Western Melbourne ready for the A-League
A purpose-built football stadium and elite training facilities will front the Western Melbourne Group’s (WMG) A-League bid should it be awarded one of two licences, set to be announced on October 31st.
The team leading the bid held a fan forum on Monday night that gave fans answers on topics ranging from the goals of the bid to how the club will operate and how the plan will go ahead should it prove successful.
The event was attended by around 100 fans who should come away happy with the plan and goals that will underpin the entire bid.
Sports administrators can often be hyperbolic to build support for their brands or teams, but the WMG bid feels different and unique, as the group stated at multiple times that the club will be built for the fans and wider community.
Uniting football fans in the west was the fundamental theme that came from the night which, as Head of Tribal Sports Group Lou Stricca stated, was home to the “biggest growth corridor in Australia.”
Wyndham City Project Lead Kate Roffey put it best. “We need something that gives us a sense of western pride.”
Former Socceroo captain Steve Horvat said he had visited 91 local clubs that fall in the catchment area of fans the group is trying to reach and believes “there’s a hunger, a real appetite for getting involved and being part of something.”
“It’s important we get the community aspect right from day one,” Horvat added.
On top of bringing an A-League team to the west, the WMG want to bring a W-League side and an elite academy that will help produce local talent.
The issue of ‘cherry picking’ local clubs for their most talented players was raised, given that both current Melbourne A-League clubs have done so with National Premier League teams in Victoria.
While not having a definitive plan as of yet, the group has discussed the issue and believes some form of compensation will be the likely outcome.
KPMG partner and bid leader Maurice Bisetto said “we will deal with the local clubs and put a plan in place to compensate them if we sign their players.”
Paying for the stadium was not addressed until the fan question and answer at the end of the night, which Roffey stated would more than likely be a joint council/ownership venture. Land in return for communal facilities is the expected option.
WMG plans to make the new stadium the most fan-friendly in Australia. The proposed venue should include around 1500 ‘safe standing’ seats that have the capability of being folded up and locked so that fans can stand while watching the game.
Shaun Gallagher, one of the stadium’s designers from Populous, wants to “create a place that’s exciting to come to, but intimidating for the visiting team.”
Despite the optimism, the stadium won’t be ready when the team plays its first A-League game, should the bid be approved.
Bid member Lou Sticca, managing director of Tribal Sports Group, made it known that while the situation isn’t ideal, the club will have to play its first two seasons away from its own stadium.
Kardinia Park (GMHBA Stadium) and AAMI Park are the most likely options, Sticca confirming the group has had conversations with representatives from both stadiums.
In the event WMG’s bid fails to win, the club won’t build a side to play in the NPL and grow organically, rather they will wait until the next A-League bidding process.
Bisetto said the failure to win one of the two licences would make the bid “unsustainable,” the main reason being it would not have full support of the Wyndham City Council.
Roffey reasons that “the deal won’t stack up for the council” as revenue and community opportunities would dissipate if there is no A-League team in Wyndham.
The final decision on what groups receive the two licences is expected to come on October 31st and should the WMG be successful in its bid, it can create a football following rarely seen in world sport.
The potential for growth of both the club and football in general is incredible as the population continues to sky rocket in the area. It would be easy to see the Western Melbourne team become one of the most popular sporting sides in Australia if the bid is successful.