Football's titanic fight

FOOTBALL Far North Coast general manager Matt Kelso has welcomed plans that the new Gold Coast United A-League soccer team wants to include the Northern Rivers as part of its catchment for players and spectators.

The new club, which was admitted to the A-League last week for a 2009-10 season kick-off and is being bankrolled by the Gold Coast's richest man, billionaire Clive Palmer, has shown interest in extending its influence into the Far North Coast zone.

"Of course we'd welcome the move," Kelso said.

"But we'd like to see some commitment from the club in establishing a pathway for our elite players and ideally see them assist with funding in that pathway.

"Beyond that you'd also want to see a long-term commitment by the club to service the region.

"That involves player appearances and the like.

"They really need to embrace the community to get them to develop some ownership of the club.

"It's critical to their success."

Kelso's organisation has more than 7500 players registered to play soccer, including more than 5000 juniors.

Palmer's bid leap-frogged the proposed Galaxy bid when he weighed in with a $6 million cheque for start-up costs.

The mining magnate, who is believed to be worth billions, was brought up on the Gold Coast and played rugby league and soccer.

It's not the first time a local organisation has been wooed by a professional sports club on the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast Titans National Rugby League club made plenty of noise about embracing the Northern Rivers as a player and spectator catchment area in 2005, when they were fighting for admittance into the NRL.

And while they've definitely put some desperately needed funds into senior and junior league since coming into the competition in 2007, the relationship is far from perfect.

It is believed the local senior league gets $30,000 a year from the Titans, while the Group One and Group 18 junior leagues each receive about $18,000.

However, the Titans squad has visited the area only once - when they played an NRL pre-season match against the Parramatta Eels at Oakes Oval in Lismore in 2007.

Since then, a number of fringe first-grade players have filtered south, but never the whole squad and never the high-profile players.

Now the Titans want to duplicate the successful Northern Rivers Academy squads with their own Under-13s and Under-14s summer squads.

Those junior teams will eventually lead into the Harold Matthews Under-16s, the SG Ball Under-18s and the National Youth Under-20s squads.

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