Melbourne Heart have finally been sold, though the consortium taking over the club come with a name quite a bit bigger than previously thought. Manchester City have joined with Rugby League side Melbourne Storm to successful purchase the Heart, effective immediately. It was reported in December that the Storm were involved with Heart but in the end they only comprise 20% of the club's ownership, leaving the remaining 80% with Manchester City. It seems patience paid off for Heart as they previously knocked back offers from China and South Melbourne FC.
Bart Campbell, the Kiwi businessman behind the Storm, specifically referenced the Manchester City connection in New York with New York City FC joining Major League Soccer in 2015 as the model to replicate. In Heart's press release, Campbell said:
"Partnering with City to co-invest in Melbourne Heart will further strengthen the sporting landscape in one of the world's greatest cities and bring a range of new capabilities to AAMI Park. We are excited to be a part of this unique project. It is our shared ambition to replicate the model that City created with the New York Yankees around New York City FC and for both organizations to benefit as a result."
Ferran Soriano, Manchester City's CEO, added his own vanilla comments:
"We are excited about the opportunity to make Melbourne Heart one of the most successful football clubs in Australia and throughout the region. We believe the strong sports culture of Melbourne combined with the football and commercial expertise within our consortium will make for a powerful combination both on and off the pitch."
The reality for Heart is that this purchase is a life saver. After failing to win its first fourteen games this season, sacking manager John Aloisi and constantly playing second fiddle to Melbourne Victory in Australia's second largest metropolis, the club needed an injection of something more than just cash. While Scott Munn and company could have taken the money earlier this season, or at various points during the club's relatively short existence, waiting for the big guns to arrive from England seems like it will empower the club to finally have real financial backing and a way to forge an identity beyond not-Victory.
Heart's release added that, "Out of respect for the coaching staff and the players in the middle of the A-League season, the new ownership group will not be making any major announcements until mid-2014."
Additionally, according to the Financial Review, City will be touring Australia in May as part of the agreement to purchase Heart. Both Manchester United, who played the A-League All-Stars in Sydney, and Liverpool, who played Melbourne Victory in front of 95,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, included Australia in their offseason trips to Southeast Asia.
Melbourne Victory thought they had the biggest news of the week in landing Besart Berisha from Brisbane Roar. Quite obviously Melbourne Heart have blown away the field with this announcement and its repercussions are sure to only be begin with the news cycle and what-ifs in the immediate future.