A bid to buy into FFA-owned Western Sydney Wanderers has been blocked by football's governing body in Australia, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report. Penrith Panthers, the National Rugby League side based twenty miles west of Parramatta-based Wanderers, had apparently launched a bid to purchase the football club and incorporate it into the rugby club, forming a so-called super club Sydney's western suburbs. FFA rejected the move out of hand when relocation to Penrith was a key tenet of the deal.
FFA chairman David Gallopp haughtily explained his position:
"We have been clear from day one that we want to identify the right owners who will respect the culture of the Wanderers and the western Sydney football community. We have given assurances to the fans that the name, colors and the key elements of the club will be enshrined in the sale process. Why would we think about selling the Wanderers to a club from another code? And equally you have to wonder why a club from another code would want to invest their money and spread their resources to build up a rival. I guess it all just shows what a powerhouse the Wanderers have become in the west of Sydney and Australian sport."
It seems the main reason for the Panthers' interest is a stadium battle they face in Penrith. Were the NRL club to incorporate a football club, especially one with such a vibrant and consistent fan base like the Wanderers, the Panthers could force through a new stadium deal in Penrith. Yet the refusal of FFA to consider moving the Wanderers away from Parramatta, where federal government has just invested AU$20m to upgrade and expand Parramatta Stadium from roughly 20,000 to 24,000, eliminates such a transition from even reaching preliminary discussions.
With less than two months left in this offseason, it is unlikely that FFA will find a suitable buyer for the Wanderers before the 2013/14 season begins. But given the importance of the new market to the A-League and the possibility that the club could turn a profit as soon as this season, according to a report in the Financial Review, the federation would be wise to be patient in this process. As Lyall Gorman, Western Sydney's executive chairman, said back in June:
"We just can't afford to take a risk with this brand, because it's one of the jewels in the crown. It's going to be a very careful process to transition it to any new group of owners."
Meanwhile, the Wanderers defeated Wellington Phoenix 2-1 last night in a pre-season game at Lily Homes Stadium in nearby Seven Hills in front of a crowd of 4000.