Manchester City buy Melbourne Heart

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Picture GETTY

While Melbourne Heart fans will be licking their lips at possible star signings for next season, it’s off the field where things are really looking up.

English Premier League powerhouse Manchester City, in partnership with a group of owners of NRL side the Melbourne Storm, announced on Thursday they had acquired the Melbourne Heart A-League licence.

The takeover is believed to be worth around $11 million, giving City a controlling share of 80 per cent and minority shareholders the Storm a 20 per cent stake.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief David Gallop described the deal as a huge vote of confidence in the Australian league.The move will allow the new owners to ‘‘assume responsibility for all existing obligations of the Heart’’, effective immediately.

Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano said he was excited about the opportunity to make the Heart one of the most successful soccer clubs in Australia and throughout the region.

Picture GETTY

Picture GETTY

‘‘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,’’ Soriano said in a statement on Thursday.

Manchester City’s billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour has ploughed a fortune into the club since 2008 and this outlay has included not only buying star players but working on youth development.

A huge campus that is being built on reclaimed land next to City’s stadium is likely to be the venue for a pre-season camp for the Heart in mid-2014.

The Heart are expected to become part of City’s global beast and share playing styles and philosophies with City.

‘‘We get locked into players, that’s the epicentre of everything, but there’s a lot of people that work at a football club,’’ City’s academy director Brian Marwood told News Corp Australia.

‘‘Why not get the benefit of their experience?‘‘The cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences is huge, whether it’s a player, coach, physio or masseur.

‘‘We want people to experience all kind of opportunities.’’

Gallop said Manchester City had made a strategic investment.

‘‘I welcome them to our growing competition. It’s another sign that the world is taking notice of Australian football,’’ Gallop said.

‘‘Manchester City and their partners will bring a high level of expertise in football and sports business matters and that can only strengthen the Melbourne Heart and the Hyundai A-League as a whole.’’

The new ownership group said it would not be making any major announcements until mid-2014, out of respect for the coaching staff and players.

City’s investment follows last year’s establishment of the New York City Football Club, which will enter the Major League Soccer competition in 2015.