In an SEN interview with Talking City that aired on Tuesday night, current Melbourne City CEO Brad Rowse was gracious in giving both his time and honesty, offering a rare perspective from the earliest Heart days that few people may have heard of before.
Rowse’s story with Melbourne Heart begins with the establishment of the club itself, which – though carries as a certain endearing, nostalgic element with it – presents an array of unique challenges in its own right.
“I think I was employee number three or four”, Rowse explains, “I started in November and we had to have a team on the pitch running out with a suite of sponsors and a crowd by August.”
Not really a whole lot to work with for the man who was effectively fulfilling a Commercial Manager role for the young footballing entity at that time. With only a CEO, a Director of Football and a certain all-attacking Dutch manager having been employed by the club to that point, Rowse explains that the next step was deciding upon an identity; deciding on the “who we are, what we stand for, what we want to be about.”
The answer to all of those questions quickly became community; it’s an identity that would eventually favour the young organisation in securing some pretty big sponsorship deals.
“We were fortunate to talk to Westpac back then who were very much going through a period of trying to change the way they were doing sport and be far more community-oriented.
“When you get a brand like that on board, other brands start to call up on the phone.
“Shortly after we were able to get the next big one and then the next one and within the first four months we had three or four really good, respected brands to come on board and come on the journey with us.”
A significant part of the City Football Group’s reasoning for purchasing Melbourne Heart back in the day was, according to Rowse, the way the club was being run off the field – even throughout times where the on-field results weren’t so good.
“One of the things we became very adept at was being very careful where to spend your money,” Rowse explained. If it didn’t fit within the strict objectives of the club, it wasn’t receiving funding. If it wasn’t a player who would justify their worth through a commitment to the Heart’s values, they weren’t being signed.
Perhaps to the surprise of only non-City fans, given their apparent fixation on the finances of our ownership group, the fiscal, business-oriented approach to spending has continued well into the City era.
“There’s probably a bit of a misconception; I’ve got a couple of mates who stir me and think that I’m sitting there with gold ingots on my desk,” Rowse jokes, “That’s just not the case.”
The guidelines are pretty clear; if it’s a necessity and makes sense business-wise, it’s now something that the club can afford to invest in, whilst acknowledging that it wasn’t always possible to do so in the Heart days.
For the full interview with club CEO Brad Rowse, catch up on the rest of Tuesday night’s SEN show by listening on talkingcity.online/podcast or on your favourite podcasting app.