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How Melbourne Victory can restore their brand

Melbourne Victory fell to their 14th loss of the season on Sunday in Perth, losing to the Glory 2-1.

It’s a new low for the club which has, for the lifespan of the A-League, been the benchmark off the field and sit just behind Sydney FC on it.

The club regularly tops the charts in attendances and memberships each season, with crowds at some points surpassing 40,000 for regular season matches throughout their history.

This season however, tells a different story.

Victory currently average 5,860 people a game, the lowest figure in their history by some margin. They sit sixth in average attendance this season, behind crosstown rivals Melbourne City.

Whilst the effect of a global pandemic has affected numbers all around the A-League alongside other factors, here are some of problems the head honchos at Melbourne Victory must specifically address to regain their prominence in the competitive Melburnian sporting market.

Revamp the current squad

It’s hard to argue that this isn’t the worst Melbourne Victory team ever assembled. The Victory currently sit second last on the table and their goal difference of -29 is unheard of for a club who’s usually vying for the top position in the league. With Tony Popovic set to coach the team next season, his number one priority will be to clear the deadwood at the Victory and bring in some fresh faces to rebuild the club’s winning mentality.

Address the Marvel Stadium situation

Victory have played at the Docklands venue since its second season due to a financially favourable stadium deal, but the overall experience at the ground is not ideal for football fans. The club plays five games a season at Marvel Stadium, however due to declining levels of active support and a poor viewing experience, games at the stadium are becoming a chore to attend.

At a minimum, if games are to continue at the stadium seats on the first level should be pushed in to increase atmospheric levels and active support should be further encouraged, not continuously stifled.

More energy should definitely be put into filling the 30,000 capacity of a premier footballing venue in AAMI Park every gameday.

Develop an academy site – connect better with the community

After 16 years of being in the A-League, Melbourne Victory are yet to have a facility constructed for its academy setup that befits their size as a club. Their proposed academy base at Footscray Park, which also would have been a home for the club’s W-League side, fell through due to push back from locals in the council area.

Local rivals Melbourne City had a state-of-the-art City Football Academy based in Bundoora for a number of years, before switching their academy site in recent months to Casey Fields, to further connect with the South-East Melbourne football community.

With other Melburnian franchise Western United set to develop their own stadium and training facility in the Western Melbourne suburb of Tarneit, Victory is quickly falling behind the other two teams in their state when it comes to ownership of facilities and connecting with strong segments of the Victorian football community.

Remove the ‘Pay as You Go’ ticketing model

Introduced in response to the uncertain nature of a covid effected season, Melbourne Victory’s current membership model is impacting on its current gameday attendance. This season, fans who purchased a season ticket paid a discounted base fee for the year.

However, this was because each matchday these supporters would have to pay to lock in a seat at half the regular price of a normal match ticket, each time they wanted to attend a game.

The new process is more of a hassle and not as accessible as, for example, bringing in your general admission card, scanning in at the gate and picking your own seat on the day.

Re-build the active support in the north and south ends

It’s been touched on before, but the atmosphere at Melbourne Victory home games were once unrivalled in all of Australian sport.

Whilst the loyal folks are still there and making great noise, there is a lot of work to do by the club to encourage those who have been disenchanted with the club and the professional game in general, to come back to the terraces at the north and south ends.

 

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Football Coaches Australia presents ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ S2 Ep 8 with Gary Cole interviewing Jeff Hopkins

Jeff Hopkins

Jeff Hopkins is currently the W-League Championship winning Head Coach of Melbourne Victory.

Jeff was born in Wales and played over 400 games for both club and country. He started in Fulham’s Academy before playing over 200 games in the first team before heading to Crystal Palace and Reading. Jeff also played for Wales at U21 and Senior level.

His coaching career began by working with young players in the UK, where he started his coaching licences before heading to Gippsland Falcons as a player and then for a year as Head Coach.

As a former professional player Jeff, like so many of us, thought he had a good grasp of football until he began his coaching journey and learned he didn’t know, what he didn’t know!

With over 20 years’ experience as coach at youth, assistant and head coach level Jeff is very aware of the changes he has made to his coaching over the journey. He has a number of premierships and championships to his name with Queensland and Brisbane Roar Women and both a Premiership and Championship with Melbourne Victory, which he is very proud of, but he also finds a great deal of satisfaction in seeing his players and teams grow and develop.

