THE Sunshine Coast Fire is one step closer to its ambition of being included in the A-League by 2018. The Fire was yesterday granted one of 12 licences in the burgeoning Australian Premier League, nudging open the door for the club's national aspirations.
Fire chairman Noel Woodall has harboured a desire to have a Fire side in the W-League, the national women's competition, within five years and in the A-League soon after. The club's inclusion in the APL Queensland division, which replaces the existing Queensland State League - where the Fire has played for the past five seasons - shapes as the first step in it being elevated to the nationwide competition.
Football Queensland said yesterday that it understood that FFA hoped to have an A-League promotion-relegation system in place by 2022. However, the FFA responded that it did not yet have a timeline for the implementation of any such system. Although FFA was non-commital on an A-League/APL relegation system, Football Queensland said it hoped to see one of its APL clubs elevated to the A-League by 2022, and as early as 2018.
The advent of the APL marks the complete restructuring of the second tier of football in Australia. The APL will comprise several state divisions and it has been touted that the winners of each will play off in a Champions League-style competition. Woodall told the Daily there were numerous hurdles to overcome before the Fire would be in a position to accept an A-League berth - including improving its finances and expanding Stockland Sunshine Coast Stadium's seating capacity to at least 8000.
"We announced earlier this year that we had an ambition to be in the A-League within five to six years," Woodall said.
"WE DID make that very clear in our (APL) application and that is still our ambition."
The Fire was announced yesterday as a participant in the inaugural APL along with Brisbane City, Brisbane Strikers, Central Queensland, Far North Queensland Bulls, Moreton Bay United, Northern Fury, Olympic FC, Palm Beach Sharks, Queensland Academy of Sport, Redland United and Western Pride.
The size of the Fire's administration will more than triple from the equivalent of three full-time staff to 10.
The Fire got the nod over the Sunshine Coast Football-backed Sunshine Coast United bid.
As a result of its inclusion, the Fire will take over the running of the Sunshine Coast's premier junior sides. They previously came under the umbrella of the SCF.
The Junior Premier League, which includes SCF sides, will be absorbed into the APL. The Fire will field 11 sides in total next year - its senior men's side, six junior boys' sides and four junior girls' teams.
Woodall said the club had already received expressions of interest for its junior coaching positions and planned to hold trials for junior players this month, adding the Fire was confident of having its APL operation up and running in time for the 2013 season kick-off.
"I think it is reasonable that we can prepare in such a short time frame," he said.
"We've already done some preparatory work and organisation."
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