Western United to play Australia Day fixture at Whitten Oval

On Friday, newly formed A-League club Western United announced that they would host their match against Adelaide United at the Whitten Oval.

The match, set to take place on Australia Day (January 26) will mark the third AFL ground that Mark Rudan’s side has used this season as a home venue.

Previously to this, Mars Stadium in Ballarat and GMBHA Stadium in Geelong have been used.

On paper, this is a perfect move for the expansion club. Their match against the Reds will mark their first official match to take place in western Melbourne, opposed to greater western Victoria.

Their stadium in Tarneit is on course for a 2021 completion, so obviously until then, they need to make do with what’s available.

But now, they finally have a chance to play in front of the people who were their targeted demographic from day one.

The Whitten Oval is a great location in itself, having played host to large scale AFLW games and consistent seasons of the VFL. So the ground will be up to scratch for 90 minutes of A-League football.

Currently, the AFL, AFLW and VFL are in their off-seasons, so there is no risk of any clash between AFL side the Western Bulldogs and Western United.

There was only a minor risk of clash between the match and any pre-season training for the Bulldogs. But thankfully, the 2016 AFL premiers are on a training camp up north on the Sunshine Coast at the time of Australia Day.

In an article from The Age, United CEO Chris Pehlivanis and Western Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains echoed each other’s thoughts on the prospect of A-League football at Whitten.

“We will continue to be a club for all who call the west home as we take this journey together,” Pehlivanis said.

“Relocating our round 16 fixture to Whitten Oval gives the club’s growing fanbase an opportunity to taste the A-League at another family friendly, community venue in the west.”

“Hosting A-League football at Whitten Oval is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the broad capability of our venue and to connect with a new audience,” said Bains.

“We have been able to create a unique, family-friendly atmosphere for sporting events we have hosted at Whitten Oval, particularly in the summer months at our AFLW matches.”

United’s start to the season has been a mixed bag, both on and off the field.

Many A-League fans would agree in us saying that it’s a nice breath of fresh air to have a new side, boasting new names as well as some familiar faces in the competition.

Their on field performance has been decent. They currently sit in fifth on the A-League table and despite some disappointing results as of late, they remain firmly in contention for a finals berth in their inaugural season.

That in itself is a remarkable achievement, should Alessandro Diamanti and co. get it done.

But off the field, there has been a struggle for numbers, particularly at home games.

They currently hold the second-lowest attendance record in the competition this season, averaging a measly 6,225 per game. They also hold the record for lowest attendance at a single game this season.

In their round nine encounter against Sydney FC, a mere 4,187 fans clicked through the turnstiles in Geelong as the reigning champions of the A-League ran out 2-0 winners.

Understandably, as a new side it’s tough to acquire fans from the get-go and to establish genuine connections with fans will take time. Poor on-field results would go a long way to diminishing any hopes of that.

But with time and the opening of their new stadium in the near future, it’s a simple case of staying the course for Pehlivanis and co.

This match on Australia Day in the heart of Melbourne’s inner-western suburbs could do a world of good for Western. With tickets reportedly going for as little as $6, it could be the beginning of a wonderful new relationship between them and the Western Bulldogs.

Fingers crossed for them that regardless of the on-field result, they have a good showing from their fans and any neutrals who watch them as well.

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Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

German football ends 70 years with Adidas for Nike deal

The German Football Association (DFB) has inked a mega eight-year deal with American sportswear giant Nike and move on from incredible 70-year partnership with Adidas.

The deal commences in 2027 after the next World Cup and runs to the end of 2034 with the company securing kit rights for at least two World Cup campaigns.

Nike were able to blow away Adidas’ offer and the deal was one they simply couldn’t refuse. It is reportedly worth AU$169.3 million a year, exactly double the amount Adidas currently gives the DFB which is $84.6 million.

Adidas has been a DFB partner since the 1950s and has been synonymous with the success of Germany’s men’s and women’s national teams, who have supported the company’s logo during 14 World Cup and European Championship triumphs.

This deal has caused huge public backlash from German fans and politicians who believe it goes against the traditions and history of the sport.

However, the DFB has defended its decision to drop Adidas as Nike made the better financial offer which would help the federation fund the future of German football as it would be invested into the grassroots game.

DFB President Bernd Neuendorf explained the controversial decision and gives his well wishes to Adidas.

“We understand every emotion. It’s also a drastic event for us as an association when it becomes clear that a partnership that was and is characterised by many special moments is coming to an end after more than 70 years. That doesn’t leave us cold,” Neuendorf said in a statement.

“The DFB has to make economic decisions against this background. Nike made by far the best financial offer in the transparent and non-discriminatory tender process.

“The federation will do everything we can to achieve shared success with our long-standing and current partner Adidas, to whom German soccer has owed a lot for more than seven decades.”

It is a huge loss for Adidas’ legacy, losing a long term relationship with the country’s biggest sporting team to its main rival and ultimately showcasing the bargaining power Nike has over the company.

However, the company still has a huge standing in football despite this issue and won’t be too affected by it. At the international level, Adidas has deals with higher-ranked Argentina and Italy and will still supply Germany’s kits at the 2026 World Cup – a tournament which it will also sponsor.

This new deal allows more money to tackle issues in the grassroots game in Germany and help stabilise the system as it looks towards returning to long-term international success.

Football Victoria celebrates establishment between Sydenham Park SC and Calder United SC

A striking partnership has been established between Sydenham Park SC and Calder United SC, with the Western United affiliated club to play 11 home fixtures at Keilor Lodge Reserve.

The Club Changer Club Development Program, an incentive created in 2023 to assist clubs fostering and strengthening inclusive environments for multiple diverse communities within society to participate in football, supports the growth of women’s football, among many other ranges of football within the country.

Last year, all federation members dedicated a strong focus upon women and young females in football as a main element of their Legacy 23 campaign. This enables club development officers across the state to work in conjunction with clubs in order to foster a positive football experience within female football, both on and off the field.

In this facility sharing partnership, Sydenham Park SC vice-president Davis Lisolajski showcased his clubs enthusiasm.

“When we learned that they were without a home venue, it was an obvious choice for us to reach out and assist,” he said via press release.

“Women’s football holds significant importance for us at Sydenham, and we believe this partnership will benefit our young girls and both senior women’s teams. They will witness professionalism first-hand during match days.”

Calder United SC President Amanda Stella expressed excitement towards developing a sustained and effective partnership to spearhead National Premier League Women’s football to Sydenham Park in 2024.

“The support from Sydenham Park President Nick and Vice President David, along with the broader Sydenham Park community, is greatly appreciated, and we eagerly anticipate playing our senior and 20s home games for the 2024 season at Sydenham Park,” she added via media release.

“A special acknowledgment to Football Victoria’s Josephine La Pila for her work with both clubs to achieve an outcome that promotes collaboration among football clubs for the betterment of our beloved sport.”

Football Victoria have endorsed the partnership between these two growing clubs within female football across the state.

With Calder United establishing themselves as a competitive club amongst the NPLW competition, the partnership allowing the club between the Western United sister club and Sydenham puts a focus upon both sides allowing their playing and coaching staff to use one of the best pitch surfaces within the north-western district of Melbourne. The use of these highly elite facilities will allow them to have an advantage, perhaps being the difference in furthering themselves away from their competitors.

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