fbpx

Caroline Springs George Cross FC: A historic club reborn and revitalised

Relocating from a traditional home will usually mark the start of a new era for a football club. Modern facilities provide dramatic improvements for players, fans and other stakeholders to enjoy, and a new environment can often create an uplift of atmosphere.

For Caroline Springs George Cross FC, the mid-2019 move to the state-of-the-art City Vista Pavilion and Sports Field has done all of the above – but also far, far more.

The club has used the transition to revitalise its football program and open an industry-leading hospitality precinct, increasing opportunities for income diversification and the creation of an intimate sense of community.

“Prior to the move we utilised three different venues. It has been enlightening for the club to amalgamate all of our teams and for the first time in a while, the club has been united from a participation point of view. We are now all at one venue where teams and families interact and watch each other play and train. It also means we can have community and NPL Juniors all at the one club,” said Mark Sultana, Caroline Springs George Cross FC President.

Formerly Sunshine George Cross, the club has a rich 74-year history and a deep connection to Melbourne’s western suburbs.

“We are a very old, but very progressive football club. In 2019 we had a change of name to match our new home. We have created a really special culture and are highly united across all areas,” Sultana added.

From a business standpoint, the hospitality precinct, dubbed Georgies on Vista, has allowed the club to build a sustainable income stream which is not solely reliant on traditional methods like sponsorship.

“It’s a full hospitality precinct including a bar, function room and restaurant. It’s a fully functional business but we also use it to give back to our community. We offer specials for members and players, while kids eat free,” added Liza Djuric, General Manager of Caroline Springs George Cross FC.

“Parents have a comfortable space when they are waiting for their kids and it really unites people during training and on matchdays.”

The precinct features two synthetic pitches and two grass pitches. Credit: Dorian Mifsud.

As well as the hospitality facilities, the City Vista complex features cutting-edge amenities for players and coaches. The $13 million reserve boasts two synthetic pitches and two grass pitches, with space for 4000 fans.

Although project was heavily funded by the Melton City Council, the Georgies also made a significant contribution of approximately $1 million.

While securing funding was an enormous achievement, the relationship the club shares with its council is very much a two-way street. The club has approached its relations with the broader community much the same as it has with its members, promoting inclusion and engagement to great effect.

“It’s a testament to our venue that Western United FC chose us to base themselves out of. They use our facilities six days per week to train, but we also support the local community,” Sultana said.

“The school across the road uses our facilities for their P.E classes and we support other local schools by hiring out our grounds. The public can also use our grounds when we aren’t using them and there’s times over summer where the grounds are booked out for tournaments.”

The club has a 20-year lease on the complex, with an option to extend another 20 years beyond that.

With the deal undoubtedly a huge win for the club, Sultana and Djuric emphasise that it was a result of hard-work and dedication from many past and present administrators.

“A lot of people over a number of years have sacrificed a lot to have this facility granted to us. People like Eddie Gauci, who was integral to our conversations with council. He has sadly passed away, but his legacy will not be forgotten. Countless other people including committee members, coaches, presidents and volunteers sacrificed a lot for our club to be where it is today,” Sultana said.

Importantly, in addition to supporting its members and the surrounding areas, the reserve was also designed in a gender-neutral manner, something which is increasingly important in the modern football ecosystem.

This has allowed George Cross to heavily promote female participation in the area and offer genuine career development pathways for women who are eager to pursue coaching or administrative positions.

Georgies on Vista has created a sustainable revenue stream. Credit: Dorian Mifsud.

“We have female-friendly change rooms and access and gender-neutral facilities. The club is committed to drawing female participation across the board. We have girls from all age groups and ensure our women’s teams train and play on our main pitch,” Djuric said.

“We are committed to this even across the board and committee. We have female coaches and self-nominated to the Change Maker Project, a Football Victoria and Vic Uni led program which is all about driving football clubs to achieve 50/50 participation.”

With a state-of-the-art facility now in place to complement the club’s passionate fanbase, the President believes Caroline Springs George Cross FC is in a prime position to compete in the highly anticipated National Second Division.

