A-League wannabes 'ready if NZ dumped'
A-League bidders in north Queensland and Wollongong say they would be able to step into the breach should the struggling New Zealand Knights be dumped from the competition for next season.
The Knights continue to do it tough both on and off the field, losing money and their past eight matches, and attracting pitiful crowds.
Their existence beyond this season is expected to hinge on an end-of-season review by Football Federation Australia (FFA).
But despite assurances it wants the New Zealand franchise to continue, the Knights are believed to be testing the FFA's patience with the lack of local players on their roster and frosty relations with Kiwi governing body New Zealand Soccer.
Those behind bids for north Queensland and Wollongong to be part of an expanded 10-team A-League competition in the 2008-09 season say they could be ready earlier if there was a vacancy in the A-League next year.
"We don't want to see New Zealand fall over - we want to be the ninth or 10th club in the league's expansion," Townsville bid spokesman James Gage told AAP.
"(But) if push comes to shove and an opportunity did present itself, we'd like to think we'd be in a better position than most to be able to take advantage of it."
Already a group called Tropical Football Australia (TFA) has been set up to run the north Queensland bid, which would see an A-League team based in Townsville.
Gage said TFA had received several expressions of interest from would-be financial investors, including an English Premier League club, Asian-based businesses and an airline.
He said they had also sounded out former Socceroos coach Frank Farina - who grew up in far north Queensland - about the possibility of coaching the team.
"He intimated to us he'd be interested in the coaching position and even if he wasn't able to do it, he'd be interested in opening some doors for us," Gage said.
Wollongong is also a serious player in any A-League expansion, and has set up a steering committee to pull its bid together.
Its trump card is likely to be Socceroos World Cup hero Scott Chipperfield, a former Wollongong local who has expressed interest in returning to play for the club in any A-League campaign.
Those backing the bid say they'd prefer to enter the competition in two years' time, but would move heaven and earth to speed things up if tapped on the shoulder by the FFA in event of the Knights' demise.
"We don't want to come in on the back of someone else's misfortune, though if something happened, we'd talk about it," bid spokesman Bob Doyle said.
"We've got a home venue, we've got a training venue, we've got a well resourced situation.
"The only thing missing is the balloon from the FFA to go up, then we'd go out and see what cash is around."
Wollongong's home ground would be WIN Stadium where National Rugby League side St George Illawarra plays, while Townsville is eyeing Dairy Farmers' Stadium, home of league's North Queensland Cowboys.