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Dec 9, 2010

Rovers a dog for A-League

The A-League's expansion plans are in tatters after soccer bosses pulled the plug on the ailing western Sydney franchise planned for next season.

The struggling Sydney Rovers bid, handpicked by Football Federation Australia from a field of bidders from both western Sydney and other regions, was embarrassingly put out of its misery on Friday.

It had been battling for start-up funding and rumours had been swirling for months the bid - headed by advertising identity Ian Rowden - would not get off the ground.

The FFA announced it had "mutually agreed" with Rowden's consortium the bid would not be pursued.

This came just a week after the failed World Cup bid and with current expansion club North Queensland Fury on death row awaiting news whether the FFA will approve a community ownership model and provide interim funding.

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley, accused by some of losing focus while pursuing the World Cup, said the A-League still wanted a western Sydney team, though it is unclear how or when this will happen.

"We have mutually decided this week to move on so FFA can explore other options with the view to starting a team in Sydney's west as soon as possible," Buckley said.

"The Sydney Rovers group has completed a substantial amount of work around dealing with stadia, local government and businesses and they have kindly offered to make that work available to other prospective consortiums.

"We are convinced there is enough support out there for a western Sydney franchise and it is an important part of our vision for the Hyundai A-League."

The western Sydney region was chosen ahead of Canberra, the NSW South Coast and Tasmania to join the A-League, and a team was originally slated to join expansion club Melbourne Heart in this season's competition.

But after initial delays, the Sydney Rovers bid wasn't officially given the green light until September last year.

It was chosen ahead of rivals including one backed by Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill - and an 11-team competition went ahead this season with the promise of Rovers becoming the 12th team for 2011-12.

Now the competition could drop to 10 teams next season if the FFA kills off the Fury.

The FFA said it would now seek out other interested bidders for western Sydney.

Neill has distanced himself from any involvement in reviving his A-League franchise bid.

The decision also ensures the AFL, which kicks off its western Sydney team the Giants in 2012, gets the jump on any A-League wannabes.

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