After months of speculation, the community has finally been given its strongest indication yet on whether new A-League club Western United will play competition games in Ballarat with the backing of the club's chiefs.
Speaking exclusively to The Courier, director of football at Western United Steve Horvat said while no games have been confirmed, the club is working hard to establish itself within Ballarat.
"Our CEO Maurice Bisetto has been in discussion with Mars Stadium and the region about playing at least two or three games per season in Ballarat until our stadium is built in our third season," Horvat said.
Horvat added that within the club "there's definitely an appetite and discussion that we're having with Ballarat in terms of playing some games over the next two seasons in Ballarat."
Horvat confirmed that if Western United were to play A-League games in Ballarat next season, they would be at Mars Stadium and not Morshead Park. He said this was purely a logistical decision to accommodate for the number of fans attending the game.
"Our club is about putting the supporters first. Although we'd love to play on a rectangle stadium we just feel that we won't be able to accommodate the numbers we would expect to draw for an A-League game at Morshead.
"Although (Morshead Park) is a great facility and I know there's a discussion going on in the region about upgrading the ground to a bigger capacity which I think would be great for the region, in terms of hosting A-League opposition we have to look at Mars Stadium."
The club has been holding community information forums over the past few weeks to hear from its fans across Western Victoria. Horvat said the response he has seen at these forums for soccer in Ballarat has been eyeopening.
It's been incredible, we had fan forum in Geelong and actually had people travel from Ballarat and come down to that fan forum.Director of football at Western United Steve Horvat.
"The reception in that region has been incredibly supportive and I think if you have a look in some of the fan groups online there's a ton of discussion about Ballarat and having a presence in Ballarat.
"We know there's demand there and that's why we're making sure we accommodate the demand and have a real presence.
Western United supporter group member Sonya Macdonald was at the club's community forum in Geelong and said she was blown away by what she saw.
"It's fair to say that it could be considered unexpected that a national level of football would be truly interested in having a direct connection with Ballarat," she said.
"We've seen as a supporter group that their connected vision for the west is true and real... the news of potentially having games at our stadium is truly crazy."
"(Western United) are so excited, they are real football people... it wasn't so long ago they were fans and they truly want to unite the west."
Ballarat District Soccer Association president Herman Bogers said it would be a dream come true to see professional soccer played in the region.
It'd be like a life-long dream in a way.BDSA president Herman Bogers
"When (Morshead Park) went up our ambition was to host the highest level of competition we could and hopefully down the track it'll be a lot more than just a few games."
While at the helm of the BDSA, Bogers has seen the participation rate of soccer rise every year and believes a direct partnership between Western United would only increase the association's numbers.
"It'd provide a big shot in the arm for the sport. It definitely would make a difference to growth, we've seen the sport grow for continuously for a few years now and I could only see that increase by having game's so readily available."
Ballarat supporters will have their opportunity to interact directly with players, coaches and representatives from Western United on Wednesday July 17 at Morshead Park when the club hosts the Ballarat community forum.
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