Ballarat: Gold Mine or Fools Gold?

Eugene Arocca has earmarked Ballarat as a regional market ripe for North’s picking. Like almost everything Arocca does it seems like a smart move. With the well publicised shit stadium deal at Docklands, selling home games has been seen as an imperative for North’s financial viability. But it’s fair to say that past administrations’ attempts to build any real secondary market have failed pretty dismally:

  1. Sydney – we pissed off the local AFL club, conceded a home ground advantage and the locals hated us (the “Boo a Roo” campaign was nothing short of disgraceful)
  2. Canberra – was a favourable little dung hill for a while, but the board didn’t have the balls to see out a long-term strategy, seduced by the cash of the Gold Coast …
  3. Gold Coast – looked like it could have worked, but the AFL forced the Roos hand on permanent relocation and the rest is history

Throughout these interstate forays, the local heartland was bleeding. No-one realised the extend until last season. The location-neutral ‘Kangaroos’ brand was finally identified as the lame experiment it was and North Melbourne was reclaimed. 34,000 people signed on.

So will Ballarat work?

There are some stark points of difference with North’s previous travels. Firstly, it’s an hour drive from NMFC heartland, not exactly a big deal for a low-drawing match. Secondly, there’s no question of which football code the locals follow. Drew Petrie, perhaps North’s most popular clubman, is a local. And North already have a four year affiliation with the North Ballarat VFL team.

But most of all, this administration seems smart enough not to fixate on immediate results. Entering into a footy stronghold is one thing, expecting to change the natives’ stripes is another. Real results in terms of supporters, and ultimately members, may not be seen for a generation.

But the real questions rest with the AFL. Do they have a willingness to invest $ in a footy stronghold (Tassy probably know the answer to that already)? Or will they pull a rabbit out of their hat and strike a favourable deal with Docklands, rendering the Ballarat experiment obsolete?

Either way, it is yet another example of the masterful Arocca-Brayshaw communications strategy. Positive media coverage and a story to highlight the daylight robbery of the Docklands stadium deal … it’s a brave new world of PR at NMFC headquarters.

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3 Comments

Filed under Off Field

3 responses to “Ballarat: Gold Mine or Fools Gold?

  1. Dean Millson

    It would be fantastic to see the league develop a rural base for AFL football in Victoria. It’s about the same travel time between Melbourne and Skilled Stadium, and it could be a gateway to a whole other market within northen Victoria – as all of a sudden, Shepperton, Horseham and Bendigo also become around an hours drive from a game. There aren’t really too many other ‘markets’ that we can make a drive into ‘locally’, we’re nicely hemmed in between tradtional supporter bases of the Bulldogs to the West, Essendon to North, and Carlton to the East. If there is anywhere in Victoria where we might be able to devlop our supporter base further it’s somewhere like Ballarat.

    With the new teams from Gold Coast and eventually West Sydney, there already has been some talk about a possible need for a new stadium to host the extra games when in Victoria. Melbourne is pretty much saturated for sporting venues now though imo, and will be even more so when the soccer stadium opens next year, so this idea isn’t as silly as it might seem. Unfortunately though, with the AFL’s focus firmly on the expansion of the game in other states, i can’t see them being willing to spend the money required to develop a stadium in Ballarat.

    Definitely a win-win strategy though for sure. Something to put pressure on Ian Collins down at the Docklands, while also demonstrating that we’re not just going to sit out our hands and wait for someone else to dictate our future.

    This is vintage Arocca imo, no wonder Collingwood were dirty on him leaving. He’s certainly made a fool out of them overlooking him for CEO. His appointment will ultimately be as significant to North Melbourne as both Ron Joseph signing Barassi or Greg Miller plucking Longmire and Carey from under Sydney’s nose. We’ve been blessed with some great players over the last 30 years, but other than perhaps Allen Aylett or Bob Ansett, we’ve been severely lacking in off field talent. While this is probably a long-shot, there is quite a lot of merit in at least exploring this idea. I’m sure there are a few victorian based club presidents/ceo’s wishing they’d thought about this first.

  2. Couldn’t really agree more Dean.

    Your point re: North’s lack of off field talent is pretty salient. The likes of Geoff Walsh and Greg Miller were strong administrators, but were not properly supported by the club IMO. They weren’t given the staffing resources they deserved, and ended up having to do too much on their own, ultimately leaving for better conditions elsewhere.

    So it’s great to see a man of Arocca’s talent be given complete support by Brayshaw and his Board.

  3. Dean Millson

    That’s a fair point I guess, although I don’t think either Greg Miller or Geoff Walsh are the same time of admistrators as Arocca. Both of them are excellent “football” adminstrators (probably much better than Eugene at managing the “football” side of things), but at the moment somewhere like North Melbourne it’s bigger and creative thinking that is necessary.

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