‘We have taken this club from being mainly comprised of part-timers into a professionally run organisation. When the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) put out the expression of interest for the working group, we took it upon ourselves to contribute,” Sultana said.

“We are an old NSL club with a strong brand and supporter base. We have one of the best facilities and believe we are in a good position to be issued a license when the time comes. The licenses need to be given on a criteria base and from a capability standpoint, we will have all of the components ticked-off.”

The importance of boosting the connection between clubs and their local businesses

Football clubs across the world have financially suffered over the past two years, through the length of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it was the smaller businesses in these clubs’ catchment areas who were affected even more.

Local businesses are a vital part of the overall football economy across the world, including in Australia, but according to studies local businesses saw their revenues slashed by 20-30% on average.

With stadium gates around the world already reopening or in the process of it, these clubs have the opportunity to not only rebuild their own revenue, but play an important role in boosting their local economies as a whole.

Blackpool-based Eleven Sports Media is rapidly expanding their existing mission to assist in that process.

Over the past 13 years the company has bridged the gap between clubs’ time-starved commercial teams and their local business communities.

Eleven specialise in owning, managing and operating Community Partner programmes for clubs who decide to use their services. Resources are freed up, with the club provided a solution which grows multiple long-lasting partnerships with local businesses.

Over the past year, demand for the company’s deeply held community values, top-class activation expertise and high-tech stadium inventory has surged.

The company’s Stadium, StatTV and StatZone fan-engagement platforms continue to evolve rapidly, with many clubs across the world noticing these improvements.

More than 40 clubs across all the of the UK (many of them being in the Premier League) have partnered with Eleven Sports Media, with the company also recently striking a deal with MLS side New York City FC (NYCFC).

Their growth is a testament to the work they do in helping clubs build strong connections with their local business communities.

“We have been fortunate to work across all tiers of the game and in all regions of the country for many years,” Matt Cairns, founder and CEO of Eleven, told FC Business.

“We know exactly how important the ties between clubs and the businesses around them truly are.

“It’s those businesses that will always be there to support their clubs through the ups and downs, and we understand what those local businesses need for real growth. That’s why we have evolved our model so far beyond simple stadium advertising. From boosting digital audiences through to achieving CSR objectives or creating high-impact experiences, we cover all the bases to make sure those businesses enjoy real returns from of their partnerships with clubs.”

Eleven’s new agreement with the New York club will see them develop new partnerships for local businesses, giving them an unprecedented platform for growth possibilities in the future.

The company’s branding will also be displayed on NYCFC’s academy kits, an investment that Cairns says speaks to Eleven’s commitment both to the MLS club and to the new partners it will engage on their behalf.

“We are the shirt sponsors of over a dozen Academy teams, and it’s great to add NYCFC to that list. Investing in our partner clubs is hugely important to us – it matters to those clubs, and to the local businesses around them. There’s no better way to demonstrate our own values, as well as the rewards that come from meaningfully engaging with clubs in this way,” Cairns stated.

Matt Goodman, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Operating Officer at NYCFC, believes the club’s partnership with Eleven is an evolution of a community focused ethos that the MLS team has maintained since it was founded.

“We’re a community asset,” he told FC Business.

“Our role is to connect with the community to empower better lives through soccer. We would have said that before the global pandemic, but even more so after it.

“Our responsibility is to help pick the citizens of the city, those businesses, back up.”

Goodman was an influential member in a team that delivered a unique collaboration with Mastercard last year, which extended the club’s commercial and digital marketing expertise to struggling local businesses.

The club has also worked to free up retail room for local challenger drinks brands – another one of the ways it has provided opportunities for small businesses within New York to gain exposure in the marketplace.

“The most exciting part about partnering with Eleven is that shared emphasis on small business and on community,” Goodman said.

“To help those who need help the most. Eleven’s history with global football, coupled with an emphasis on community, is the most unique part of how Eleven operates.

