(WFI) Manchester City’s commercial growth continues apace with the acquisition of Melbourne Heart of Australia’s A-League.
The English Premier League club’s consortium partnered with the owners of National Rugby League team Melbourne Storm, who have a 20 percent stake.
Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to make Melbourne Heart one of the most successful football clubs in Australia and throughout the region.
“We believe the strong sports culture of Melbourne combined with the football and commercial expertise within our consortium will make for a powerful combination both on and off the pitch.”
In a statement on City’s website, Soriano promised that no drastic changes would be made for a few months, saying that time would be spent listening and learning before developing “a strategy for strengthening the club over time”.
Heart are propping up the 10-team A-League after managing only one win in 15 matches this season. They are captained by former Liverpool and Leeds United striker Harry Kewell.
Commenting on the possibility of changes to coaching staff and the players in the middle of the A-League season, Soriano said the new ownership group would not be making any major announcements until mid-2014.
Bart Campbell, chairman of the holding company Heart Consortium Group and of the Melbourne Storm, said: “Partnering with City to co-invest in Melbourne Heart will further strengthen the sporting landscape in one of the world’s greatest cities and bring a range of new capabilities to AAMI Park.
“We are excited to be a part of this unique project. It is our shared ambition to replicate the model that City created with the New York Yankees around New York City FC and for both organisations to benefit as a result.”
Speaking on behalf of the exiting board of Melbourne Heart FC, chairman Peter Sidwell said, “The board feels that with the successful establishment and evolution of the club over the last four years, Melbourne Heart now stands on sound commercial and financial foundations.
“The board feels that the next phase of the club’s development can be most fully realised with this new investment and the associated benefits that the enthusiasm of the consortium will bring”.
Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop said the acquisition of the Melbourne Heart licence was a huge vote of confidence in the future of the Hyundai A-League. “Football has moved into the mainstream of Australian sport and is ideally placed to benefit from the boom in football across Asia,” said Gallop.
“Manchester City and their Australian partners have made a strategic investment and I welcome them to our growing competition. It’s another sign that the world is taking notice of Australian football.
“Manchester City and their partners will bring a high level of expertise in football and sports business matters and that can only strengthen the Melbourne Heart and the Hyundai A-League as a whole.”
City’s takeover of Melbourne Heart follows its formation of New York City Football Club last May, a new MLS team for the 2015 season.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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