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Manchester City could shake up Oz football


The acquisition of a 80 per cent stake by Manchester City in Melbourne Heart is being broadly welcomed in Australian football as an opportunity to shake up and reinvigorate the game down under.

The past few years have been relatively frugal and, at times, uncertain. Football Federation of Australia finances have been in a mess that necessitated a government review in 2011, the Central Coast Mariners have had documented financial issues and the Heart have been on the market for some time.

Thus for the so-called richest club in the world, recently up to sixth in Deloitte's Football Money League from seventh the previous year with revenues of €316 million to invest in the A-League is viewed an event of such extraordinary possibilities as to change the dynamics within the industry.

Recent growth has been hard earned, welcome and incremental. It is hoped that the involvement of Manchester City can now shift the ground within, and around, the game. With the Premiership club having apparently approached Sydney FC, and been rebuffed, Heart is seen as the perfect vehicle.

The globalisation of the A-League will now step up apace - in terms of players, matches in Australia and abroad, Asian tours, television exposure and more. City's investment is part of a global strategy with subsidiaries in key markets, and leverage is obtained by promoting the brand and group.

The potential for a higher level of player is obvious, and to extract the highest return on investment City need the highest level of football possible; this will place an upward pressure on both the salary cap and the standard of the league that is seen as very welcome.

But aside from the international credibility brought by Manchester City (as well as its massive financial strength that dwarfs all other sports in Australia and its leading management expertise), above all the most exciting prospect falls on player development. City is expected to invest in youth development which seen as inadequate at present. Sometimes high fees have been charged for access to coaching courses.

Many Australian commentators would prefer majority Australian ownership to protect their long-term strategic goals but, in the absence of this and with reasonable protections in place, it is accepted that such partnerships may ultimately allow these goals to be met.