BALLARAT Red Devils are frustrated and disappointed that an opportunity to develop close community ties with A League club Melbourne Heart this year has been lost.
Ballarat City Council was unable to take up a partnership offer, which featured a showpiece regional soccer festival with Heart, owing to related costs and other event requirements.
Red Devils vice-president Andrew Burgess said missing out on hosting a festival and developing other relationships with the team was disappointing on several fronts for the city.
Burgess said Ballarat had a real chance to build on the success of an exhibition game Heart had played against the Red Devils at Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium early last year.
“It was a great success.”
He said the game had signalled there was a real opportunity for a partnership similar to the model the City of Ballarat had formed with AFL club North Melbourne, even if not on the same scale.
Burgess said a link with Heart would promote interaction between the general community, not just the soccer community, with an elite sporting club including hosting A-league matches, and development of the game and junior and senior levels in Ballarat.
He said there would also be opening for fund-raising opportunities to assist with the continued development of the Morshead Park soccer precinct, which was pivotal to the growth on the game in Ballarat.
City council first met with Melbourne Heart late last year regarding the proposal, which included the possibility of bringing an A League match to Ballarat.
City of Ballarat chief executive officer Anthony Schinck said the city was unable to take part this year owing to event requirements and related costs.
Mr Schinck did reinforce though the city council’s ongoing commitment to soccer and possibility in years to come of attracting A League games to Ballarat.
“On completion of the regional football facility (at Morshead Park), the city would look to attract A League games and other events.
“Council has invested $2.1 million into the regional football facility for Ballarat.
“This is the largest investment by council into a sport infrastructure project,” he said.
The project has also received $3.5m from the State Government.
Burgess said one of the biggest disappointments of the bid to get Heart to Ballarat this year had been a breakdown in communications, with soccer interests unable to get to the table with city council after the initial discussions in November.
Melbourne Heart community general manager Sue Crow said it had been disappointing not to get past first base for this year, but the door remained opened to Ballarat to get involved in regionals festivals in coming years.
“We had hoped to go to Ballarat (this year),” she told The Courier yesterday.
“We love going there and we’d love to get there next year.”
Melbourne Heart announced last week that Cardinia would host the first of three of its community football festivals from July 9, describing it as a “three-day extravanganza” in which it would engage with the soccer and business community through a series of clinics and events.
The other festivals will be at Brimbank and Whittlesea.