Melbourne chairman Glen Bartlett. Photo: Joe Armao
Melbourne chairman Glen Bartlett has unveiled his long-term vision to transform the club into the New York Yankees of the AFL to have the Demons become a team of choice for Melburnians and a key attraction for visitors and newcomers to football's home base.
In his first in-depth interview since taking over the struggling club, Bartlett revealed that extensive research commissioned by the new board would scrutinise the Melbourne logo, the club song, its long-term agreement with Casey and its lack of visibility in Melbourne.
A decorated West Australian forward who played four games for West Coast in its first season, Bartlett said he had adopted the Demons when he moved to Melbourne in 2008 but had quickly identified the club's ''soft culture'' on and off the field.
"I felt very strongly and I still feel that we should be the New York Yankees of this city," Bartlett told Fairfax Media. "People come to Melbourne to visit the Melbourne zoo, to go to the MCG, visit the MCC museum and they should come here to watch Melbourne play.
"One of the reasons I picked Melbourne was because Melbourne was the game's oldest club, it played a key role in inventing the game and the relationship with the MCC really resonated with me.
"We are Melbourne and we started the game but when I started to become involved and watched what was going on I saw that people around the club were very nice and friendly but didn't have a killer instinct. We had a soft culture on and off the field.
"There was an almost a lackadaisical approach to a lot of what we did and that was across issues as peripheral as our club ties. We had five different ties. Now we have one. This might seem a small thing but it was symbolic of what the club was doing. Now our staff have one men's uniform and one women's uniform."
Bartlett, who would not be drawn on specifics around the futures of key personnel at the club, said he remained optimistic that Paul Roos would retain a significant role in shaping the Demons' future beyond his senior coaching commitment. The prevailing view is that Roos will commit to his coaching role until the end of 2016 and potentially retain a position overseeing a new club development academy beyond that.
While it is understood that chief executive Peter Jackson will be offered a 12-month contract extension until the end of 2015 Bartlett said his reluctance to speak publicly until now about Jackson's future or his own vision was because "I want our footy to do the talking''.
"Now I feel we're on the right track," Bartlett said. "When I started last August we didn't have a corporate sponsor for the front or the back of our jumper. Now we have a partnership with South China Airlines, the world's fourth largest airline. We had no coach and we needed to create an environment where our players could play their best footy and we could win back respect on and off the field.
"You do have to walk then crawl then run and we need to do our homework first. I carried on about the different club ties and we no longer have the black blazers for the players but I'm a stickler for getting things right. I think our logo is too busy but we went to our fan base and the majority of them are telling us they really like it.
"And there's certainly some passionate people telling us we have to put the word 'Melbourne' into our song. In terms of our overall position and brand we have to look into that.
"It's all very well to come in and say we need to model ourselves on the New York Yankees and redesign our logo and change the words of our song but we need to examine everything and get it right."
Bartlett said the unveiling of a new strategy for Melbourne was still two to three months away but hinted that the club's long-term deal with City of Casey could be in jeopardy despite the VFL alignment and a contract with Casey until 2038.
"It's not our heartland," said Bartlett, who identified the Demons' supporter base as starting with inner Melbourne and spreading east. "There is no doubt we need a development academy but how we do that in tangible terms we are still investigating.
"I personally think it would be fantastic to have a presence in Collins Street in the heart of Melbourne and a building where we tried to develop people for our club across all areas. Part of our heartland is Melbourne and Collins Street and we are not visible there. That's a personal vision which I think would be fantastic. It's all about retaining and developing the best people.
"With Paul Roos coming on board I was just so happy not only with the work he has done but with the coaches he has brought with him. George Stone, Ben Mathews, Dan McPherson, Jade Rawlings as well as Brad Miller and Brett Allison and the work Leading Teams has done. They have already made so much progress."
Melbourne is working closely with the AFL and the Breast Cancer Network Australia to continue to stage the Field of Women game each season and remains determined to own an ANZAC eve annual fixture with Richmond. Bartlett has led the push to play the potential blockbuster in honour of Frank ''Checker'' Hughes who served in the military for four years during World War I, played in two Richmond premierships and coached the Tigers to another before crossing to Melbourne where he coached the Demons to four flags.
"His service to the game and our club is underrated in my view," said Bartlett. "He changed our name from the Fuchsias to the Demons and he was Norm Smith's right-hand man until 1965."