“What the partnership will do is it will give us a much larger platform to be able to speak to more fans and give more small businesses, a bigger platform for success. And that to us is the most important part.”

It’s a similar story in the UK, where Eleven is the shirt sponsor for both Celtic FC Women and the club’s B-team, providing the Scottish giants with an array of technology and partnership solutions.

The club was founded in its community to initially address the issue of poverty, and despite its strong worldwide following, its devotion to its local roots remains strong. Eleven has added many local businesses to Celtic’s network of local partnerships.

“The club was born in the community,” Commercial Director of Celtic FC, Adrian Filby, told FC Business.

“Local businesses are an important part of the community; they employ local people – they are supporters. Our partnerships with Eleven gives them the opportunity to be part of a premium global brand.

“Therefore, we are – in a big way- supporting them and helping them come back through a difficult period.”

“It’s about bringing everybody back to what the club stood for. Without local businesses, without local people employed, there isn’t a local football club.

“We’re all one, so it’s a critical part of the ecosystem for us.”

In finding these innovative ways to connect with local businesses and expand their relationships, with the help of companies like Eleven, clubs are viably supporting their own future – but also that of their local economies.

 

Why the FFA Cup is perfectly placed to kick-start a resurgent season for Australian football

FFA Cup

Fans of Australian football could not have predicted the tumultuous ride that the sport has taken over the past few years.

The recent acquisition of all domestic football products (including all A-Leagues, internationals, Asian Cup and FFA Cup matches) by 10 ViacomCBS has delivered an overdue confidence boost for even the most perpetually cynical of Australia’s football fandom. And rather than placate fans with gimmicks, 10 ViacomCBS have opted to embrace football for its greatest attributes – the stories and the fans, qualities that the FFA Cup possesses in abundance.

The FFA Cup is not just the often singularly represented storyline of the under-resourced semi-professional minnows taking it to the well-backed sides of the A-League. It’s the deeper footballing stories of club CEO John Boulous encouraging a festival of football atmosphere for Sydney Olympic’s resolute fanbase to enjoy in the upcoming clash against A-League giants Sydney FC; of Head Coach Stewart Montgomery taking an unfancied Mount Druitt Town Rangers to potential lofty heights; and of NBL Hall of Famer and now Blacktown City Executive Chairman Bob Turner working to establish the side as the pride of Blacktown.

Trophy

Each of these fragments in time correspond as mere moments in a competition wholeheartedly intended to enliven the Australian footballing public to latch on to these stories and to the players who shine in these fiercely competitive knockout tournaments.

“We are a big club, with a strong following and tradition in Australian football, and are still recognised nationally. In matches like this, Australians like to see underdogs; they like to see both the experienced and younger kids in our squad get that opportunity,” Boulous said.

“I think what’s important as a club is we need to give them that opportunity. You need to be given that opportunity to play against the best players in Australia. If you play against the best players in Australia, and you do well, you’re all of a sudden on the radar.”

Olympic

Traditionally, the FFA Cup is a curtain raiser to the A-League Men’s competition – but due to COVID-enforced extended lockdowns across Australia, the competition has experienced significant delays.

However, by remaining steadfast in ensuring that the competition is completed, Football Australia have stayed true to the timeline they committed to in the release of their Domestic Match Calendar that was outlined earlier this year.

Even if that means National Premier Leagues (NPL) clubs are handed less time to prepare, their excitement is still palpable.

The capacity for NPL clubs to be able to effectively match A-League sides well into their own pre-season is an obvious challenge befitting any gargantuan David versus Goliath monolith of an analogy that has been overcome by these same clubs for years. And it is certainly one the clubs are well aware of and eager to overcome.

“It just highlights that with extensive training, focus, application and resources being thrown at the NPL level in the lead-up to these games, the difference between a standard A-League player and your good NPL player is not that big. The difference is training and that continued exposure to professional full-time training,” Montgomery said.

“I’ve got no doubt that if we gave two thirds of the players in the NPL exactly that you’d see games being even closer.

