South Melbourne's A-League bid Chairman, Bill Papastergiadis, says entry into the top tier of Australian football could bridge the bitterness that exists between disgruntled NSL fans and the A-League.
The day of reckoning for A-League expansion finally arrived when FFA called for Expressions of Interest from eager aspirants, by announcing that two new teams will join the A-League on October 31, 2018.
Perhaps the club that suffered the most after the NSL’s 2004 demise was South Melbourne.
With its large supporter base, proud history, success on the park and record in developing Socceroos it felt the pain more than others.
Those wounds deepened when John O’Neil, the inaugural CEO of the A-League, dismissed the defunct competition as 'old soccer' marginalising many NSL diehards who refused to support what became known as 'new football'.
But Papastergiadis believes that having South Melbourne as part of an expanded competition can bring those fans back.
“That’s an important question that the FFA also understands,” he said. “That is, the re-engagement of the latent support within this country who perhaps were disenfranchised when the NSL was dismantled.
“It also allows for aspirational football to once again be part of our conversation. Because a club coming up from the NPL into the A League is what football is about.
“It’s about giving all of us the opportunity to aspire and excel. That’s what our kids want. That’s what our supporters want. That’s where the passion is.”
With South Melbourne making last year’s FFA Cup semi-final, Papastergiadis said the run to the final four was a huge boost to the club’s A-League aspirations.
“It served a number of purposes,” he said. “First, it reinforced in our own mind that we were playing with teams that we felt we should be playing with on a regular basis.
“It justified all of the decisions on the playing group and everything that was necessary to get that group ready.
“It also filled us with excitement about what may be ahead of us on a weekly basis. It opened our imagination to the beauty of the game and South Melbourne’s place in the A League.”
But before South can dream they have to address a number of FFA’s criteria and Papastergiadis says the former NSL club will have no problem measuring up to the bidding requirements.
“On the key matters identified by the FFA, and from a financial perspective, the club is ready-made for this bid,” he said.
“We have a stadium that seats up to 12,000 people, with a deal that means we can make a profit at 1,500 people. Our player list has also played at the upper levels of the game.
“There is no other bid in this state or this country that can tick all these boxes at the moment.
"Then, you add in our football department from the junior perspective and our women winning four successive championships including the Victorian NPL Grand Final at their first attempt.
"This is a whole of football proposal for the A League. We are ready made. That’s the beauty of our club.”