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Wanderers fans are reportedly uneasy about the sale of the club. Wanderers fans are reportedly uneasy about the sale of the club. Featured
09 September 2013 Posted by 

Unease over sale of Wanderers

By Anthony Stavrinos

FOR what’s meant to be a confidential process, the sale of the Western Sydney Wanderers is generating an impressive number of sensational headlines.

While officials are not updating media throughout the process or providing any comment, a steady flow of leaks and exclusive stories provide updates on which potential buyers are in the running.

The Australian Financial Review reported that Manchester City – considered one of football’s wealthiest clubs and owned by Sheikh Mansour, whose family rules Abu Dhabi - and another English Premier League club had investigated making a bid for the Wanderers.

Manchester City denied any interest in the Wanderers sale but a report since claiming cross-town rival Sydney FC rejected a recent bid by Manchester City to acquire a stake in it, suggests the EPL outfit may have more than a passing interest in the A-League.

But Western Sydney Wanderers executive chairman Lyall Gorman said he had received no confirmation of EPL clubs expressed interest in the sale.

“My opinion is if there was, I would be aware of it. We speak with UBS regularly and I think we’d be aware of those organisations that have currently expressed an interest,” Gorman told the Tribal Football website.

German powerhouse, Borussia Dortmund, was also a potential suitor after a senior club official told local media of plans to purchase a ‘feeder’ club in the Asia-Pacific and confirmed his club had discussed with Football Federation Australia officials the potential acquisition of an A-League team.

The FFA, which owns the Wanderers, has engaged investment bank UBS to find a suitable buyer willing to meet the $15 million price tag, that can also consolidate the club’s phenomenal debut season success.

David Hagger, heads of Deloitte’s Corporate Finance team for western Sydney, says a UK or European club acquiring the Wanderers could be a smart business move.

“You've got the potential for example with the connection between the European clubs and Australia for an owner to maybe, for example, have a UK Premier League club and a feeder club in the A-League in Australia, through which merchandise from the UK club could also be marketed,” he says.

"Why wouldn't someone who owns a Premier League club, potentially buy an Australian A-League club? They can bring the corporate knowledge and ideas from a more mature market into an undeveloped market.

“Potentially also there's quid pro quo, because if I own both clubs and I've got the next Tim Cahill down here, maybe I can secure him for my Premier League club before someone else does.”

Hagger says he’s not aware of such an idea being floated, but in the globally-focused sporting world, it made complete sense and there was no reason it couldn't happen.

The behind-the-scenes excitement began around mid-August, in the lead-up to UBS calling for expressions of interest in the Wanderers, when news emerged that a rival code had launched an audacious bid to buy the club.

Penrith Panthers declared an early interest in buying the club, but the FFA’s decision-makers responded with a swift, reflex-like rejection of its bid.

FFA chief executive, David Gallop, refused the Panthers access to a 50-page document prepared by UBS, titled Project Ono, which details all aspects of the club including finances, playing roster, sponsorships, staff and community engagement plans.

"Why would we contemplate selling the Wanderers to a club from another code?" Gallop told News Limited. “And while we are posing these questions, why would a club from another code want to invest their money and build up a rival?"

Penrith Panthers CEO Warren Wilson criticised the FFA’s swift rejection of his organisation, suggesting it potentially turned away the top bidder. "Personally I can't believe soccer was silly enough to say no to us," Wilson said.

"They should have at least let us in the door and put a price on the table. We might have been the biggest bidder yet they've shut it down."

But Gallop said the highest offer was not necessarily the best for the future of the club and A-League and the FFA would be careful to avoid selling the club to “anyone who we believe can’t align the community interests with the business interests.”

While Gallop has been roundly applauded for his handling of the Panthers bid, Fairfax Media revealed the FFA’s previous administration had unsuccessfully approached the Mounties Group to buy the club, but the asking price was over its budget.

The same report also revealed that former NSL club, Marconi, were interested in acquiring the Wanderers to enable the proud club’s return to top football competition.

Marconi president Vince Foti confirmed the club would bid for the Wanderers and was was “investigating what the possibilities could be”.

It’s understood that Marconi’s proposal would see no changes to the Wanderers’ name, brand, identity and colours and the team would continue playing its matches at Parramatta Stadium, while training at Marconi Stadium at Bossley Park.

There was a possibility the club could permanently relocate to Marconi Stadium if it was significantly redeveloped to increase its capacity and overhaul existing facilities.

There are indications that sections of the Wanderers’ vast fan base is beginning to feel uneasy with the handling of the club’s sale, especially after learning of several potential buyers through media reports.

In a post titled ‘FFA Efforts To Sell Wanderers Miss The Mark’, ‘Mack’, who runs the popular unofficial Wanderers supporters website and discussion forum (www.westsydneyfootball.com) urges the FFA to revisit the concept of an ownership structure which offers fans a collective stake in the club.

“The Western Sydney Wanderers must not be sold to a group who will use the club as a pawn to improve the bottom line of elements outside the Western Sydney Wanderers Football Club,” he writes.

Further down in his post, Mack urges Gallop and the FFA to consider an ownership structure which offers supporters a stake, to protect the interests of the club.

“If David Gallop and the FFA are looking for a group of people who will have the best interest of the club in mind then he need look no further than the Wanderers supporters,” he writes.

“If not the Wanderers supporters as a collective, then David Gallop must sell this club to a person or persons who have the sole interest of making the Western Sydney Wanderers the biggest sporting club in Australia. To do otherwise would betray the ideals this fledgling club was built upon.”

You can read Mack’s full post at: http://www.westsydneyfootball.com/_/wanderers-club-articles/ffa-efforts-to-sell-wanderers-miss-the-mark-r425



Michael Walls
0407 783 413

Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) covers the business and community issues of the Greater Western Sydney region of Australia. WSBA is the popular media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities and networks.