Heidelberg United: An infrastructure for the future

With Australia’s ‘Golden Generation’ long retired and a lack of stars emerging to take their place, the debate around the nation’s footballing infrastructure has reached fever pitch. Although many blame a lack of investment, some clubs are managing to secure funding to support the development of the next generation and at a state level, few are doing it on the scale of Heidelberg United FC.

The ‘Bergers’ have enjoyed a period of sustained success, topping Victoria’s NPL for three consecutive seasons and lifted the trophy in 2018. Now, Heidelberg’s on-field ambitions are finally being matched off the park, with a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of its Olympic Park precinct.

“One thing Heidelberg has lacked for a while is state-of-the-art, modern facilities. But now, thanks to investment and government assistance we are working towards creating that,” says Steven Tsalikidis, President of Heidelberg United FC.

Olympic Park was built to accommodate athletes competing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The ground has hosted many notable events throughout its existence, most recently in 2015 when 11,372 people – the second largest FFA Cup crowd in history – flocked to see Heidelberg’s semi-final clash against Melbourne City.

But despite the stadium’s rich history and the team’s roaring success, the 64-year old complex was approaching a state of decay.

This led Heidelberg United’s board to work alongside the Banyule City Council to form the Olympic Park Master Plan, a four-step proposal designed to reinvigorate the precinct and establish Olympic Park as the premiere sports hub in Melbourne’s North-East. The plan fits FFV’s State Football Facilities Strategy to increase the quantity and quality of pitches across the state.

“We handed the ground over late last year so we could start the facility upgrade. Stage one was reconstructing the main pitch which includes four new LED light tower that are suitable for even A-League standards,” Tsalikidis says.

“We wanted to create facilities that allow us to potentially host A-League games. Also, in preparation for the B-League, if that ever comes about, we want to be in a position where we can be ready to compete from the get-go.”

Fundraising for the redevelopment includes a $2 million injection from the Andrews-led state government and $3.1 million from Banyule City Council.

While additional funding is required to complete the later stages of the plan, the government’s willingness to invest should strongly encourage football fans and those in the industry, many who have grown frustrated over recent years.

The frustration peaked in 2017 when Football Federation Australia closed its AIS Centre of Excellence Program, a pathway which famously produced many of Australia’s footballing icons. The program ultimately fell victim to funding cuts, running costs, and the desire to decentralise the youth development process through the growing influence of A-League Academies.

Since then, influential figures in Australian football have been outspoken on the issue, demanding more investment into the sport to aid the future of the sport. Only months ago Graham Arnold called on Scott Morrison and the Australian Sports Commission to step in, while last year former CEO of the FFA David Gallop stated that local clubs were capping numbers as there simply weren’t enough pitches to facilitate growing participation in the sport.

The growth Gallop referenced was quantified by official surveys. A recent AusPlay study revealed the world game had more than 1.76 million active participants in 2019 – officially making it the most popular organised sport in Australia.

With Australia’s youth increasingly turning to football, it is important for clubs at all levels to follow Heidelberg’s persistence and dedication to seek investment, particularly to help develop the next generation.

Creating more pitches gives more children the opportunity to play, raising the level of youth competition and cultivating more interest in the game. Furthermore, higher quality pitches and general facilities lead to a better standard of football. This is important as it can assist to create a long-term cycle where the overall standard of football improves, attracting more viewership, interest, and sponsorship for the sport.

The latter stages of the Olympic Park Master Plan comprise of proposals to feed this cycle. Stages three and four involve the construction of two additional high-grade soccer pitches to be furnished with drainage, irrigation, fencing and lighting as well futsal courts, cricket nets, basketball courts, and more. All of these improvements will filter down to the lower levels, encouraging participation and enriching the grassroots of the game.

While the club and council work together to raise funding for the final stages of the plan, talks that Victoria’s NPL may recommence shortly are beginning to gather momentum. After three consecutive top place finishes Heidelberg United is in a strong position on-the-pitch and nothing would please the club’s fans and personnel more than to celebrate the opening of their new stadium with another title charge.

Coogee United: A club set to catapult through local grant

The Local NSW Grant has provided an important influx of funds for the success grant recipients enlisted, it will provide finances into specific areas of their respective clubs.

Upon the major list featured on the NSW Local Grant website, features a vast variety of football clubs across the state.

Coogee United is volunteer run community football club within the eastern region of NSW. Currently competing within the Eastern Suburbs Football Association, the club have entered their 21st season of operations having established foundations in 2003. As a staple amongst eastern suburb football within NSW, the club boast 25 teams, which 17 of those are male, and eight of those female.

The east side club where successful within the clubs application, Amy Singh lives and breathes football. Her involvement within Coogee United, echoes the all-important effect undertaken by those within her position across the nation.

As esteemed vice-president and representative of the Coogee United Board. She discussed the clubs ambitions in the wake of becoming recipients, of a much needed cash boost.

Singh talked about the impact the grant can have upon the club.

This grant will be game changing for our women’s program within Coogee United,” she said.

The newly encountered funds are all to be dedicated towards the women’s program at Coogee United. Primarily targeted towards high quality training grounds and adequate training equipment.

Additionally, funding will be provided towards women’s teams for new club apparel.

Amy Singh touched upon how the specific areas the grant finances are allocated towards, can attract new participants.

