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 By AAP

Swansea City, Phoenix Rising owners back Gold Coast United's A-League bid

The ESPN panel in London are skeptical of Australia ahead of the World Cup with Bert van Marwijk's defensive mindset and an aging squad.
Socceroos midfielder Jackson Irvine hails "leader" Tim Cahill as the veteran has been included in the preliminary Australia World Cup 2018 squad.

Gold Coast United's case for an A-League return has been bolstered after securing in-principle backing from two American investors with links to clubs around the world.

The reformed franchise submitted its expression of interest in joining an expanded A-League to Football Federation Australia on Wednesday, and will be supported in the next part of the process by Brett Johnson and Jordan Gardner.

Johnson is co-chairman of second-tier United States outfit Phoenix Rising, while Gardner is a shareholder in recently relegated Premier League club Swansea City and co-owner of Irish side Dundalk.

The pair made contact with Gold Coast through an intermediary after following A-League expansion developments and have long been keen on the competition.

"We think it is a prime opportunity to get involved with Australian football leveraging our track record in global football investments and feel there are fantastic opportunities with Gold Coast United," Johnson said in a statement.

Chairman Danny Maher said Johnson and Gardner were "straight shooters" and was glad to have them on board.

"Football in Australia needs new investment, it needs new international partners, it needs international links and these guys bring all of that and more," Maher said.

"The Gold Coast is the largest city in Australia without an A-League team and we have amazing facilities having just hosted the Commonwealth Games.

"At this point in time the FFA have not released information pertaining to license fees and potential broadcast incomes so as a group we will have to take a look at the complete commercial proposition during the next phase."

Johnson is part of an eclectic ownership group at Phoenix Rising, which includes Didier Drogba, recording artists Diplo and Pete Wentz, and Chinese hotel billionaire Alex Zheng, who is also a part-owner of French Ligue 1 club OGC Nice.

Gardner, meanwhile, has connections to the Peak6 investment firm, which has stakes in AS Roma, AFC Bournemouth and is in takeover talks with 10-time French champions Saint-Etienne.

It remains to be seen whether the pair's financial clout will be enough to encourage FFA to return to the glitter strip.

Gold Coast was a spectacular A-League failure under Clive Palmer's ownership, with the club booted from the competition in 2012 before it was re-formed earlier this year.

United is one of three Queensland sides, along with Brisbane City and Western Pride, seeking to join the competition in 2019-20. Former National Soccer League winners, the Brisbane Strikers, pulled out of the A-League expansion process this week.

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