The foundations Macarthur's building to break new Hyundai A-League ground
Macarthur FC seem little more than a name to some right now but the new club from Sydney's south west already have the foundations built to leave a Hyundai A-League legacy.
10 months away from their inaugural Hyundai A-League match, things are moving quickly for Macarthur, who won a spot in the competition in December 2018.
Since then, Macarthur have announced their name, formed their colours and badge, and assembled some key members of staff - including the appointment of Westfield Matildas head coach Ante Milicic and his right hand man, Ivan Jolic.
Joining Milicic, Jolic and Director of Football Ken Stead is Mal Impiombato, who comes to the club as General Manager Football Operations and will be play a key role in shaping the strategic direction of the club's maiden Hyundai A-League bow.
Last week, we caught up with Impiombato - FFA's former General Manager Operations (Competitions) - to see how Macarthur are tracking. When can we expect player announcements? What is the club's identity? And what are the club doing that no other Hyundai A-League outfit has ever been able to do?
Mal, thanks for joining www.aleague.com.au. We’re about 10 months away from Macarthur’s first Hyundai A-League match. Where are the club at in terms of preparation?
MI: The club has built a really strong foundation and base and spent a considerable amount of time connecting with the community. We are really focused on making sure that we connect with our people. The club has secured a home base at Campbelltown Stadium right in its heartland, along with an training base at Western Sydney University and the construction of an elite high performance centre and training base is well underway and shall be ready to go for the 2021/22 Season. The club has been working feverishly to ensure it is well prepared and this commitment has put us in an enviable position in comparison to our competitors in the Hyundai A-League market.
At this point in time, the club has appointed some fantastic talent in our executive team and administration, along with securing our inaugural Head Coach in Ante Milicic and Assistant Coach in Ivan Jolic. So the foundations have been set and I understand we are also well underway in broadening our administration and also expanding our football department in the coming weeks/months.
There is obviously still a bit to go and the rest of the structure will be put together over time, however we’re in a really solid position. The attendance and engagement at the clubs first two major functions are a reflection on the clubs progress to date and it shows that there’s a strong connection with our community which is a key pillar of the clubs strategy.
And you’ve already had 2000 memberships sold…
MI: It’s absolutely huge. There were 1500 foundation members that joined within 48 hours [of memberships going on sale, with that number now over 2000]. Again, it shows that the foundations of the club have been set and we’ve connected well with the community. That’s something we’ll continue to do over time and make sure that we resonate with the people of the south west region.
In recent days, we have crept over 2000 foundation members which is a credit to the wider football community in the area. The club represents our fans and community and we want to make sure that our members are provided an opportunity shape the direction of their club.
When can we expect player announcements?
MI: We’re able to start talking to players who are out of contract in the Hyundai A-League from December 1. Prior to my appointment, Ante [Milicic] has been working through his wish list and identified a number of players both domestically and abroad. At the moment we have built and will continue to populate our wish list and targets and ensure we have a broad range of players to consider. This is well advanced and the club has been proactive in this space to ensure we are best prepared. In the interim, we can talk to overseas based players whom are out of contract and their intermediaries to test the market.
No doubt there’ll be some announcements in due course, but we still have to work through that and what it looks like. The process is most important and our recruitment strategy is key, so we will make sure that we follow that and hopefully secure some signings that we can announce shortly and then ultimately building a squad of 20-23 players. It’s quite exciting building a team from scratch and when you have the expertise of our national team leaders in Ante and Ivan it puts us in a great space.
Tell us a little bit about the recruitment process – what sort of players are you looking for? International names?
MI: We’ll sit down and ensure that our recruitment strategy fits the clubs philosophy and vision. If it doesn’t fit in with the club and football philosophy, if the individual doesn’t fit in with the club culture, then we are not likely to appoint these type of players at our club. As much as talent and football ability are key attributes in our recruitment strategy, most importantly we want to ensure we bring in good people that uphold the standards and drive the culture that is expected at our club.
It's fair to say we will consider local and international talent and ensure we provide opportunities and a pathway for our players in our catchment area. First and foremost, we are ambitious and we want to ensure we build a competitive squad in our first season and a squad that our fans and community resonate with and are proud of.
Importantly, everyone involved at this football club will need to fit in with the clubs philosophy and culture, and not only be good operators but good people. Thus far, the club has built its foundation on these principles and we do not want to deviate away from that. We have a great opportunity as a start up a club to instil this environment and set the benchmark for our players and staff and hopefully build a lasting legacy moving forward.
How important is it to have Ante Milicic and Ivan Jolic, coaches of quality and experience, to build the new club?
MI: It’s fantastic and we’re quite lucky. Both have vast experience at international level with our Men’s and Women’s national teams and they have a great understanding of the A-League through previous experience. The most important thing is that they understand the A-League, and the fact that we are bound by a salary cap and all its nuances that are quite unique and specific to our football environment. These are important attributes that elevate Ante and Ivan in the A-League.
They’re across all of our national teams’ players from youth age groups all the way through to our Socceroos, so we’ll have a vast connection across the football landscape. But most of all, they’ll build a strong culture and demand excellence and professionalism which is really important. I’m looking forward to working with two of Australia’s most talented coaches and we are fortunate to have them at our club.
The academy is just another block for success. Is there a plan to feed players in eventually?
MI: Absolutely. We’re making sure that we connect with our football community and provide a pathway for players in the south west region of Sydney. The opportunity to have a professional football club in your heartland is exciting for every player in the region and we want to make sure that boys and girls look to Macarthur FC as their primary destination club. With that in mind, it is important for us to connect with our associations and local clubs to ensure we service our area.
We’ve got a significant pool of 35,000 players within the region who have now got a professional club in their home yard. That’s fantastic because it shows that there is a pathway for them, and we’ll be making sure that we build those relationships with the clubs and associations, which is very important. We have a great operator in Ken Stead who will deliver and drive our youth academy and connection with our local clubs and associations.
There’s NPL clubs and community clubs that we want to make sure we have great working relationship with – I think that’s a huge opportunity.
The club provided a ground-breaking first for the league in allowing adult members to vote for and elect two of the seven members of the club’s board of directors. Tell us about that.
MI: It’s a testament to the clubs philosophy in engaging with the community and providing them with a say in their football club. It’s a massive step and a step that no other club has taken just yet.
It gives everyone an opportunity to be a part of the football club – it’s theirs. They get to shape what this club looks like and we’re there to listen and make sure we adhere to what our community wants to see from a professional club in their area.
MI: The immediate priority is to ensure we build our squad, however there are many other football matters to consider in the coming months. We will continue to develop our training base, whilst also finalising appointments of football and administration staff.
Whilst it seems as though there’s a lot of time before our first match, there’s a lot to do. We now have 10 months to prepare for the start of the season. It gives us an opportunity to sit down and give ourselves every opportunity to make sure we’re successful from day one. That’s the intention both on and off the field.
Read on to find out. And while you're here, check out the latest news on Macarthur FC...