In announcing two successful bids for A-League expansion last week, Football Federation Australia chief executive officer David Gallop made reference on multiple occasions to the “pluses and minuses” that stacked up in favour of the Western Melbourne Group and Macarthur South West Sydney bids over the other four bidders left in the race.
The pluses for Western Melbourne significantly outweigh the minuses.
Western Melbourne will enter the A-League next season, playing its first two seasons at Kardinia Park in Geelong before moving into a newly constructed stadium at Sayers Road, Tarneit, likely from the 2021-22 season.
The Western Melbourne Group – an interim name until the official club name and colours are revealed after community consultation – has the opportunity to take the A-League where it has never been before.
The focal point of the bid was a new stadium that will be funded by private investors and run by the Western Melbourne Group, while Wyndham council provides infrastructure surrounding the precinct.
The stadium will be a boutique 15,000 seater. A similar model has proven successful for some clubs in the Major League Soccer in the US and the second-tier Championship in England.
Gallop is excited by the potential of a boutique stadium in the A-League.
“With West Melbourne, there’s an opportunity to do something quite unique and something that we’ve seen successful in football globally, which is to have a purpose-built football stadium,” Gallop said.
“Of course, there will be a period when we won’t have the team in a new stadium, but importantly they will be in a facility [at Kardinia Park] that will present the game well and have a playing surface that is comfortable for our players.
“West Melbourne is a growth corridor and the prospect of having our own stadium built out there is exciting indeed.”
The location of the stadium in Tarneit was a key talking point among A-League fans.
From a geographical point of view, it makes sense. The heartland will be Wyndham, which is a fast-growing region with new estates in the process of being built.
The new team will look to embrace the whole of the west, both in the suburbs and the regions.
The club can draw on fans from surrounding councils such as Melton, Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay, and further afield from cities such as Geelong and Ballarat.
More than 30 soccer clubs in the west have signed on as partners of the Western Melbourne bid. Creating a connection with these players at grassroots level is important for the new A-League team.
If Western Melbourne is to win the hearts and minds of Geelong supporters, it has a great opportunity to embrace the town in its first two years of existence before their full-time move to Tarneit.
It makes sense for Geelong fans to support an A-League club that is a 30-minute train ride away instead of making the longer hour journey to Melbourne’s CBD.
The proposed stadium is also relatively close to Avalon and Tullamarine airports, so interstate teams and fans will have easy access.
The Western Melbourne bid team has talked about creating a club that identifies with the people of the west.
If it can unify the west behind one team, it will mean an extremely multicultural supporter base.
A major plus for the A-League and broadcasters is the addition of more derby games in the important Melbourne and Sydney markets.
Imagine the atmosphere inside the “Wyndham Stadium” when Melbourne City or Melbourne Victory comes to the west.
The planning is complete and now work on the biggest sports project in our own backyard can begin.