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Victorian A-League clubs can benefit from unique home grounds, this is how.

What makes a sporting venue unique?

Is it A). the respective fanbases that cheer for what seems an eternity in the hope their team will win?

Is it B). the overall quality and look of the venue, on the field and in the stands?

Or, is it C). the location of the venue that gives the team and its fans a sense of identity?

If you answered with C, congratulations. You won the jackpot. Go off and celebrate with Jamal Malik. Or Charles Van Doren, it doesn’t really matter.

Whilst there are cases that can be made for A and B, having a venue located appropriately for both the club and its supporters goes a long way to creating the most unique sporting venues across the planet.

European teams all have their own venues, which they have used for years to great effect, giving their sides genuine home ground advantages.

For example, FC Barcelona, arguably the biggest club in the world, uses the Nou Camp for home fixtures.

Any rival team would be rightly justified in being slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of playing against not only a world class team, but in front of nearly 100,000 Catalans.

There’s no one else, but you and your 10 teammates. If that can’t be classified as daunting, then nothing can.

But when we compare the European leagues to that of our own A-League, the differences are night and day.

For years, we’ve become accustomed to clubs playing at venues which are either shared with another club or simply not suitable for their supporters.

Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City often share AAMI Park for league fixtures. Sydney FC and Western Sydney have sometimes shared ANZ Stadium for larger fixtures.

By doing this, the local and state governments are ignoring the possibilities that come with individual home grounds.

It has worked for European teams and for a long time, it even worked in the Australian Football League. North Melbourne would play at Arden Street, Hawthorn in Waverley, Collingwood at Victoria Park, Carlton at Princes Park and so on.

By having unique venues, clubs would not only give back to the community, but they would attain a unique and distinguishable identity.

Picture this.

We are used to seeing London-based sides playing at their own locations. Crystal Palace have Selhurst Park, Arsenal have the Emirates, Chelsea have Stamford Bridge, Tottenham have their new Tottenham Stadium. The list could go on forever.

Now, take away all those stadiums, Every single one of them. Except for Wembley Stadium.

Now imagine all fixtures for London-based Premier League sides being hosted at Wembley and Wembley only.

It seems an incredibly stupid concept, doesn’t it?

That’s how it feels when both Melbourne sides are forced to share AAMI Park.

Sure, Wembley is a great stadium but soon, teams would slowly start losing their congruity and relationship with their fans. By having grounds in relevant and discernable locations, fans feel like they’re at home.

It’s not a club, it’s a large family.

That’s what having unique stadiums/locations for each side can do. It makes them feel at home, because in a way, they are.

Melbourne Victory could achieve something like this, should they invest in their Epping facilities. It is currently used for their NPL2 West fixtures, but it could be so much more.

Yes, it’s a downgrade from AAMI Park in terms of capacity and probably quality, but over time, fans will associate themselves with the ground and it can become a genuine home ground.

Sydney FC used Jubilee Oval in the city’s south to great effect in recent times, making it a tough ground to win at.

But also, it is located in the suburbs. With the people. With those who are the only reason the club is around today.

Now, Western Sydney will have the Bankwest Stadium as their unique home ground, starting next season. It will work as they are, once again, catering to their fanbase and community.

The Melbourne-based sides should take notes from this.

In Football Victoria’s strategic plan laid out earlier this year, FV said they would be look to be “expanding and improving all facilities and providing infrastructure to increase access, utilisation and sustainability”, by “building strong relationships with Local, State & Federal Governments.”

Creating a A-League quality stadium in Epping could go a long way to achieving this.

Clubs know that the fans are the most important stakeholders and that by adhering to them, they will become an infinitely better club.

History suggests that when clubs have their own distinctive venues, they perform better both on and off the field.

With time and money, more clubs across Australia can turn the A-League into a league on par with the MLS.

And yes, money can be a significant factor when it comes to this issue. Understandably, the governing bodies will not be wanting to make a move on this without money-back guarantees.

