Western Melbourne Group spells out ‘game-changing’ plans for A-League stadium

Key stakeholders behind the successful bid to bring an A-League expansion franchise to Western Melbourne have revealed further details concerning their new stadium plans, which they say will be a “game-changer” not just for football, but for Australian sport as a whole.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) announced on Thursday that A-League expansion franchises had been awarded to Western Melbourne Group (WMG) and Macarthur South West Sydney. WMG will join the A-League in 2019-20, with Macarthur South West Sydney to be added the following season.

WMG has pledged to develop the first football-specific stadium in Australia. Located in Wyndham, 25km west of Melbourne’s central business district, the 15,000-capacity stadium has been handed a price tag of Aus$150m (£85.3m/€94.9m/$107.6m) and will represent the first public-private partnership utilised to develop a sports facility in the country.

Wyndham Council has granted WMG a parcel of land in exchange for them funding the stadium development, along with associated commercial and residential buildings, in an effort to boost an under-utilised area. Kate Roffey, director of deals for Wyndham Council, believes the model can act as a template for future sporting developments.

“This is a concept whereby councils and governments have a lot of land at their disposal, and they can leverage it to build infrastructure, which is what we have done in this case,” Roffey told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

“A portion of the land will be used for commercial and residential development. The value that is captured off that development will then go back to pay not just for the stadium, but we are (also) building an elite sporting precinct there. We will have training facilities there, we hope to have a home for the Matildas (women’s national team) and we have started speaking to other groups (about investing in the area).

“We hope to have a sports science treatment centre and some research (institutes) as well. That’s the value capture deal. We need to be more creative about how we think about funding other infrastructure. State and federal dollars need to go to schools and hospitals. That’s why we need to think differently and help out where we can.”

She added: “We provide the land, they provide the facilities which are good for Wyndham and the community. If there is a huge windfall … then council will get a return … that is built in … this is a game-changer for infrastructure in Australia. There is not enough state and federal money to go around.”

WMG board member, former national team player Steve Horvat, said further details about the wider development will be revealed shortly, but the stadium vision is centred on an intimate venue which will create a strong fan experience.

“We are committed to making sure we can create the best fan experience possible,” Horvat told Fox Sports. “We want to have the first row of seats a couple of metres behind the goals – there will be no provision for the other rectangular sports to play on the ground. The consideration for the use of the stadium will always put football as the priority.

“We travelled to the USA, and saw what Los Angeles FC were doing – and that has become the template. The sightlines, the closeness to the field. It is all about the atmosphere. We want to keep it nice and tight, and make it intimidating for our opponents.”

He added: “It’s going to be a game changer – the first time we can brand a stadium as football. Our dream was for the fan to have finally have a stadium that felt like home, in the way that Anfield or Old Trafford does. It’s about creating a template for the game.”

 Images: Western Melbourne Group