“I think historically the A-League teams are coming into their pre-season when we are finishing our season but this will be interesting, because the A-League teams have been well and truly in their preparation for pre-season and are super fit.

“They’ve had the ability to train because of their professional status through the government giving them access to training, whereas the NPL clubs haven’t been able to do anything. It’ll be an interesting to see the outcome of these next three games.”

Rangers

This year’s iteration of the FFA Cup will offer NPL clubs a greater impetus to pursue a spot in the FFA Cup Final – due to the added incentive of a spot in the Asian Champions League’s preliminary round.

Whilst cup competitions are traditionally notable for facilitating matches typified by a dearth of free-flowing end-to-end football due to the added weight of expectations and the intuition for coaches to (understandably) invoke their innermost pragmatic instincts, they exist as a platform for unpredictable instances of magic and breath-taking nights of football. Blacktown City are no strangers to such occasions, having notched a remarkable 3-2 win over their upcoming Round of 32 opposition – Central Coast Mariners – in the 2017 edition of the tournament at the very same stage.

With the tie set to take place at Mudgee’s Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium, there will be an undoubted added intensity to the game.

“The reason we took it to a regional area in Mudgee is that Central Coast and ourselves both thought that this would be a very positive move for football. For Mudgee it’s a great opportunity to see top-notch football and from what I understand, their ground is top-notch,” Turner said.

“We know that they’ll welcome us and we’re expecting a big crowd.

“Four years ago, we played the Mariners in the FFA Cup and we knocked them off. And then we played the Wanderers and had 5,000 people at the ground. It’s a great stimulus for us to be able to show our credibility as a team and bring some extra pride as a team.”

BCFC

The strength of the FFA Cup lies in not just how effectively it encapsulates Australian football as a microcosm, or in the way it emphatically engages the hardcore Australian football fandom, but in the way it unites and invigorates local communities. A notion all three club devotees are impressively aware of.

“We hope to be able to get a strong crowd here at Belmore. And it will be Olympic supporters and Sydney FC supporters, but we hope that it will be football supporters. Because people have been starved of opportunities to go and watch football matches, and now, they have the opportunity,” Boulous conveyed.

“We’ve got a ground that can hold, in today’s climate, a really strong and big crowd. And I think that that’s important to get people here and back into football. People here want to see it.”

For Sydney Kings legend Bob Turner, both the legacy of his time at Blacktown City and the impact of a potentially successful cup run is uncemented as of yet.

“Our goal is to become what the Panthers are for Penrith, we’re Blacktown City. There’s plenty of sport being played, but there’s nobody like us in town. For me that’s a huge plus. We have all of the ingredients, including one of the nicest stadiums in all of Sydney which we now control and we have history,” he said.

“The one thing I can say we’ve been a letdown in, from a marketing point of view, is how to tell Blacktown who we are. Within two years I think that we’ll be the toast of Blacktown. Blacktown has 188 different nationalities and arguably 80% of them grew up in a country where football is number one.”

Turner

For Montgomery, the occasion will be one to savour for a Rangers side representing a community with plenty to prove. Particularly in a winnable match against a Wollongong Wolves side they had beaten 3-0 prior to the NPL NSW season being interrupted.

“It can put an exclamation mark on a season that had unfulfilled expectations, so, it allows us to continue playing, stay together as a group and build the club’s profile which is really important for us,” he said.

“A lot of people are waiting for us to fall over and they’re expecting us to drop back down. So, every day we approach it in the same way where people expect us to not perform, and every time we do the opposite of that we send a message.

“We represent an area that doesn’t get the respect that it deserves and we take the park to represent the whole of the City of Blacktown area and the Western suburbs. We take a lot of pride in that and we’ve got a great, passionate vocal support that gets behind us. And Saturday night’s going to be a great night.”

Leading into the season there will be six FFA Cup Round of 32 games available to attend or to watch via Paramount+, with more to follow-up the beginning of the A-League Men’s season on Friday, November 19. All tickets to games can be accessed via the FFA Cup website here.

© 2021 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks