Lake Macquarie City to compete in NPL Women NNSW from 2025

Lake Macquarie City FC is set to join the NPL Women’s Northern NSW competition next year, replacing Warners Bay FC after relinquishing their NPLW licence once the 2024 season concludes.

This comes after Warners Bay’s decision to hand back their NPLW licence after a thorough evaluation of the resources and infrastructure required to successfully manage a premier league program in a rapidly growing women’s football landscape. Therefore, this move will see Lake Macquarie City enter teams into all NPL Women’s NNSW grades, as well as competitions such as the Premier Youth League Girls and Junior Development League.

Warners Bay FC President Nathan Aurisch spoke about the difficult decision:

“The club ultimately found itself unable to meet the increasing demands and criteria associated with managing a Premier program, including volunteers and financial requirements, without impacting the Community Football program,” Aurisch said via their club’s website.

“We want to acknowledge the significant contributions of all our players, coaches, volunteers and supporters that have led to a very successful period of women’s football at Warners Bay. Warners Bay FC will continue to focus on our core business which is to give those girls and boys an environment to enjoy and play football.

“We understand that this transition may be difficult for many and we want to assure everyone involved that this decision was not made lightly. We are committed to support the players, coaches and staff affected by this change. Lake Macquarie City FC has expressed their openness to welcoming Warners Bay FC players and staff who wish to continue competing at the premier level.”

Lake Macquarie City President Steve Graham showed his respects to Warners Bay FC and hopes his club will be the premier pathway and development choice for footballers in the region.

“Our commitment lies in establishing high standards for football education, modern facilities and fostering a network of affiliates that empowers talented female and male players to realise their full potential,” Graham said via a Northern NSW Football media release.

“Transferring Warners Bay FC’s Women and Girls NPLW program to LMCFC aligns seamlessly with our player development framework and overall action plan for the club. We want to acknowledge the fantastic contribution that Warners Bay FC have made to women’s football in the northern NSW region.

“Our club is committed to offering the best development environment for players in the northern NSW football region. We are excited about this opportunity to provide an inclusive pathway for young female players from grassroots to glory with the addition of this licence.”

Warners Bay FC enjoyed a successful run in the NPLW where they were the NNSWF Women’s Premier League premiers in 2017 and 2018, winning the grand final in 2016, having been beaten in the 2017, 2018 and 2020 deciders. The Panthers also won the NPL Women’s NNSW double in 2022 being crowned premiers and champions after beating Newcastle Olympic 4-2 in the Grand Final.

Melbourne Knights to kick-start NordVPN’s ventures in the Australian football market

Melbourne Knights FC have announced their latest partnership with one of the world’s leading VPN providers, NordVPN.

Established in 2012, NordVPN is a Lithuanian VPN service that aims to provide secure and private access to the internet. It works by enveloping all of your online activities in a layer of encryption and hiding information about your virtual location.

This enables users to stay invisible to hackers, your internet service provider (ISP), governmental agencies and others from looking while you’re browsing the net. NordVPN also protects data such as bank details from potential attacks.

NordVPN has partnered with many clubs in Europe – such as Rangers, Atlético Madrid and Barnsley – and now they are venturing out to clubs around Australia.

Speaking with Soccerscene, Head of Commercial Operations at Melbourne Knights FC, Ange Hrastov, and NordVPN Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Ian Wheller, discuss the early discussions between them, the main outcomes from this partnership and potential collaborations between the pair in the future.

What were the early discussions like between NordVPN and the Melbourne Knights?

Ange Hrastov: NordVPN reached out to us and sent the Club an email, just asking whether we were interested in partnership opportunities with NordVPN.

It was right in the middle of all our other sponsors and at the time we were doing our season launch. We got back to NordVPN and said we’re always open to partnership opportunities as we’ve done with others.

We also asked them for a little bit of clarity on what they wanted and what the opportunity represented.

So that’s when I got a hold of Ian and both of us had a chat and he explained a couple of ways you can go; you can get a percentage of each subscription that they get, or we can get a flat fee. So, we chose the flat fee with them and that’s how it was.

As a Club, we’re just looking for opportunities to expand our network and our business partner base. We also saw it as an opportunity to be able to offer to our members, particularly our younger ones, who are more tech savvy and something that could benefit them in conjunction with being associated with the Club.

Ian Wheller: NordVPN reached out directly to Melbourne Knights. Australia is a relatively mature market for NordVPN, but local sports clubs are an area where we’ve seen great success in European markets that we want to try and replicate here.

We’ve had success with top-tier clubs such as Rangers FC and Barnsley FC, all the way down to the lower leagues, showcasing growth opportunities.

What were the main outcomes for both parties in this partnership?

Ange Hrastov: From our perspective at Melbourne Knights, our sponsor base and our business partner base have been pretty much the same businesses, and that’s been the case for many years now.

I came into it saying that we actually do need to start to expand our business partner network. We were looking for business partners that could also contribute in terms of their business experience, knowledge and acumen towards the future success of our club as much as any financial benefit we obtain from such partnerships.

It’s not just about the dollars, we wanted to see how the two businesses could coexist and work together. One of the things that they did before we made any decisions to partner with NordVPN is they pointed us in the direction of what they’ve been doing in the UK with football clubs.

It was Ipswich Town that they have a partnership with over in the UK in the Championship, and I looked at the website and it appeared a good fit. They seem to have a healthy partnership and relationship with Ipswich Town, and we thought why not give it a crack?

This is an opportunity that takes us into areas that we haven’t worked with before and to partner with someone where we give back to our members, it is a partnership where our members can tangibly gain from it.

Ian Wheller: Due to our successful partnerships in Europe with football teams, we’ve decided to follow a similar trend in Australia due to the closely aligned love for the game. Bringing it back to Melbourne Knights specifically, we purposely targeted the lower leagues to begin with to understand growth appetite and partnering with the Melbourne Knights is a great way for us to support the local community.

We are looking to grow brand awareness and subsequent customer subscriptions off the back of the Melbourne Knights sponsorship and the plan is to roll this out nationally to clubs that we see are a good fit.

Are there any future collaborations being discussed after the agreement of this partnership such as jersey and pitch sponsorships?

Ange Hrastov: At the moment, there have been very limited discussions and we’re at very early stages. We will need to see how it goes for both them and us in terms of what kind of return they get for what they’re doing.

Let’s show them what the outcome can be and how successful it can be and from that point, then we can start talking about further opportunities that we can look at with NordVPN.

Let’s walk first, then once we’ve established a relationship, we’ll start running later.

Ian Wheller: We are starting light when it comes to sponsorships across Australia. Both pitch and jersey sponsorship are positive for the future, our current approach will allow us to test different strategies.

Due to this partnership between the Melbourne Knights and NordVPN, fans have been given an exclusive offer when they sign up with NordVPN. The offer is a 72% discount off monthly plans and a Saily eSim for those who are planning to go overseas.

For more information, visit the article about the partnership on the Melbourne Knights website.

Newcastle Jets’ new owners add key pieces for upcoming season

Newcastle Jets’ new owners, Maverick Sports Partners, have hired Ken Schembri as General Manager of Football and Ben Hawes as General Manager of Commercial, Digital and Marketing for this upcoming season.

The appointment of Schembri and Hawes reaffirms Maverick Sports Partners’ intent to invest in high-quality resources, which should excite Newcastle fans for this upcoming season.

Schembri had previously worked with the reigning champions, the Central Coast Mariners, being an essential part of establishing the Central Coast Mariners Football Academy and their Centre of Excellence when he joined in 2014.

Schembri will manage the A-League Men’s roster, oversee player performance and development, and handle recruitment for all football departments.

The Mariner’s Academy has produced many young and exciting Australian talent including Garang Kuol and Max Balard who have all gone to join clubs in Europe after their time in Gosford. Schembri has most recently played a key role in Central Coast’s recent success as Head of Football.

Maverick Sports Partners Director Maurice Bisetto commented about the new additions.

“We are excited to have both Ken and Ben join the Newcastle Jets team. They will be integral to the strategy and direction of the Club’s New Era, providing expertise and support, on and off the pitch,” said Bisetto in a club statement.

These two joined the Jets after the club were bought by the Australian company only last month.

Hawes has prior experience in Sponsorship, Marketing and Content roles at the National Rugby League, Sportsbet, BlueBet and Sydney FC.

Hawes will focus on expanding and diversifying the clubs commercial revenue streams which includes growing the sponsorship portfolio. He will also deal with commercialising the club’s digital channels as well as implementing new marketing and fan engagement strategies.

Due to these recent moves, Newcastle have the potential to produce exciting Australian talent and grow its brand across the league which will help the club continue to improve both on and off the pitch and ultimately strengthen their stability for future seasons.

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