"We’re not elite, we’re not glamorous but we are raw and real and we do believe in endless possibilities," Lyall Gorman explains why the Wanderers aren't selling Shinji Ono branded shirts.
As the Hyundai A-League-s newest club, some have questioned Western Sydney Wanderers- decision not to directly exploit the marketing opportunities of marquee man Shinji Ono.
But executive chairman Lyall Gorman says the strategy stems from the long-term vision to build a club based on the community, rather than high profile individuals.
It-s a commendable tactic which has been at the core of the Wanderers since the clubs- high-speed inception, and one in direct opposition to the “noisy neighbours” in Sky Blue down the road.
“To really understand (what the fans wanted),” Gorman told footballaustralia.com.au, “we did seven community forums, we worked strongly with the NSW premier league clubs out there, we worked with government and local stakeholders.
“The message was very clear - we-re not elite, we-re not glamorous but we are raw and real and we do believe in endless possibilities and we don-t build our club or brand around a particular individual.
“While Ono comes in with a very colourful and strong pedigree, from our point of view he-s still one of the boys.”
But while the Wanderers can argue the moral high ground, it-s hard to deny Sydney haven-t reaped the rewards of signing Alessandro Del Piero, off the pitch at least.
Ono-s name doesn-t carry the same weight among the mainstream public however, and Gorman denies Wanderers FC are missing the obvious potential of not leveraging their highest profile player or, for example, choosing not to sell Ono-branded strips.
“No, we-ve worked with Nichigo Press (Australia-s oldest Japanese language newspaper), who have a massive reach in Australia with the Japanese community; we-re having solid discussion with Mitsubishi electric around possible partnership opportunities, we-re talking to JCB [Japense Credit Bureau] credit cards...
“There are other ways to build relationships and capitalise on the Ono story rather than just pushing it to market all the time through branded shirts. We can-t keep up with demand for shirts at the moment, and it-s not because of Ono, it-s because it-s an across-the-board brand.
“I-m not trying to demean him; Ono should be revered - three World Cup appearances is amazing - but he doesn-t want the club built around him. He-s such a humble, team-focused person it would be an unsettling factor across the board.”
Given Gorman-s previous role as chairman of Central Coast Mariners, it is perhaps no surprise should follow in the footsteps of the Gosford club-s strong community based approach.
“I was the founding shareholder and executive chairman for six years and that club was built on exactly the same principles; it-s never had a marquee player.
“The Mariners repatriated three great Australian players in John Aloisi, Tony Vidmar and Mark Bosnich but the Wanderers have been built around exactly the same culture of community.
“No one questions the success of the Mariners now, so it does puzzle me greatly to think people would challenge the focus we-re building on the Wanderers. I think one would agree that the Wanderers- story so far in a short period of time, in terms of the building blocks we-re putting in place, has been one of beyond the expectations of most.
“An individual player can-t build that platform. That core foundation of culture, values and vision that will make sure in20 years time, Ono won-t be there, I won-t be there but the club and what it stands for will be.”
So what does Gorman make of the rampant speculation surrounding David Beckham? The Wanderers so far have remained coy on the subject, neither rejecting nor promoting their interest in the aging superstar.
But perhaps that is fully in line with the club ethos. No glitz, no show business, no desire to make headlines other than for footballing reasons.
“We-d approach Beckham as we would any other player,” Gorman said. “If we-re interested we-ll take a look, but I-d be surprised if we pushed a deal like that all the way through on the basis of everything we-re trying to do at this club.”