Football: The Final Frontier

The career of Melbourne Heart FC Chief Executive Officer Scott Munn has seen him travail across the nation on behalf of the nation’s leading sports organisations.

The career of Melbourne Heart FC Chief Executive Officer Scott Munn has seen him travail across the nation on behalf of the nation-s leading sports organisations.

From the AFL and NRL to the Sydney Olympic Games, Munn has built an enviable portfolio and reputation as an administrator on the rise, achieving much throughout his time in the professional sphere.

Munn-s talents were recognised by the AFL when he was appointed to spearhead its expansion into the hotly contested Gold Coast market, battling for real estate in the face of stern opposition from rival codes.

But after a decade working for some of Australia-s more established sporting brands, Munn sought a fresh challenge and football beckoned as the final frontier.

As the world-s most popular sport, football presented Munn with an opportunity to test his wares in an environment vastly different to anything he has experienced, with the possibility of Asia looming tantalisingly in the distance.

Munn spoke to www.melbourneheartfc.com.au about his time on the Gold Coast, why he switched to football and the challenges facing the Heart as it prepares for its Hyundai A-League debut next season.

After landing a role with the Gold Coast, what prompted your switch to football?

I was drawn across by a combination of factors. The level of work already completed by our board and the FFA prior to my arrival was quite substantial and very impressive, while the allure of a truly international world game was extremely enticing.

How would you describe your time working on the Gold Coast?

It was fantastic. To start an AFL club from nothing and to be involved from day one was extremely rewarding and a great opportunity. It was the first time there had been any major change to the AFL structure in over 20 years, the last time being the relocation from South Melbourne to Sydney. It was a great opportunity and something I will remember forever.

Did you draw anything from your time on the Gold Coast that will be directly applicable to Melbourne Heart FC?

On the Gold Coast, there were clearly two sporting codes in front of us in Rugby League and Rugby Union. We were coming in as the third sport. Similarly here, we would say AFL and Rugby League are well established national brands and we-re moving into an extremely competitive field.

How does the approach of attracting commercial support in football change in relation to your previous experiences?

There are some great opportunities around football, the first one being we are a summer sport, and we are competing just as much with cricket, if not more, than we are with the AFL. I certainly don-t view the AFL as the single biggest threat, I view all sport as a threat, but see cricket as a direct competitor as we are playing in the same time period. One of the things football brings is absolute worldwide recognition, and we have seen that through our appointments of John van ‘t Schip and Jesper Olsen which made news in USA Today and FIFA.com, while recently, we had a third of a page article in The Sun in London. That sort of exposure and opportunity doesn-t exist in any other sport in Australia and is something which is very exciting for us. Also, as a club playing in Australia, we can play in the AFC Champions League, which will provide far greater exposure for partners than just competing domestically.

Do you believe the presence of the 2010 World Cup, in addition to Australia-s 2018-2022 World Cup bid will assist the club in launching itself into the marketplace?

Going into a World Cup year and being the only expansion club in the Hyundai A-League next year is a huge asset to us. What we need to do is ensure we maximise those opportunities. It is great that it exists, but we need to transfer that into members, sponsors and potentially players. That opportunity actually transcends every part of our club, and we need to make sure we capitalise on that chance and deliver on it.

In terms of the challenge facing Heart in starting a club from scratch, do you believe the team has already faced its most difficult period?

I think the entire process is difficult. There aren-t any degrees of difficulty between now and August next year. Certainly from my perspective, I was very mindful of pulling together a highly respected and credentialed football department, and I think we have an absolute market leader there, that hopefully can compete on the field with some great clubs. I heard recently, one of the clubs said they were the best club, the most successful club. We certainly don-t see ourselves in that light, but we are keen to be competitive and set some high internal standards, and we think we have achieved that with all of our coaching appointments.

One of the tasks facing Melbourne Heart FC is to build a fan base. Does the club see itself as a challenger to the established order or merely an alternative for people seeking something new?

First and foremost, one of our main objectives is to grow the level of football support in Australia, it-s not about taking Victory fans. That doesn-t make any sense to us whatsoever. I want more people going to football, more people playing, more mums and dads getting their kids involved, that-s what-s important to us. When we look at Victory, and we have to because a/ they are a competitor and b/ they are the market leader in every measure and we would be foolish not to look at them, but what is important for us is to ensure we do get the new fans on board, those fans that haven-t engaged Victory, and then the second one is we actually provide a point of difference.

On the stadium front, is the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium likely to be the team-s home ground?

We are working extremely well with the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust on the rectangular stadium. Our preference has always been to play at one venue, we-re not going to mix, we think that-s an absolute disservice to our fans and we want them to be able to sit at the same seats every week, with the same group of friends to cheer on the team. Our preference is to play at one stadium. If it was the rectangular stadium, purpose built, certainly the best football experience in Australia, then certainly that would be fantastic for us.

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