Infant club plans to be Asian football powerhouse

Geoff Lord, the Chairman of Australian A-League champion club Melbourne Victory intends to build the biggest sporting club in Australia and a powerhouse in Asian football. "I have always been passionate about building something Melbourne can identify with … to give something back which in 20, 30, 50 years' time becomes an icon would be a way of putting something back, not just in sport, but for the city," Lord told Michael Lynch of The Age. A former President of the famously successful Australian Rules AFL team Hawthorn Hawks, he admits he is still learning about soccer. But he knows a good sports business deal. In 2005, when Football Federation Australia was desperate for investors to help bankroll a Melbourne A-League club, and few were prepared to step forward, Lord provided enough capital, "reportedly $250,000", to become Chairman of the Victory board. He and his management team put together a five-year plan to cover sponsorship, members, revenue and crowds resulted in such exceptional revenue growth for the infant club that it had to revamp projections. Its membership, for instance, is now more than 15,500 and rising.

"Our full-year sponsorship number for 2007-08 is already ahead of schedule at A$2 million," Lord said. "We would try to grow that to $A3-$4 million a year over the next couple of years. "When you compare that to AFL clubs it's not an unreasonable objective. For every 100 people who follow AFL in this city, 50 follow soccer, probably more. For every 100 AFL people in Melbourne you have to divide them by 10, which is 10 per club. But if you have 50 people following soccer you just have to divide it by one as there is only Victory. So in sponsoring Victory you reach 50 people, not 10. So why shouldn't logic say that in time Melbourne Victory should be bigger than any Melbourne-based AFL club ... we are working on a business plan approach which will take us to those levels."

Lord's focus this season is also on increasing its off-field revenue. Lord and his management team wants to build the Victory brand so that irrespective of the team's on-field performance it can still make money. "We have also opened a merchandise store in Swan Street. If it works out we may then roll out a couple more. The one thing we haven't covered is gate receipts. We won't know those until game days and that depends to a large extent on being a successful team on the park," he said. "Our aim is to build up non-football related income, to have it regardless of our performance on the field. Gates are totally dependent on on-field success, and sponsorship and marketing are very dependent on it."

Lord also believes Australian business will catch on to the global market place that soccer, and A-League clubs in particular, can deliver. "As we go to Asia and play the Asian Champions League games, any Australian company with Asian affiliations is getting an added benefit of exposure in massive marketplaces. That's something that AFL can't deliver," he said. "I am informed that 120 million people watched the A-League grand final in 70 countries. My personal objective is to see if we could have all the A-League games being beamed live into Asia to boost audience ratings across different time-zones and give greater exposure to our game, the league and club sponsors."

Organising sporting trips and travel is something else on the Lord agenda. "We have registered the name, the Victoryans, which would be a bit like the Fanatics hopefully. By the time we get to the Asian matches we will be packaging trips. You could go to the next World Cup; we will be involved in that. We also want to do other sporting events, like cricket or tennis or whatever. "Longer term we will look at coaching academies which we are keen to do, coaching players in a live-in environment. It may include buying land and putting up accommodation."

Melbourne Victory kicked off its 2007/08 season by launching the Samsung “Kick for a Million” promotion which will see 10 supporters receive the chance to kick for A$1 million at Melbourne Victory's final home game for the season at Telstra Dome on 11 January 2008.. To enter, fans need to purchase any Samsung Mobile Phone from a participating Telstra Shop or Telstra Dealer and connect to the Telstra mobile network, or any other Samsung product, excluding LCD monitors and printers, from participating consumer electronics retailers nationally and enter online at www.samsung.com.au.

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