Time for FFA to be bold in the west
With Football West advocating for a second A-League team, a position long-argued by Chris Egan, he looks at where that should be - and there's only one place!14 August 2016 | Chris Egan
Football is at a critical juncture in Australia and it needs momentum from the west to transform, just as it did in the late 1990s. The recent support behind a second A-League side is a good move by Football West.
As I suggested last year in FootballToday the only option based on historic grievances between Perth and Fremantle is for a second side to be located in the port city. While Joondalup, Mandurah and Rockingham are parochial, nothing matches the incredible rivalry between Perth and ‘Freo’ in all sports.
This is also a critical moment for private investors to realise the opportunity they have to create a profitable club from day one, with the added advantage of a club bar operating 365 days a year. Fremantle City Council are currently in the process of a $20 million upgrade of the ground. This is further advanced than any comparable bids from other locations that do not have the same entertainment options to drag casual punters from.
According to the Council:
"It is the City’s intention to have the project completed by 2021 but the first steps are to produce a detailed masterplan and funding model for the precinct. This will include community consultation."
As any business person knows, now is the time for football to act.
If Football is involved in a ground that was at one stage touted as a venue for a second NSL club, it will be able to have the same sound financial base as South Melbourne has at Lakeside.
A Fremantle Club doesn't have to play all its games in Freo, but it has to have at least some, particularly against sides that do not have the same box office appeal. A national side playing in the port town would have the place in a frenzy. It would draw fans from all sporting codes.
Australia looks to the MLS model; now is the perfect time for national and international business interests to see the sustainability of a Fremantle Oval precinct.
Fremantle has had a cooperative link to the world game for over 100 years. In the 1890s, the ground and class battles experienced up-river in Perth were a problem not faced by the sports-loving public of the port town. In battles over ground hire fees with the Council, it was Australian Rules Football sides who advocated that the differing sporting codes should be able to use the ground for the benefit of all sport.
In Freo there was no code war, it was just about beating Perth. For visiting sides from international lacrosse to rugby union, it was Fremantle Oval where the state held some of its most important sporting contests. It also attracted the biggest crowds, which the Victoria Pavillion, the oldest sports grandstand in the state, testifies.
As a passionate lover of football and someone who went to university in Freo, I know that there are unprecedented partnerships and sponsorship opportunities that could be made. Thursday night games would revitalise the cappuccino strip and bar sales would be enormous. You also tap into fans who would not even think of heading to Perth to watch a football game.
From the 1890s till today, Freo is as parochial as any major regional town in Australia.
It may be swallowed up in urban sprawl but sense of place is still very strong. When the Sailing Championships a few years ago came to town, the State Government put Perth signage boards around town. The locals responded with hand made banners to ensure people knew that this was Freo!
Fremantle captures the heart of its people who feel they can not love any other city the way they do their vibrant relaxed seaside life.
Portuguese, Croatian and a host of ethnic migrant groups have made incredible success stories. It has a community spirit that is active and strong. There are benefit concerts to homeless; South Fremantle High School was the first carbon neutral school in the country; and the Council was one of the first that wanted to ban plastic bags – before the State government refused. Another chip to add to the Freo shoulder!
It acts independent, thinks global and is looking for something to re-define the Freo of the future after a decade of inaction.
A combination Fremantle Council drive with FFA and Football West support would help turn not only the city’s fortunes around, but that of Australian football in the west.
However, for anybody questioning my support, my blood would stay purple.
perth glory, a-league, fremantle, freo