There has been no shortage of news from the A-League’s newest member in recent weeks.
Western United FC have announced a host of new signings and even shocked the league with the incredibly well-kept secret that homesick Mark Rudan will be the club’s inaugural manager.
Rudan has certainly played his part in trying to stoke what are to this point imaginary derby flames between his new club and fellow Victorian outfits Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City.
Apparently, the Victory versus City derby isn’t a real rivalry and lacks atmosphere! We’re assured that the United versus Victory derbies will be much spicier, which will no doubt raise the ire of the remaining City fans who will be furious at losing the claim to being Victory’s biggest local rival.
A bold statement from a club that hasn’t played a game yet.
Beyond that, I’m surprised no one seems too concerned by the fact that a number of the club’s new signings have come with Rudan from the Phoenix.
Filip Kurto and Max Burgess have both swapped the yellow and black for United’s green and black and one has to wonder how early in the piece they might have been influenced into moving with Rudan to the A-League’s newest clubs.
This is a competition, after all.
The lack of NPL players being given an opportunity thus far is another slight against the club, given this was another of the promises they made in their initial pitch. There’s still time for Rudan to address this with the rest of his recruiting, so perhaps we will wait and see on that front.
Players and coaches aside, there’s still no proper update on United’s home stadium, and while they will play at least eight of their 13 home games next season in Geelong at the oval-shaped GMHBA Stadium, the venue for the remaining five games remains unconfirmed to this point.
No soil has turned, no public update on how the club is going getting through the maze of red tape that must be involved in a stadium project of this magnitude.
They continue to maintain that, despite this lack of progress, they’re optimistic of a 2021-22 season move-in – a timeline which looks less and less likely with each passing day.
Football Federation Australia doesn’t seem to mind.
In fact, they don’t seem to mind that their newest Melbourne club – which we’re expected to believe was picked in part because Fox Sports wanted an extra team in each of Victoria’s and Sydney’s capital cities – does not feature the word “Melbourne” in their name and will play the majority of their home games in a city which loathes to be included under Melbourne’s ever-expanding umbrella.
Of course, why would the FFA complain?
A-League boss Greg O’Rourke says the club has met all their financial commitments for license payments, which represents a much-needed sugar hit to the tune of $15 million to the FFA bank account.
Apparently he and the FFA were banking on a 2022-23 move-in, which means they never actually believed Western United could achieve their public goal of being in their new, privately funded stadium by 2021-22, or they’re just making it up as they go along.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid believer that football clubs in Australia need to invest much more strongly in their stadia and infrastructure.
The fact that so many of our top-flight clubs need to lease venues for matches and – in some cases – don’t even own their training grounds is a poor reflection on the state of the game.
Apart from being valuable assets, these investments can help clubs eventually turn a profit.
While I remain positive about an A-League club finally getting its own stadium, I cringe when I think about the potential damage already being done by them having to play the part of a travelling circus in their crucial, formative years.
Unless Western United are an instant on-field success, which they may be under the guidance of Rudan, it’s hard to see enough fans getting on board to tide the club over until they’re in a shiny new stadium.