“When attracting women to a new sport it is key we break down barriers to participation. Safe, welcoming facilities, along with female specific, well fitting kit is key to ensuring participants are comfortable within the sporting environment. It takes courage to take up a new sport, so we want to make it as accessible as possible.”

The interest in which women’s football has experienced in over the last 5 to 6 years is described by Singh as “burgeoning.”

In the wake of the 2023 women’s world cup, there has been a spike of female participants over the age of 18 who are determined to become involved in football at an entry level.

Singh elaborated upon the importance of the two way relationship between female club participants and football.

“Being able to introduce women to football at any age is so important not only for the obvious health and wellbeing physical fitness aspects, but also as football (and many team sports) provides enormous mental health benefits, and a sense of belonging within our footballing club community,” she said.

We are committed to providing a high quality, but affordable football club experience to our members. We see football as a community first, and rely heavily on an army of volunteers to deliver our aims.”

Singh discussed the long-term aspirations for the club.

“Coogee United currently do not operate a youth system. Something in which club representatives are opting to change over the course of the upcoming seasons ahead,” she said.

“Long term, we would love to be able to re-start the junior arm to our club. We know football is growing in popularity amongst junior participants too.

“However to be able to do this we need to ensure we have the required funding, volunteers and available facilities to be able to deliver a well structured and managed junior football program.”

The NSW Community Grant funds regardless of the amount provided on behalf of the NSW Government, has the capacity to transcend football clubs in whom are success applicants.

Coogee United have made their aspirations concise. It is now of speculation as to how other successful applicants seek to prosper with a new influx of finances.

Venezia FC: cultivating a unique fashion and branding profile

The heritage, the charm, the biennales, the architecture, the art, the canals, the fashion and now football has been added to that list.

Venice boasts a wealth of cultural treasures, and for the first time in 19 years in 2021 the city had its own football team, Venezia FC, playing in the top division of Italian football.

Despite the city’s brilliance and beauty, Venezia FC’s path to the top has been far from conventional. Over the past couple of decades, the club has faced financial chaos, backroom turmoil, relegations, and takeovers. Yet, despite these sink-or-swim moments, the few years prior to being promoted to Serie A, have seen the club flourish on the world stage in a completely new way.

Despite players and fans needing to travel by boat to the 11,150-capacity Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, the club has ascended with a clear Moneyball philosophy and a marketing team that has transformed them into a true powerhouse in style and with the highest level of craftmanship to the making of clothes.

The kits have been an undeniable success, generating the kind of buzz and headlines usually reserved for Nigeria and PSG releases. The home kit sold out on its first day of sale, and since then, 95% of online sales have come from outside Italy. Venezia FC has truly gone global.

Naturally, any marketer understands that successful brands don’t just provide products to purchase; they offer something to be a part of. While selling items is beneficial, selling a lifestyle is even more effective.

Before long, the website of Venezia FC began featuring poetic essays about the city and interviews with esteemed cultural figures like Cecilia Alemani, the artistic director of the Biennale. The post-match report adopted a passionate editorial tone that is rarely observed in the realm of football.

Ted Philipakos, the former Chief Marketing Officer of Venezia FC, is one of the key architects behind the club’s rapid success both on and off the field. As the club started to emerge from its depths, the former NYU sports marketing professor managed Venezia’s transition from Nike to Kappa – a change that has significantly transformed the club ever since.

Venezia’s fairytale return to prominence has been widely chronicled, but a lesser-known story is how the club swiftly transitioned from the verge of collapse to flourishing once more.

The club’s initial connection to the fashion world came through a scarf created in collaboration with the New York collective Nowhere F.C., produced in 2017 featuring in a photoshoot in NYC.

Under the art direction of Fly Nowhere, Venezia FC’s marketing, creative strategies, and merchandise were managed between New York and Venice, providing the club with global visibility through a stylistic perspective for the first time.

In February 2020, Duncan Niederauer, the former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange spearheaded an ownership restructuring and assumed the role of president, a time when the club was undergoing one of the most dramatic rebranding’s in recent football history. The club aimed to align its identity more closely with the city’s renowned classical art and architecture.

The Winged Lion, central to both the club’s logo and the iconic Piazza San Marco, received a redesign. The kits were revamped to emphasise the club’s signature green and orange colour scheme, enhanced with subtle gold features, creating one of the most visually striking combinations in world soccer. Suddenly, Venice boasted a soccer team as glamorous and stylish as the historic buildings lining its canals.

Venezia FC will be vying to be promoted once again to the Serie A in a two legged playoff against Cremonese over the next week, with avid enthusiast of football culture will be hoping to see more of what has been famously described as “football on water” being played at the Pier Luigi Penzo Stadium once again in the top division.

The Isuzu UTE A-League and Liberty A-League clubs can take learnings for some of the techniques and strategies that have worked so well at Venezia FC, whether that is partnerships, kit launches stylishly shot around the teams home city, or even if its to standout by not having a typical football club badge, Venezia FC has set the standard on how to market their merchandise through social media platforms as well as having an upmarket boutique store.

Philipakos noted a shift in the global football landscape he said via the esquire website:

“There was a technological evolution, a generational change and a psychographic shift, where this new generation had an entirely different relationship with football.”

It is important for teams around the country to understand that a club doesn’t need a top player or be playing in the top division for them to have a huge following on social media, understanding the marketing aspect will be enough.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks

Send this to a friend