A team of its own playing in the West, for the West. That was the vision unveiled this week by The Western Melbourne Group at its first fan forum.
Over 100 people gathered at the Encore Events Centre in Hoppers Crossing to hear from the team behind the bid to bring an A-League Team to Melbourne’s western suburbs.
The comprehensive presentation outlined ambitious plans for an innovative stadium that would be a world class, stand-alone football facility.
Built in partnership with the Wyndham City Council, the stadium precinct would include retail, accommodation and community assets that would drive job growth and economic activity for the entire region.
Bid Lead Maurice Bisetto (KPMG) kicked off the Fan Forum by welcoming everyone and saying “The vision started nearly two years ago, to have an A-League and W-League team that represents the Western Region corridor for boys and girls to aspire to.
The privately-funded model is in partnership with Council and the local community, aimed at placing the Western corridor on the national sporting landscape like it proudly did in the National Soccer League.”
Project Lead for Wyndham City Kate Roffey reassured the audience that council is not funding the building of these facilities, and will itself receive a return on this investment. “We are not a philanthropic organisation in the business of giving. Council is involved in this deal because it stacks up financially and is of significant importance in helping to establish Wyndham and the West as a destination of choice.”
“The building of this infrastructure is fully privately funded. The return on this investment to both WMG and to Council will be via a genuine value capture partnership. Council will provide some land in exchange for an agreed range of A-League specific Infrastructure. All other associated community and/or commercial developments will be underpinned by an agreed model whereby both Council and WMG capture a return via the uplift in value of these developments” Kate explained.
Western Melbourne Group member Lou Sticca has an extensive football history from his days in the old NSL with Carlton FC and as part Sydney FC’s early journey. More recently he has been responsible for some of the world’s biggest teams coming to play in Australia, including Chelsea’s recent visit to Perth.
Sticca said he is driven to create an authentic and successful club that reflects the community that it represents.
“There are very good players currently playing in the NPL. We believe, if you give NPL players opportunity to train in a full-time environment, they’ll improve to become better players. We will recruit players from NPL for the A-League roster” stressed Lou.
He also confirmed to be looking at marquee players, “Yes, we will have a marquee and yes it will be a world class player.”
Stadium design was a hot topic at the meeting with questions from the floor about what type of venue was on the drawing board.
Shaun Gallagher from Populous has built stadia all around the world and has promised that in drawing up plans for this project only one thing mattered – the fans.
“World class stadiums we have designed have to create a place that’s exciting to come to for the fans, but also unpleasant for the visiting team. It is the view of the Western Melbourne bid team to have a safe standing area be erected at the stadium specific for the active fans” Shaun explained.
“Central to this bid is a Football-specific stadium, a real game changer for Australian sport, not just for Football. The stadium will not be built for multi-sports and will be built to enhance the fan and player experience.”
Former Socceroo and Geelong boy Steve Horvat has been part of the group since its inception. Horvat told the meeting he wants to build a club with deep roots in the local football community. He outlined an ambitious plan to help grow football’s talent base in Melbourne’s west to create a homegrown football powerhouse.
“I know there’s a hunger, a real appetite for getting involved and being part of something that represents the West.” Steve said. “Part of the process is engaging with the community like tonight. For too long the Western Region has been neglected when it comes to elite sporting infrastructure.”
“This is a game changer. A privately funded stadium specific for Football currently does not exist in Australia. This will be world class with fans asked to input into its design and make-up.”
The planning has been detailed, the dream is big, and the excitement is palpable. Western Melbourne is Australian football’s home ground and this proposal aims to bring it home.
FFA plans to announce its finally two new licensees on October 31st this year.