SOUTH Melbourne FC have withdrawn from talks to buy the licence of Melbourne Heart after a $7 million bid was rejected.
The Victorian Premier League side upped an earlier offer of $4 million but is understood to have walked away from further negotiations.
Talks broke down about three weeks ago after South Melbourne baulked at suggestions the licence may be on the table for $9 million plus.
This is the third time this year the VPL great’s A-League aspirations have been thwarted.
A move on cash-strapped champions Central Coast Mariners in March was headed off by after an ownership restructure at Bluetongue.
Last night South Melbourne members were told their latest tilt at the topflight had hit another wall.
“We feel (Heart) think we’ve got more money to give them but we’re withdrawing the offer,” a member told au.fourfourtwo.com. “There’s not another cent on top of that.”
A giant of the old National Soccer League, South Melbourne have made no secret of their desire to return to the Aussie elite but will now look at other options.
One avenue is to buy a third licence in Melbourne when it becomes available. The club is hoping pressure from the Asian Football Confederation to open up the closed 10-club competition could see that happen in the next three to four years.
In May, Heart CEO Scott Munn told the Herald Sun the club was in talks with interested parties from the Middle East and Europe.
The A-League expansion side has struggled to grow its fan-base since its 2010-11 season launch and last year endured the league’s second lowest average attendances (8,484).
South Melbourne believe they can run a more viable A-League operation out of their 15,000 capacity Lakeside Stadium with blockbuster games - such as the derby against Melbourne Victory - staged at AAMI Park.
The four-time NSL champions have 8,000 members on their database and are confident of attracting crowds of between 12,000 and 15,000 to A-League games.
Meanwhile the club continues to battle on another front with no sign of a ceasefire in the National Premier League wars in Victoria.
South Melbourne have given Football Federation Victoria until 4pm tomorrow to disband the roll-out of its NPL model or face court action.
About 50 clubs have announced their opposition to the FFV version of a second tier competition being introduced across Australia.