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Aug 3, 2011

New Sydney FC boss to copy Bulldogs

Sydney FC's new chief executive Dirk Melton, the man behind changing the public's perception of NRL club Canterbury, thinks he can do the same for the A-League club.

Melton worked alongside Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg as chief operating officer from 2008, a time in which the club's reputation was in tatters following rape allegations in 2004 and discontent with Greenberg's predecessor Malcolm Noad.

The Bulldogs then suffered the loss of big name Willie Mason and star player Sonny Bill Williams in 2008 and went on to record their second wooden spoon of the decade that season.

Melton was charged with turning the Bulldogs brand around and re-claiming the "family club" tag and during his stint at the club was able to deliver record numbers in sponsorship and crowd attendance.

Having come on board at the Sky Blues in June, Melton says the same principles he used at the `Dogs can be applied at the struggling A-League club who are left with a fledgling fanbase after the two-time premiers suffered their worst season in 2010/11 since the A-League's inception.

"The Bulldogs brand was certainly less than desirable prior to Todd and I coming on board and it improved dramatically," Melton told AAP on Wednesday.

"And whilst we don't have the brand issues to the same extent at Sydney FC ... there's still an opportunity here to turn things around.

"There are certain things you need to make a brand successful and it can't just be based on team performance, community engagement is at the top.

"How we're perceived in the broader community and how our players are perceived as role models are the two most important things.

"We want to see kids wearing Sydney FC jerseys from a young age."

Melton puts an extensive community program and an enhanced relationship with the media as chief among his goals but says before anything else "we've got to get our house in order" and address the long-standing operational issues that have hindered how the club is run.

And he's even adopted a soccer-based analogy for his plan.

"You talk about a 4-4-2 model on the field, we've got a 5-10-5 strategy to build our house," he says.

"Five stake-holder goals, 10 brand drivers and five core competencies, we've got to start getting those right."

And while operational reforms are Melton's prime focus, he admits: "Of course a name like Harry Kewell couldn't hurt at all.

"I hope the A-League is on the cards for him.

"Look it may well happen.

"Until he's signed with someone else ... we'll still be having a crack."

Growing up in Victoria, playing rugby union as a kid and working in the NRL, Melton has a good grasp of how other football codes operate.

But he isn't fazed by being a first-timer with the world game.

"I think understanding that you have a point of difference is very important.

"Sydney is the most cluttered sports landscape in the world.

"But we're not competing with NRL or AFL, we're not, and if we think we are we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, a little bit delusional.

"Right now we're a niche product, but a niche product can be very effective and profitable if done right."

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