Time and time again we hear the same question – “What is Melbourne Heart’s identity?”
Even after last week’s purchase of the club by English heavyweights Manchester City, many myths about Melbourne Heart are still circling.
Apparently the club was broke. The chances of joining North Queensland, Gold Coast and the Knights in the A-League cemetery were realistic, or so Victory supporters would like to think.
This is of course despite the fact the club was one of only three to make a profit last season.
Foundation partner and one of Australia’s biggest banks Westpac also re-signed as major sponsor for three more seasons.
If their lack of money didn’t send them to the grave, surely their lack of fans would.
How could a city of over four million people sustain two teams when 3,995,000 had already aligned themselves with Victory?
But of course, if South Melbourne were to enter the league in Heart’s place, everything would be fine.
They are drawing incredible average crowds of over one million people – yes you read that correctly – to their home matches at Lakeside Stadium! Their away contingent is also to be marvelled at.
Some still question whether it would be a good idea to allow another NSL side back into the competition, so they turned their attention to Geelong.
Why to Geelong? Because even watching a team on a 20-game losing streak is better than anything else in the town.
They could do a deal with the Cats and have the same colours and the same cheer squad – lame banners and tame chants would be at an all time high, that would fix the problem with soccer hooligans!
But even if Doris got a bit angry and threw her nonsensical banner at a police officer, at least it wouldn’t get in the Herald Sun – the Geelong Advertiser is all they read over there.
Maybe Geelong is a bit too far away. Split the difference and you have the West Melbourne Heart.
They’ll still play at AAMI Park and train at Epping/La Trobe/Lakeside/Goschs Paddock, but they have West in their name, and everyone knows that automatically adds 10,000 people to your crowds.
As people from other states may fail to understand, this simply cannot be the case. There is no distinct geographical difference in Melbourne. The city itself is almost directly southernmost of the centre of the state, leaving the east and the west even.
Sydney is still very much suburban in terms of sporting facilities. If you grow up in Manly, you’ll most likely support Manly in the NRL.
In Melbourne, this is simply not the case due to the closeness in location of each AFL team to the other, and the fact they play out of two stadiums.
The closest you could go is the north-west and south-east split, which is the two main population areas of the state, but that would be merely for the sake of it. Both teams would still play in the city centre.
The fact is nothing would have changed the Heart for the better, bar of course a change in ownership.
As fantastic as the previous administration were in keeping a tight budget, they forgot the main aim of football; to win matches.
Winning matches will enable you better crowds and therefore more sponsorship and more money. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out.
As the A-League is so young and football is not yet as ‘mainstream’ as it would like to be, the casual fan is a prominent sight at matches where a winning team is playing.
Australians are known to jump on the bandwagon of a successful side, and if this side has enough prolonged success and really appeals to the casual fan, they may just sign up as a member.
In Melbourne, less than 1% of the population are members of an A-League side. The potential for growth is staggering and this is why Manchester City has come to the party.
They can grow their brand while also making Melbourne Heart one of the best and biggest clubs in the A-League.
So, do you really need an identity to have fans?
Sure, Melbourne Heart does not have an identity. But what exactly does Brisbane Roar stand for? Or Perth Glory? What A-League club truly has an identity?
Sydney FC like to proclaim themselves as the ‘Galacticos’ of the A-League, while Melbourne Victory pride themselves on being the most supported club, despite treating their fans with utter disrespect, but isn’t this more branding than identity?
Celtic are Catholic while Rangers are Protestant. That is identity.
You cannot expect a franchise to build an identity in such a small period of time.
The Manchester City takeover is only the second chapter in the history of the Heart. Over time, these franchises will build identities as they add to their history and turn into real football clubs.
The A-League is not even 10 seasons old yet. What 10-year old has formed their own identities and opinions?
One thing is for sure, the teen years should be exciting.