The takeover of Melbourne Heart by Manchester City is the talk of the A-League, but there are a few major changes we don't expect to see despite the huge announcement1. The A-League turns into a one-horse race
While Heart have gone from boiled lollies to gold-embossed chocolates in terms of financial resources, the restrictions of the salary cap will mean that the new owners will have to be savvy where they spend their money. While adding star power to a list is a quick fix, the entrenched issues at the club revolve around staff resourcing and facilities. This is where the investment needs to go before the club starts paying seven figure sums for players.
2. The Heart's best Aussie talent turning up at Manchester City
Short of the Heart unearthing the next Mark Viduka or Harry Kewell, there is little hope of the new owner scooping up the best talent here to develop the mothership. City have one of the top five squads in the world in terms of talent and won't see this as an opportunity to siphon off the best young players. The arrangement will allow players to trial and train with the incredible well-resourced club and that should be a huge fillip for their development.
3. The Heart surpass Victory as the most supported Melbourne club
Victory had five years to establish itself in a one-team town before Heart came into existence and made the most of that by winning two championships, securing the majority of sports fans in Australia's sporting capital. While Heart made some early inroads in setting itself up in opposition to Victory, the strategy of being 'not Melbourne Victory' hasn't really caught fire. While there is a core of 40,000 Victory fans and optimistically 10,000 Heart fans in Victoria, the remainder of interested fans (circa 500,000) are almost exclusively nominally Victory fans. To get those fans engaged and to switch clubs, Heart would have to do something extraordinary in the first couple of years.
4. Victory change their approach
The arrival of Heart into the A-League as a fresh faced, enthusiastic club with a preference for pretty football did prompt a reaction for their cross-city rivals, and a new board swept Ernie Merrick out the door on the basis that it wanted to develop the on-field brand into a more aesthetically pleasing style. But having made that change, and suffered considerable difficulties along the way, Victory will continue to back themselves despite the potential game-changing developments up the road. There is also a chance that a stronger rivalry with Heart on the field, very much in the mould of the City-Utd rivalry, could benefit both clubs.
5. The A-League become one of the top leagues in Asia
Short of a bunch of cashed-up businessmen buying up every club in the league, then there is little chance that this investment will precipitate the sort of growth in investment which will allow Australia to compete with the likes of the K-League, the J-League or those leagues in the Middle East. The fundamental reason is a lack of population. While the A-League has developed, Australia is a mature sporting market and a very competitive landscape among codes, meaning the sponsorship and audience dollars aren't there to sustain a significantly higher wage base for players. City's investment has more to do with a global strategy than a genuine commercial opportunity and it seems to be a one-off rather than a beginning of a trend.
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