Right owners needed for Wanderers

The Western Sydney Wanderers have had a few suitors lately as the FFA looks to sell the club.

The Western Sydney Wanderers have had a few suitors lately as the FFA looks to sell the club.

It-s an exciting prospect for any owner, given the unprecedented success of this young club which is heading into it's second season with an incredible 15,000 members.

But it-s also a case of buyer beware. You may well end up with keys to the clubroom door, and the A-League license, but perhaps more than any other club the Wanderers are owned by the fans. Any attempt to disempower the club-s remarkable fan base will kill the magic.

The NRL-s Penrith Panthers, and former NSL giants Marconi Stallions, are among those who have recently come calling. Just a few days ago it was reported that English Premier League heavyweights Manchester City were considering a bid for the Wanderers - something since denied by the EPL club.

There's no doubt this fledgeling club which went from a long-held aspiration to an overnight sensation is one of the Hyundai A-League-s hottest properties. In establishing the Wanderers in Sydney-s sprawling western suburbs, the FFA was on a thin margin when it came to success and failure.

Heading into football-s mythical heartland and delivering another lame duck club like those that withered on the Gold Coast and in North Queensland would have spelt disaster for the Hyundai A-League as well as the wider game. Make no mistake, football is locked in a titanic struggle for hearts and minds in a crowded sporting market in Sydney-s west, and this was one battle the game simply couldn-t afford to lose.

Lyall Gorman and his team at the Wanderers hit on a formula of community consultation and engagement that seemed to harness the energy and aspirations of the people it purported to represent. In short, the people of Western Sydney bought in. As Tony Popovic and his team took the competition by surprise, and then by storm, the ranks of those in red and black swarming the terraces grew to unprecedented levels. The synergy between club and community was palpable, and culminated in an unforgettable grand final, where victory may have proved elusive but the day belonged to them.

But while this remarkable evolution of a football club and it-s passionate army of fans was the story of the year, it comes with its own problems.The raw emotion and passion evidenced by The Wanderers fans is as vulnerable as nitroglycerine. If it's not handled with care, it can be as destructive as it is alluring.

So how do the administrators protect the club's greatest asset - its growing fan base and its sense of ownership - while running a business on their own terms? That-s the big challenge for any new owner.

Private owners don-t pour millions into football clubs to be told how they should be run. And the A-League has discovered that managing private owners and their ambitions has been like herding cats.

The trouble for the FFA is that its current stewardship of the Wanderers simply has to end. You can-t have the governing body of the competition maintaining a substantial interest in one of it-s biggest clubs. The apron strings have to be cut.

Any new owner will therefore have to accept that a hybrid ownership model that empowers its members is absolutely vital to the Wanderers maintaining an identity which was established in record time.

How that is done will be the first major challenge for any consortium wanting to call the Wanderers their own.

This is a club that has been built by the people and for the people, and it's nothing without them. That-s something no amount of money can buy.