When I think Albury I think of either the Victorian/NSW border or the extremely talented Opals star Lauren Jackson. A-League football seems very out of place when mentioned with the City of Albury and to me a very poor choice of venue from Melbourne Heart as their regional fixture. Even the most passionate of fans will struggle to make the 650km round trip across the border.
When I think of regional rounds I think of two valid points; what will it do to promote the game in the region? And what impact will it have for the home club? The first question will have a similar impact no matter where the game is played; local media will be flooded with coverage, local schools with have a football focus this week and for that one weekend the town will become football experts. The after effect may trickle through and some children may find a new appreciation for the game seeing it at the top domestic level Australia has to offer, but soon after I have a feeling the town will quickly return to normal.
Secondly, how will the Heart benefit from the match? Maybe they have received a financial bonus from the local council promoting the game, and some goodwill from the FFA about taking the game to all parts of the country, but apart from this I see little benefit for my club to travel to Albury. I don’t see the club suddenly finding a large fan base from the future from the 46,000 people who choose to call Albury their home. There is no future benefit to playing this game in Albury thus making this a very short sighted decision.
Last week Heart only managed to attract a crowd of 7,647 to a game that many pencilled in for a 10,000 plus fixture. Kewell and Del Piero were playing and the Manchester City ownership news had given Heart fans a much needed boost. This clearly states as a supporter base the club is not where it should be or needs to be. Languishing bottom of the table with finals hopes virtually gone with ten week remaining supporters may be forgiven for not attending but opportunities such as the regional fixture shouldn’t be wasted at locations such as Albury. The club needs to look at the bigger picture and take their opportunities for what they are, a chance to grow the fan base of the club and get people coming along to AAMI Park on a regular basis.
The club should have looked at more suitable options such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong to host this type of match. Ultimately the club would have benefited from these locations far greater on a long term basis given their superior population and travel time to Melbourne.
|Population||Kms to Melb||Return Trip||Daily Trains|
Looking at the above table it shows far greater opportunities for those fans in regional areas of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong to attend future games at AAMI Park and purchase club memberships. Whilst I understand the regional round should be used to promote the game all over Australia, Heart need to be a little selfish and look at the long term benefits from these fixtures.
I would look at establishing supporter bases in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong and throwing down a challenge to these clubs. The most members of the supporter club will receive the right to host the next regional fixture of Melbourne Heart. Throw in an annual skills clinic and supporters night with some of the players and you might be able to establish a group of passionate supporters who are willing to make trips to Melbourne to see the team on a regular basis.
Good luck to Albury hosting Melbourne Heart this week, but I don’t see this as a viable long term prospect. We need to think smarter when it comes to growing the club and increasing our currently small supporter base.Google+