With Sydney FC confirming yesterday they’ve moved their round four clash with Perth Glory to ANZ Stadium, there’s no doubt the club appear, at this stage, to be setting the Sydney agenda in the battle against the new kid on the block, the West Sydney Wanderers.
While the A-League’s new western Sydney franchise has been all the talk over the past few months, as they held fan forums, announced their new colours and logo, played their first few games, and held a membership launch, suddenly the agenda has shifted to the east.
By capturing the Italian great Alessandro Del Piero, Sydney FC have not only stepped up to the home plate, but right now appear to be slugging home runs every time they step up to bat.
Suddenly things have gone a little more quiet out west.
On Sunday, on the day Sydney FC were holding their fan day at Leichhardt, attracting a crowd of about 3,500 for a trial against the Newcastle Jets, the Wanderers made a far more modest home “debut” at Parramatta Stadium, playing a trial in front of just over 1000 fans.
The Red and Black Bloc did their bit, not stopping for the full 90 minutes, but you couldn’t help but think that the recent negative headlines about crowd trouble and the Del Piero signing had had an early impact on the Wanderers “brand”.
Sydney being Sydney, fickle and prone to following fads, it’s no huge surprise to find the momentum has shifted towards the bigger fish in town, particular in light of the capture of a player that appeals not only to those that love hype, but those that live football.
There’s no doubt the Sydney FC team, led by new CEO Tony Pignata, seem hell bent on capturing as much of the early attention as possible, using Del Piero to create plenty of hype and momentum.
While the decision to move the round four match away from Allianz has been forced upon them by the decision to resurface the stadium during the football season, strategically it appears to have been well thought out.
In past seasons the corresponding game has been played at either Parramatta Stadium or Campbelltown, but Pignata and Co. are banking on a big start.
With the club confident it can sell out the first home game, in round two against Newcastle, and the Sydney derby a week later at Parramatta likely to sell out, there’s hope of a crowd pushing 30,000 at ANZ on Sunday, 28th October.
With a 5pm kick-off, the club will hope they can attract families as well as those that want to see Del Piero.
Certainly, it’s a play right into an area the Wanderers would consider to be their own.
Having said that, the new club made their own strategic decision earlier this week not to host the round two derby at ANZ, but keep it at Parramatta.
No doubt this was a decision based on fan feedback, and Lyall Gorman and his team are to be applauded for listening to the fans.
At the two fan forums I attended, the clear message was “no to ANZ”, and while it may have been tempting to cash-in by shifting to Homebush, it appears a decision that should create goodwill, a bumper atmosphere for the derby, and might create more demand later.
Sydney FC had no such hesitation.
Providing an affordable family ticket, no more than say $50, might be another way of targeting a demographic and market that the Wanderers would be hoping to capture.
It’s all a fascinating side-show.
At the very least, the Wanderers appear to have shaken their cross town rival out of a slumber, and for the sake of the A-League, that was much needed.
The gauntlet, it seems, has been thrown down to the new kid in town.
The Wanderers claim they will go about their own thing, and there’s certainly no big names or stars among the five foreign visa players or the rest of the squad assembled by Tony Popovic and Ante Milicic.
Whether they respond with a big name of their own, or by building patiently, over time, remains to be seen, but what it is clear is that Sydney, the city, is in for a fascinating summer.