Jeff was honest and open discussing his journey and believes that finding a mentor in the beginning would have helped him make fewer mistakes on his journey. In fact, in answering the ‘one piece of wisdom’ question he had two pieces for developing coaches! Firstly, find a mentor early on in your coaching career and secondly keep growing and learning as a coach and create a learning environment for your players.

Please join Gary Cole in sharing Jeff Hopkins’ Football Coaching Life.

FIFA’s mission to expand the World Cup will only damage it

With 166 member nations of FIFA voting to explore the concept of a two-year cycle for the World Cup, questions need to be asked whether too much of a good thing will destroy what makes the competition special.

One of the best parts of the World Cup is the spectacle of it all. The elite quality of the tournament is already being watered down with the changes to the format, with 48 teams instead of 32. 

While allowing more teams in will create new markets for the competition, it isn’t like the World Cup would struggle for viewership without them, as it is the most-watched sporting event on the planet.

The changes to the structure of the cup – with two out of a group of three going through instead of the top two in a group of four – is already challenging the tradition and excitement of the World Cup. If you draw one of the powerhouse teams, like Spain, France, or Brazil, then it is likely your country will be on a plane ride home after playing just two games.

Despite the success of the World Cup, FIFA seems to want to tinker with the competition without any concern for the negative impacts the changes may cause. To build support for this, FIFA is wheeling out stars like Arsene Wenger and Yaya Toure.

Wenger is currently FIFA’s chief of global football development

Why FIFA wants to interrupt what has proved to be a winning formula only has one answer: Greed. More games mean more money. In a 48 team competition, there will be 64 games, compared to 40 in the current format. More games equal more money for TV rights and a wider reach for the game with an added 16 teams.

Combine this with the concept of hosting a World Cup every two years instead of four, and FIFA will be printing money like never before.

The unfortunate side effect of this will a weaker competition in terms of quality. There are always some relatively poor teams featured in a World Cup, but adding another 16 of the ‘best of the rest’ will dilute the talent pool. Combine this with the fact some teams may even go home playing only two games, it will surely make the World Cup a less exciting affair for many appearing in the group stage.

Another factor that needs to be considered is sustainability. We’ve already seen that major sporting tournaments often leave countries with huge stadiums without any use for them.

Engineers Against Poverty say that hosting a World Cup leaves a “legacy of white elephants”, with stadiums built for the 2010 South Africa World Cup and 2014 World Cup in Brazil “hemorrhaging taxpayer’s money”. 

A white elephant refers to a possession whose cost of maintenance is well beyond its value, and whose owner cannot dispose of it. An apt reference to what World Cup stadiums have become for countries that do not need bumper stadiums.

Four cities in Brazil that hosted games at the 2014 World Cup –Manaus, Cuiabá, Natal, and Brasília – have no major football teams to play in the humongous stadiums built for the event.

South Africa spent $2.7 billion to build 12 new stadiums for the World Cup, in a country where half the population lives off an average of $242AUD a month

Polokwane, a city of 130,000, now pays $2.7 million a year in maintenance towards the legacy of the South African World Cup.

Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, South Africa

Russia is also struggling with issues related to stadiums built for the 2018 World Cup. In Saransk, local authorities are dealing with the upkeep of 300 million rubles (AUD 5.5 million) to maintain the stadium built for the event.

Major events don’t just lead to empty stadiums either. For the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian Government built a $13.5 billion tunnel system to connect Sochi to the rest of the country. The operation and maintenance of this underutilised infrastructure cost taxpayers $1.6 billion a year. 

FIFA has praised the joint World Cup bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada for using existing infrastructure instead of building new stadiums, however, few countries already have the facilities to host games. 

By expanding the World Cup to every two years, many countries will  be hosting for the first time. This will inevitably lead to similar cases to South Africa, Brazil, and Russia’s stadiums becoming a burden on citizens. 

FIFA risk damaging their premier competition in the pursuit of greed. It needs to be asked why they seem hell-bent on changing a winning formula, especially one that has already been embraced worldwide.

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