Months of speculation and plans have finally come to fruition this week, with Western Melbourne Group being announced by Football Federation Australia as the winner of the A-League Competition licence, beating Sydney’s Southern Expansion and Melbourne’s Team 11 for the place.
The news will see history, with WMG promising to build a 15,000 seat stadium and connecting training, commercial and residential complex. Part of the reason this bid was so successful is that the stadium will be privately funded, rather than relying on government funding; the Group had said from the start that it would not be seeking public investment to develop the stadium and precinct in Wyndham.
This stadium will eventually sit 25km west of Melbourne, and the plans are to make it a home for football, as seen with Anfield and Old Trafford, rather than simply a place to play. Seats will be as close to the pitch as possible for intimacy and the rake will be steeper for the best atmosphere possible amongst fans. There’s also big plans for the club’s name, badge and colours to be decided by fans which adds to the fan and football connection that has been so popular so far.
Arguably the winning bid was decided mostly because of the stadium promise, but the fact that the development will be fully owned by the team is also significant for the league because it will be the first of its kind in Australia. Plus, the precinct will be situated in the growth corridor of Western Melbourne, stimulating economic development for the area, which is the fastest growing population region in Australia.
Football Federation Australia Chairman, Chris Nikou, has said that “the prospect of a facility owned by football for football will be a significant new milestone for the game in Australia” and that they “are excited by the prospect of such a facility in Melbourne”.
Lou Sticca, managing director of Tribal Sports Group and a former Socceroos Steve Horvat and Andrew Zinni, were all heavily involved in the bid, bringing their extensive football knowledge to the proposal. The combination of a promise of a privately-funded stadium and strong football knowledge behind the bid is what got it over the line.
No official players have been announced yet, although Sticca has guaranteed that if they won, a world-class player will join for their first season.
Western Melbourne Group says they could not have done it without Wyndham City Council and their support as the future home of the team. Of course, they also said the fans in Western Melbourne played a huge role in their winning bid, allowing their dream to grow and eventually become a reality – Football is about the fans, after all.
This A-League expansion offers new growth for Australian football, tapping into the new market of Western Melbourne, with the chance to bring fresh fans and life to the league.