With the A-League Men Grand Final occurring today, Kick360‘s Neal Symons exclusively sat down with the Western United Chairman Jason Sourasis to discuss the plans of the club moving forward
Jason, just to start off, this is the biggest game in club history. You’ve got 9000 members, you beat the biggest club in Australia. Three years into your existence, what does this mean to you?
It means everything. From a brand building perspective, results on the park is the best way to get supporters and to get them to grow your support base. Anyone who was at that Melbourne Victory game, the atmosphere that our supporters created, coupled with Victory which have obviously got the biggest active supporter base, it was just an awesome experience as a football follower.
If you were, I suppose a new football fan new to the Western United journey, I can’t see anyone who was at a game not coming back, and being more and more passionate and telling their friends about it. From a club perspective, it was actually quite emotional to be honest, it had everything.
No one expected us to beat Victory. We’ve got injuries, they pretty much had a full squad, Ikonomidis coming off the bench who is arguably one of the best players in Asia. It summarised what we want as a brand for our club. So it was all heart. It was was nonstop fight. Our players went there with a mindset of, ‘we’re not the biggest club, we don’t get the support that that we probably should get, no one thinks we can win those backs against the wall’. We came out and did what internally what we were expected to do, because that’s what our club is built upon. It’s resilience, it’s built on backs against the wall. We played some amazing football. The whole night was emotional, and probably one of the happiest moments of my life
Do you believe that the Grand Final is probably the best thing that’s happened to the club by way accelerating the growth of the fanbase?
From a marketing perspective absolutely! A lot of people still out there probably didn’t know who Western United were if you weren’t from the west. So being at a Grand Final, that will be the pinnacle for our sport this year. It’ll get a lot more eyeballs on us. A lot of our work and a lot of the narrative you see now is around ‘East Meets West’, and basically coming in with what we stand for in Victoria and the region that we stand for. Being in the grand final , highlighting what Western actually stands and the fact that we have everything to do with the West, being in the grand final, it’s the best form of marketing.
Construction on the new training base, hat’s been heralded as a major milestone for the football club. How are things progressing on about two, three months onwards?
Yeah, it’s fantastic. You can actually see the training fields marked out, there’s so much work going on out there right now, accelerated work to ensure that our training fields and elite training facility within 12 to 15 months is actually up and running. When you’re doing an elite training facility, there’s a lot of services, a lot of pre works, but actually getting the surface to a level where it’s at the elite level that we need, that’s a 12 month process in itself. You can actually see the grounds and the fields marked out, it’s phenomenal.
Ultimately, we should all be playing rectangular stadiums. We want demand for tickets and seating to exceed the supply and actually have that environment and atmosphere that our supporters get to experience. To get the result we got now to get to a grand final where, the atmosphere will hopefully go up a notch again. These games are how you build passion. That’s how you build a fan base.
Your final message to all Western United fans before the grand final this weekend?
Thank you to our supporters. It’s not easy to be a Western United supporter, we play in five, six different venues in different states, in oval stadiums that aren’t packed because of the lack of infrastructure. For our supporters that have stayed alongside our foundation supporters and the new ones that are growing with us, we thank them. Even the atmosphere last week against Victory, and the 3000-4000 supporters we had there in our bays, these memories that will live with them forever and that will live with us forever.
As we slowly move into our 5000 seat stadium in the next 12 to 15 months, followed by the main stadium and as we move into our home, our permanent home and keep investing in the community and growing our supporter base, these people that are on the journey from the start, they are the foundation of our club. To have the members that we’ve got when we don’t have a home, we’ve been nomads, just imagine what that’s going to look like in the next five years where within a two kilometre radius of our where our stadium will be, there’s 30,000 or 40,000 people moving into that area as residents within Wyndham.
We know what our club will look like in five to 10 years, we’ve got ambitions and our ambition is to be one of the biggest clubs in the league. We will be the only club in the league that owns its own stadium and it’s own broader precinct. I looked at I suppose enviously when we entered the competition of the support that Melbourne Victory has, but ultimately they were the only club in Victoria for a long time. Now, we are the west of Victoria and a lot of new supporters are jumping on board, a lot of existing supporters are enjoying the ride. So thank you to supporters and I feel like it is the start of a journey and a lot of good happy memories coming.