SOCCER'S LIONS PLAN TO ROAR AT SUNCORP

THE Queensland Lions have struck an early blow in the race to become Brisbane's premier soccer team by securing Suncorp Stadium as their home base for the revamped national league.

They will be the stadium's major summer tenants from late next year if Soccer Australia approves their application to join the eight-team competition.

The Strikers will also apply for Brisbane's sole license when the deadline for submissions closes in 11 days.

Lions consultant John Ribot admitted the club might attract fewer than 10,000 supporters to games in its first season but said it was vital the team was based at Suncorp Stadium.

It is believed Soccer Australia is demanding each team plays at a ground that features a replay screen, a sign the national body wants to kick the league into the modern era.

Ribot said the Lions had secured a special rental arrangement at Suncorp Stadium.

"The negotiations with Suncorp mean that if we have a crowd of 7000 or 8000 to start with, the rent will be on a per head basis," Ribot said.

"A percentage of the gate receipts goes back to the stadium. We can grow with the stadium. We would like to think we will get crowds of 30,000 eventually. The conditions of hire are conducive for us to do that."

Brisbane soccer had its most memorable day at Suncorp Stadium in 1997 when Frank Farina led the Strikers to the NSL title in front of more than 40,000 fans.
The Strikers later moved their home base to Ballymore, which boasts a replay screen, and then on to Perry Park with crowds of a few thousand watching the team reach the national league finals earlier this year.

Farina was a guest speaker at a Lions function yesterday but the national coach would not say whether the Lions or Strikers should be accepted in the revamped competition."The Lions have a 50-50 chance of getting in," Farina said.

"I don't think there is any club in the country that has the set-up or the potential the Lions have."

"That's just being honest, it's not taking a side. The people they're surrounding themselves with are winners. They will have a really good chance."

Farina said the Socceroos could not take much heart from Greece's stunning win at Euro 2004 in their bid to reach the 2006 World Cup finals.

The Greeks were 100-1 outsiders but Farina said the country had benefited from an international program not available to Australia.

"They play every two years in qualifying games for the European championships and then qualifying for the World Cup. Then they play in those competitions," Farina said."We don't play enough of those games."