three Sydney bid teams joining forces in an effort to secure their future in an expanded national competition.
South West Sydney Football Club and United for Macarthur were among the 10 aspirants shortlisted by Football Federation Australia five weeks ago, as were Southern Expansion, an entity seeking to represent the area spanning from the St George region down to Wollongong.
However, Fairfax Media has learnt that the South West Sydney and Macarthur hopefuls have decided to combine and form what will effectively be a super bid for a start in the A-League for the 2019-20 season and beyond.
The deal has been cloaked in secrecy. South West Sydney director Gino Marra declined to comment when contacted on Sunday and calls to United for Macarthur bid chairman Chris Redman were not returned.
But it is understood FFA are likely to be informed about it by Monday and an official announcement is expected to follow soon after.
The amalgamation shapes as a significant development in the expansion process as FFA looks to spread the wings of the national competition 13 years after it was formed.
The joint venture will be pitted directly against the Southern Expansion group in a head-to-head contest to be named as the citys third A-League club alongside Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers.
The merger is being seen by those with knowledge of it as a common sense move given that the bid teams had shared territory and both had visions of playing their home games at an upgraded Campbelltown Stadium if they were successful in their applications. There are other synergies with both also backed by local associations and favouring a community model. The community would be consulted on the team name and colours.
Behind it is serious financial clout, with billionaire Walker Corporation executive chairman Lang Walker having announced in June that he and his organisation would be financially supporting the Macarthur bid. It is understood his backing would transfer to the merged entity.
“If successful, Walker Constructions will become a strategic partner of the A-League team, and also have substantial input in the upgrade of the stadium, other local sporting facilities and football clubs in the region,” Walker Corporation said in a statement in June.
“Sydneys south-west is growing rapidly and has the facilities in place, with the centerpiece being Campbelltown Sports Stadium, to quickly become a force in the A-League.”
The Southern Expansion bid is not short on financial muscle either. It is backed by Chinese property company JiaYuan Group and has established a link with Chinese Super League club Guizhou Hengfeng. The bid team is fronted by former NSW premier Morris Iemma and broadcaster and former Socceroos midfielder Craig Foster.
The south-west deal comes with would-be expansion sides across the country having less than four weeks to finalise their bid documents by the August 31 deadline.
It leaves nine bids in the running to be given the green light by FFA for a start in the A-League, the others being Southern Expansion, Wollongong Wolves, a Victorian outfit called Team 11, Western Melbourne Group, South Melbourne, Western Pride/Ipswich, Brisbane City and Canberra.
A final decision is anticipated by FFA by October and an expanded 12-team competition would begin next year.