March 3

A big block of Sportsbet customers, some of them based on Melbourne South, decided that they were ready to support a great city and give it more action. We saw enough.

There was a long line at Sportingbet’s Clydesdale branch on the weekend for one of our rivals’ big events. Ticket holders walked away feeling triumphant — it seemed like a win for those of us who get competitive on many of our sports.

We started way back in 2009 when the swimming team arrived on the Gold Coast and we were booked for the whole day. It was the best thing to happen to us since that day’s acquisition. When I left the club 18 months later, my inbox was full of emails from customers who had come from Melbourne and Stockwell to watch the carnival. At that point it was such a premium event that the organisers are trying to encourage local business owners to become at least a 15-minute trip from the CBD by night.

Many of those parties are now happening in Sydney too. The Lily White Hotel’s Doll Shop Caravan, for example, was filled with kids who had turned up and jumped in before and after the sea kayak race. This made our audience feel like the rich kids of the silver market — and they were.

From the floor the promise of future events — seminars and sessions — and improved transport were key to our pitch to local clubs. People who had already bought a sponsorship for our events helped to get us to where we are today.

We started in 1999, with the work of Paul Carlisle. Paul is one of the club’s most successful and knowledgeable sports people. He’s a big reason why we can run some great shows — such as Moebius last year. To deliver such a level of entertainment for clubs and people alike, we had to keep it local, so we bought Limerick Road, now between the Iona Club and the Parramatta Lighthouse. We’ve been down there more than ever before with music and lots of food.

We gave everyone in the crowd tickets as freebies, so they had another chance to upgrade or upgrade for two. We had a little slip-up and some local shops got short-changed, but overall we made our target.

We were fortunate that our tipping stations — at the Highland, Phoenix and under the yacht bar — were well set up in narrow corridors. They were easily able to find and charge local sports, so we had to be quick.

As you might expect, there are a lot of commercial and social events at Sportsbet’s annual AFL game week. For its first year, we used Our Ball, an annual charity event. That was the start of what we can do on the weekend. We chose fast to make this “pay it forward” event as much part of the big week as possible. And we won, not just for the footballers, but also for our customers — the general public was very generous with prizes and vouchers.

Our regulars still supply a lot of cash for “good causes”. But when it comes to buying a ticket, they are not with a problem. And they’ve come to know us that way — when we showed up for a party on the South Coast recently, they were lining up for us.

Our football team and supporters have a lot to learn about the different Australian cities, and our claim to fame is being the only Australian club to produce the best footballers of the current age. In 20 years, we’ve sent over 200 players to European football — whether they were involved in country clubs or internationals.

Our clubs are pretty evenly split, between Melburnians and their supporters — so it is easy to get excited about Sydney. The forecast is sunshine to the south on the weekend — when you have so many clean skies, the city seems like a natural beauty.

Just think of this as a small token of appreciation. There are so many great things happening now. An annual awards night at The Exchange, too. That really is a ball.

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