The Victorian Government has a week to decide whether it will fund a $150 million stadium in Dandenong as part of urban renewal for the region and deliver football’s heartland an A-League expansion side.
After months of planning, jostling and bickering among bidders, Team 11 remain the hot favourites of three Victorian bids to expand the competition in time for the 2019/20 competition.
But it needs a signed and sealed commitment from the state government to come to life, which is the focus of behind-the-scenes negotiations this week.
The Victorian election, won decisively by the Labor Government, held up a formal approach from FFA to the state government for its consideration.
With Daniel Andrews forming a new cabinet – which includes south-eastern MP Martin Pakula as Sports Minister – that approach is being considered imminently.
The plans and request are far from new to the government, which counts Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams – promoted to Cabinet as Women’s Minister – as one of its most vociferous supporters.
The state government and City of Greater Dandenong are considering the project as both a sporting investment and a continuation of a multi-million dollar long-term revitalisation project for one of Melbourne’s satellite hubs.
The discussion will reach a crescendo this week, but publicly all three parties were playing a straight bat when contacted by AAP.
A Victorian Government spokesperson stressed it was “ultimately a decision for the A-League and the FFA”, given local members had also been lobbied by expansion aspirants South Melbourne and Western Melbourne Group.
“The Victorian Government is very keen to see an A-League expansion club based in Victoria, and we think the case for that is undeniable,” Mr Pakula’s spokesperson said.
Team 11 spokesperson Matt Windley said his group’s bid had mounted a convincing case with both government and FFA.
“A power of work has gone on in regards to development of Dandenong Stadium plans for almost 12 months now, involving different levels of government, the City of Greater Dandenong and Team 11 officials,” he said.
“If the FFA wants us, it’s now up to the FFA to have those discussions with government.”
Those statements suggest a game of chicken is being played over who must hold discussions but what is undeniable is the decision is ultimately in the hands of the state government as the major funding body.
The South Melbourne bid does not require major capital for its Lakeside Stadium home ground, while the Western Melbourne Group is claiming a first in Australian sport; a privately-funded stadium build.
An FFA spokesperson said their recommendations would be finalised when the board meets in Sydney on December 12.
“A whole range of factors will be considered in determining the successful bids to ensure their future sustainability, which includes securing stadia, catchment areas and financial capital,” the spokesperson said.