Western Melbourne Group will join the A-League for the 2019/20 season after securing a licence in the recent expansion process.
The team, which will be based out of Tarneit in Melbourne’s western suburbs, after an initial stint in Geelong, got the nod over fellow Victorian contenders Team 11 and South Melbourne.
Here’s what you need to know about the group set to form the A-League’s newest team.
WHAT GOT THE BID OVER THE LINE?
Western Melbourne Group’s catchment area is located in metropolitan Victoria, albeit well clear of the Melbourne CBD and in the growth corridor of Western Melbourne.
The bid initially had roots as a Geelong A-League bid, before transforming into the Western Melbourne Group.
From the moment it became clear Western Melbourne Group was prepared to fund its own stadium, momentum started to build.
Rather than relying on government funding, the group has secured private funding to build the stadium.
When you look at some of the recent issues faced by clubs who are tenants at grounds — for example, Western Sydney’s troubles with Spotless Stadium, the appeal of an expansion club that comes with its own stadium is clear.
The bid has promised construction will begin within days of securing a licence.
Now they get their chance to stick to their word.
“I’m told what got them over the line over (rival Melbourne bid) Team 11 I guess, which was the other major competitior out of Victoria, was the fact that they just had better funding behind them and some very strong football people behind them,” Fox Sports football reporer Daniel Garb said on Fox Sports News.
“Powerful people like Lou Sticca who have had a major influence in the game and that carried a lot of weight in the end.
“So great news for them, a shame for the bids that missed out.”
WHERE WILL THEY PLAY?
Western Melbourne Group has committed to play out of its own stadium, based in Tarneit, in the future.
But for at least the opening two seasons, while that stadium is being built, they will play their home games at Kardinia Park in Geelong.
WHAT CHALLENGES FACE THE GROUP?
Well, they’ve already got past the biggest hurdle.
Western Melbourne Group was up against the challenge of south east Melbourne’s Team 11 and former NSL powerhouse South Melbourne in the initial stages, with Team 11 considered unlucky by many to miss out.
But there are a couple of significant challenges.
First, Western Melbourne Group will have to deal with playing away from their permanent home for at least the opening two seasons.
That will involve getting fans to head down to Geelong, while also hoping to engage Geelong-based supporters in the long term. Starting their A-League journey at a ground built for AFL, rather than the round-ball game, will also be a challenge, while a number of already-engaged football fans tend to be linked to Melbourne Victory.
The location of the new stadium in Tarneit also poses some difficulties, with a relative lack of infrastructure around the site — making the ground relatively difficult to get to.
That said, this is a team that has the opportunity to tap into a relatively new market, with Western Melbourne a growth area.
The Western Melbourne Group will need to engage with young people and clubs in the area — and quickly.
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