Winning bid profile: Western Melbourne Group
The Hyundai A-League will have a new team in Victoria, with Western Melbourne Group being awarded a licence for the 2019/20 season on Thursday.
Western Melbourne Group and Macarthur South West Sydney (coming in to the Hyundai A-League in 2020/21 season) were selected by Football Federation Australia, beating the likes of Sydney’s Southern Expansion, Melbourne’s Team 11, a bid from Canberra and South Melbourne for two competition licences.
The announcement came after months of intense speculation and will see history made with the Western Melbourne Group bid team promising to build their own 15,000-seat privately funded stadium and adjoining training and administration complex.
The strong bid centred around that promise and made Western Melbourne Group’s case for inclusion in an expanded Hyundai A-League “compelling”, former Caltex Socceroos defender and bid spokesman Steve Horvat said in September.
Read on for all the information you need to know about the Hyundai A-League new boys!
Where will they play?
Construction on Western Melbourne Group’s stadium will commence shortly.
But for the first two years, the bid’s team will play out of Geelong’s Kardinia Park - a stadium primarily used for AFL that has a capacity of approximately 36,000.
Melbourne Victory have played at the venue irregularly, first taking a pre-season fixture there before playing an AFC Champions League 2014 qualifying play-off in Geelong.
Victory started playing one Hyundai A-League game at the stadium each season from 2015.
Western Melbourne Group’s team will then move into their new stadium which will be built in Sayers Road, Tarneit - 25km west of Melbourne and 50km north-east of Geelong.
“Western Melbourne Group will build a sports precinct with a purpose-built football stadium as a centrepiece for an A-League team,” the bid team said on their official website.
“The stadium will be designed from a football and fan perspective, with seats as close to the pitch as possible and a steeper rake for greater atmosphere.”
The adjoining training complex and administration headquarters will add value to the precinct, with Horvat convinced the stadium project - and the fact it would be privately funded - would make the club sustainable.
“Owning a stadium isn’t just about bragging rights. It’s about harnessing these crucial revenue streams [food and beverage sales, car park proceeds],” he told The World Game.
The club’s name, badge and colours will reportedly be determined by fans, although red and white were key colours in graphics posted on the bid’s website.
Why were they chosen?
FFA CEO David Gallop said on Thursday that Western Melbourne Group’s stadium promise was “exciting”.
“The prospect of a facility owned by football for football will be a significant new milestone for the game in Australia,” he said.
“Football-specific stadia have been extremely successful in league expansion in other parts of the world and we are excited by the prospect of such a facility in Melbourne.
“West Melbourne is a growth corridor and the prospect of having our own stadium built out there is exciting indeed.”
FFA chairman Chris Nikou added that ‘each [winning bid] gives us a wonderful footprint into growth corridors in the Australian market place and position us for the long-term game of advancing football in this country’.
How did they react?
In a statement titled 'Western Melbourne is born', the bid team said on their website that "the Western Melbourne Group could not have achieved this momentous opportunity to be awarded an A-League licence without our incredible partners, Wyndham City Council."
They added: "We thank the Mayor and Councillors of Wyndham City Council along with their CEO Kelly Grigsby and Business Director Kate Roffey. Their vision from day one in identifying our future home has been a cornerstone of our bid.
“Most of all we thank the people of Western Melbourne for daring to dream and giving the bid team the energy and drive to make this happen. Football is all about the fans and Western Melbourne will be fan-centric in everything we do.”
Who was involved in the bid?
Spokesman Horvat was joined on the bid team by former Socceroo, Andrew Zinni, while another person with extensive football experience involved was Lou Sticca.
Sticca, managing director of Tribal Sports Group, is a licensed player intermediary and FIFA match agent and has overseen a number of high-profile deals in Australian football, including the arrivals of Alessandro Del Piero, Dwight Yorke and Shinji Ono.
Sticca - pictured between Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri and Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic below - has also organised a series of football tours in Australia, helping bring the likes of Liverpool, Juventus, Chelsea and Arsenal to our shores for friendly matches.
Maurice Bisetto, a partner at KPMG, Tania Orr (director of infrastructure and products at KPMG) and Kate Roffey (Wyndham City Council) were also on the winning bid team.
Who will play for the team?
Sticca has previously guaranteed that the club would sign a well-known player for their first season in the Hyundai A-League.
“We will have a marquee [player] and yes, it will be a world-class player,” Sticca said at a Western Melbourne Group fan forum.
Celtic midfielder Scott Brown has previously been linked with the club.
Sticca also said that National Premier League players would be on the club’s radar, insisting there were “very good players currently playing in the NPL”.
*All artist's impression photos of the stadium used from Western Melbourne Group's official website.