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Apr 5, 2012

Marquee no certainty for new A-League team

Israel Folau was the face of the AFL's western Sydney invasion but Football Federation Australia (FFA) says the A-League's foray into the region won't necessarily hinge on a big-name signing.

A western Sydney team will become the competition's 10th side from next season after FFA confirmed on Wednesday it would bankroll the team to replace fallen Gold Coast United.

Despite the boost of an $8 million government funding package, FFA faces a big challenge in getting the club ready in time for the next campaign, likely starting in October.

But A-League chief Lyall Gorman, touted as a potential candidate for chief executive of the new club, said FFA was not starting from scratch and was building on work already done during an earlier failed western Sydney bid and previous submissions.

He said FFA would begin engaging with the community from next week, with 'town hall' style meetings to be held in areas including Bankstown, Penrith, Mt Druitt, Blacktown and Parramatta to seek suggestions over the new club's direction and details such as its name, logo and colours.

Also high on the agenda will be discussions about the value of the franchise signing a marquee player.

"We're not going to try and buy Israel Folau off GWS but the question will be clearly asked in these forums over the next couple of weeks about the merits of a marquee player," Gorman told AAP.

"We've seen some very successful clubs built without marquee players in the A-League ... I was involved with one before with the (Central Coast) Mariners.

"Is it a compelling part of the mix though? We've got to ask our fan base that."

While the likes of Dwight Yorke, Robbie Fowler and more recently Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell have been signed as marquee players to great effect, Gorman said he did not think it would be essential in starting up western Sydney.

"My personal view is you don't have to build a club around a big name player, although I also think they can add tremendous value," Gorman said.

"But it's not a must and it's a market-to-market proposition.

"In terms of what do the fans want to see, clearly they want to see success on the field.

"But to build a strong, sustainable, viable club, you've got to build those core values and cultures that fans relate to emotionally, regardless of whether you win or lose on the field all the time.

"That's the careful balance you've got to have."

Gorman said he had "not even considered" the prospect of changing roles to become the new club's chief executive, despite his experience as former Mariners executive chairman making him an obvious candidate.

He said FFA's phones had been running hot with interest from potential coaches and players, and while there was an element of urgency to the recruitment process, it would not be rushed.

With FFA confirming on Thursday Gold Coast would not be represented in the league next season, Gorman said it was possible some of United's out-of-contract players, such as captain Michael Thwaite, could see western Sydney as a potential venue for next season.

"It's another option to pursue," Gorman said.

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