By Zilka Grogan
December 14, 2009 - Canterbury-Bankstown Express
THE world's biggest single-sport event could come to Belmore after Football Federation Australia approached Canterbury Council to use a local oval as a training venue for soccer's World Cup.
FFA has proposed using Belmore Sports Ground for training if Australia's bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 is successful. The proposal will provide rising stars such as Earlwood's Vincent Giannini (pictured) an opportunity to train on home soil during an Australian World Cup.
"It would be really good to have a World Cup at home, with people I know watching," Vincent, 13, said.
The council voted at Thursday's meeting not to support the Belmore plan, but the proposal is still alive after Cr Bill Kritharas put forward an amendment to continue negotiating with the soccer body. "I think this is a great opportunity for Canterbury at Belmore Sports Ground," Cr Kritharas said.
"The spirit of the amendment is that we keep the dialogue open between Canterbury and the FFA."
Bulldogs chief executive officer Todd Greenberg has thrown his support behind the proposal despite the NRL club's submission for a $20 million Federal Government grant to upgrade Belmore and relocate its training and administrative facilities to the oval.
"I see only the positive because it would effectively allow upgrading and improvement to Belmore," Greenberg said.
"Once we can get past how our own competition operates during that time, there's a lot of positives and commercial opportunities there."
Belmore-based Sydney Olympic FC vice-president Graham Athanaseris has also supported the proposal.
He said the World Cup would increase soccer's profile locally.
Canterbury Council was required to sign a binding agreement with the Federation International Football Association (FIFA) yesterday, but it is understood an agreement will not be signed at this stage because the costs involved are not clear.
But Mayor Robert Furolo said the council was willing to explore further the proposal once more detailed costings were provided.
"When the matter was considered by council last week, we advised that we were unable to agree to their request.
"We hope we can find a way for Belmore Sports Ground to be a venue used in any successful World Cup campaign, and use the opportunity to showcase our wonderful community.
"In the absence of this detail, we simply could not commit to the agreement."
An FFA spokeswoman could not confirm whether negotiations with the council would continue, but she said the FFA was "encouraged by the strong level of interest by local councils".