No one would agree to any sort of deal without guarantees that in time, their investments would be worthwhile. But the proof is in the pudding. It’s been done elsewhere, it can be done here. If the Sydney-based clubs can make it work, there’s no reason that other states can too.

Should this become a reality, more marquee players will want to play here, more youngsters will want to play the sport and overall, the sport of soccer in this country will thrive.

And who knows? With the right management and oversight, we could dare to dream even bigger…

 

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

MyRepublic announced as Official Internet Provider for Melbourne City

Melb City

Melbourne City FC has announced that MyRepublic will be the Official Internet Provider for the club going forward.

MyRepublic is a next generation internet service provider. They will have their logos feature on the sleeve and back of the City’s Liberty A-League jerseys and will also be displayed on the front of the A-League Men’s training kit.

This new partnership is set to help City extend the reach of their matches to a wider audience, while highlighting the club on various social media platforms and delivering incredible experiences for City fans.

MyRepublic Group Chief Marketing Officer and Country Manager for Australia, Ji Jing:

“We are extremely proud to be the exclusive Official Internet Provider of Melbourne City FC. As an ISP in Australia, we are also a champion for diversity and inclusion by breaking down the digital divide. MyRepublic has brought fast broadband connectivity into many households in Australia.

“It is thus befitting that the theme of speed is chosen for this sponsorship deal. We hope to bring the fans closer to the football action, as we line up a slew of marketing activities for our customers with money-cannot-buy type of experiences.”

Melbourne City FC CEO Brad Rowse:

“We are thrilled to partner with a business that is focused on becoming a market leader in the next generation of networks.

“Our fans want to see the fastest players on the pitch and I’m sure they want their club to partner with the best brands off the pitch. With MyRepublic we have opened a door for them to experience a genuinely trailblazing proposition and lightning speed internet connectivity.

“We look forward to partnering with MyRepublic in using football as a key platform to strengthen social and community bonding in Australia.”

Australian Professional Leagues announce minority investment from Silver Lake

ALM

Australian Professional Leagues (APL), the entity responsible for the operation, commercialisation and marketing of professional football in Australia, have today announced that Silver Lake, a global leader in technology investing, has made a significant minority investment in the organisation.

The investment will drive technology enhancements and innovation aimed at improving the fan experience and driving further development of the game in Australia. The transaction values APL at approximately USD$300m / AUD $425M.

Silver Lake’s investment aimed at supporting APL’s sustained, long-term growth strategy for the leagues, with a measured deployment of capital over the coming years. Funds will be used to drive enhancements widely across many aspects of the professional game.

APL’s digital first strategy will continue to evolve with a focus on marketing, product development and strengthening its direct-to-consumer execution.

Funds will also be allocated to support the on-field enhancement of the A-Leagues including increased investment in all competitions with a specific focus on extended growth in the Liberty A-League Women and A-League Youth competitions. Additional investment is planned to be deployed for development of unique community engagement propositions to further connect the game.

Silver Lake Managing Director Stephen Evans will become a Member of the APL Board.

Commenting on the announcement, A-Leagues Chair Paul Lederer said:

“Silver Lake is a world-class leader in technology and media investing and this partnership is a testament to the compelling opportunities for growth and even better, deeper fan engagement that our leagues are cultivating. This valuation recognises the latent potential that has long existed in the professional game in Australia, and the ability of our board and executive team to realise that potential.

“We welcome the opportunity to work closely with Silver Lake to harness the team’s experience, including around new technology adoption and other growth strategies critical to realising the potential of Australian football.”

Silver Lake Managing Director Stephen Evans added:

“The Australian Professional Leagues has a large, growing and passionate fan base across its 13 teams and the organisation has made great strides as it focuses on leveraging technology to strengthen Australian football and enrich the fan experience.

“We are excited to partner with the Board, Danny Townsend, and the entire executive team to help further accelerate APL’s digital transformation and support its continued momentum and ambitious vision for long-term sustainable and inclusive growth.”

The Silver Lake transaction has been approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and Football Australia.

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