Sport Sport Focus The rise of the ‘superclub’ in Australian sport

The rise of the ‘superclub’ in Australian sport

After drawn-out negotiations, the AFL players' new pay deal is about to be confirmed. Photo: Getty
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If you’re not a supporter of Greater Western Sydney, you probably missed it.

Last Saturday, February 18, 2017, was an orange (and charcoal) letter day in the history of the fledgling club.

Why? They fielded elite teams in three separate sporting competitions – the AFL, the AFLW and the Super Netball Series – on the same day.

The Giants won’t stop at three, either – they want more elite teams under their umbrella.

It’s not such an unusual thing in Europe, where powerful clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Dynamo Moscow are involved a host of sports, but is relatively new in Australia.

So, why do the Giants – and others – want more sporting clubs?

The answer, like a lot of things these days, is all about their brand.

“We’re a fairly new brand in what you could call a foreign market in western Sydney, where soccer and NRL are established,” the Giants’ General Manager of Fan Engagement Rebecca Shaw told The New Daily.

“So we really saw it [the introduction of AFLW and Super Netball] as a chance to expand our brand across the footprints of western Sydney and Canberra.”

Expansion into the new leagues just happens to fit very neatly with the Giants’ philosophy of having a strong presence in the community.

“We’ve always been particularly active in the community and we’ve had this concept from the start of converting community clubs into Giants clubs,” Shaw explained.

“Five years ago, when we started, there were no (Australian Rules) clubs that we know of that were branded the Giants.

“We’ve now got about 40 community clubs that are branded the Giants who’ve come to us and we’ve supported them in various ways.

“A local basketball club, the Newington Giants, wears our colours, there are local AFL teams at Penrith and Concord, others Australia-wide and we have a London AFL team, a Swedish team, a Canadian team, a German team and a Papua New Guinean team.

“We had a softball club approach us a couple of months ago, and we’re working with them on rebranding to the Giants.”

While Collingwood also has teams playing in the AFL, AFLW and Super Netball competitions, and NRL club Melbourne Storm is affiliated with the Sunshine Coast Lightning netball team, the Giants’ perspective on becoming a super club is unique.

By using the GWS name, the netball club already has a fan base. Photo: Getty

“It’s a philosophy we’ve grown on our own,” Shaw says.

“We want to be seen as an elite sporting club but with great community connections.

“We’re constantly looking for opportunities to convert those people involved at the community level to come and attend at the elite level and to sign up as members.

“I’m confident that the numbers that we’re seeing – we’ve already surpassed our [AFL] record membership figure of last year – will continue to grow.

“We want to see all three of our elite teams be successful on the field and on the court and grow into one Giants family and for the Giants to be a real powerhouse brand.”

It makes complete sense for a sporting organisation – say the NBL for hypothetical’s sake – to approach an existing ‘brand’ if they wanted a new team in the area.

Why? Because that brand, and that club, will already have an army of followers.

Fans of Australian sport may remember Carlton and Collingwood’s failed venture into the NSL soccer competition in the 1990s.

But the Australian sporting landscape is very different these days.

Maybe in a few years’ time, when Greater Western Sydney is a true sporting giant, February 18, 2017 will be remembered as the day the juggernaut started.

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