FORMER National Soccer League clubs have greeted the new FFA Cup with widespread support - but West Adelaide chairman Alex Alexandrou has labeled South Australia’s allocation as an “insult” to the state.
Melbourne Knights and Sydney Olympic hailed the advent of the competition as a step towards uniting ‘old soccer and new football’ and repairing the relationship with NSL clubs excluded from the A-League.
The Cup’s format, which will ensure one state league club reaches the semi-finals, has been well accepted but the allocation of places in the Round of 32 has been a talking point, particularly in SA.
SA has been given only one spot in the final 32, which will see the introduction of A-League clubs, meanwhile New South Wales has nine spots (including two from Northern NSW), Victoria (four), Queensland (four) and WA (two). The allocation is divided by the number of registered players in each jurisdiction.
But, while the chairman of West Adelaide, which left the NSL following the 1998-99 season, called the competition a “great idea”, Alexandrou was livid with SA’s allocation.
“The allocation is very disappointing,” Alexandrou told FourFourTwo. “South Australia has always had a strong representation in the former NSL and the Socceroos, so to be given one spot, the same as Northern Territory (in 2015), is an insult to the clubs.
“I understand the reason behind it to a point, but it’s really not acceptable. It says to us the FFA thinks we’re a backwater.”
Alexandrou blamed the failed affiliation between the state’s amateur league and junior associations, but felt it was unfair that SA Premier clubs were being disadvantaged by others’ failings.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Knights vice president Pave Jusup defended the FFA’s allocation and argued it was hard to please everyone.
“A lot of people have complained about the number of clubs in states, but the FFA have got to start somewhere,” Jusup said.
“The way they’ve done it, with the pro-rata of players, is a good way to go about it. There are all sorts of financial constraints, so this is a really good start.
“There’s more good than bad.”
Jusup underlined that the club needed to qualify for the Round of 32 first but said he was excited by the opportunity the competition could bring for the old NSL clubs.
“It’s great for the former NSL clubs who have been demonised over the years,” he said. “It’s a chance to show we’re not so bad, we’re not holding anyone to ransom.
"We’ll show that our fans are well behaved and that there’s no shortage of talent at our clubs.”
Brisbane Strikers board member and secretary Ray Evans said the cup would give state clubs a chance to celebrate their rich history on a bigger stage, with the prospect of televised matches at their home venues.
“The FFA Cup would be great for our profile but it’d also be an opportunity to showcase our history like our 1997 triumph when we played in front of 40,000 people at Lang Park,” Evans said.
Sydney Olympic media spokesman George Mpliokas said the FFA Cup was an opportunity for the club to showcase their ambition, having been linked with a number of big names in recent times including Lucas Neill and Euro 2004 winner Angelos Charisteas.
“We are ambitious and this is an opportunity for us to prove we’ve got what it takes,” Mpliokas said.
“We’ve added players to our roster, because of this. This is another step in adding a weight of legitimacy to that ambition.”