Bulldogs play politics in Ballarat
Nat Edwards reports from Eureka Stadium
Bob Murphy models the Bulldogs' Eureka-themed guernsey
THE WESTERN Bulldogs plan to play premiership matches in Ballarat if the Labor Party wins this month's Victorian state election.
An incoming Daniel Andrews-led government has promised a $31.5 million upgrade for the regional city's Eureka Stadium in the hopes of the venue hosting AFL games from season 2017.
The Bulldogs are keen to relocate two to three matches per season to Ballarat, and plan to open an office in the city in 2015.
They have also been scheduled to host a NAB Challenge game against Melbourne at Eureka Stadium on March 14 next year.
President Peter Gordon declared on Thursday the Bulldogs would make a long-term commitment to the region, saying it was an opportunity for the club "to leap forward".
"We think this gives us an opportunity, as a club with a history of struggle, to give us a realistic chance, for the first time ever really, to build our membership past 50,000 and to build our economic base into the upper ranks of the competition," Gordon said.
"We're going to take advantage of that opportunity by making a serious, long-term commitment to this area, this city and the people of Ballarat."
The move to have the Dogs play matches in Ballarat comes after North Melbourne has been repositioned from the zone after six years of involvement in the Ballarat region.
The Kangaroos have hosted annual community camps, played pre-season games and partnered in community programs during that time.
The Roos are now focused on developing their fan base in Hobart, but stressed to AFL.com.au
last week that the move away from Ballarat was not being made voluntarily
Gordon pointed several times to the success premier Hawthorn had achieved through its relationship with Launceston and the Tasmanian government, and hoped the Bulldogs would be able to mirror that success and win over the Ballarat community.
"I think that North Melbourne did a lot of good work in this area and did win some fans over," he said.
"But I think the very fact of our long-term commitment, and our preparedness to make a long-term commitment, a preparedness to do things like configure a guernsey - that gives real meaning and ownership to Ballarat for the Ballarat constituency.
"We understand the challenges but we embrace that challenge and we look forward to working to win over [the Ballarat community]."
The Bulldogs were approached earlier this year about forging a relationship with the City of Ballarat and have had preliminary discussions with the AFL about playing premiership games at Eureka Stadium.
Gordon said he didn't forsee any issues scheduling games at the venue and was confident it wouldn't breach the club's contract to play home games at Etihad Stadium.
"I'm fully confident [the AFL] will support the idea," Gordon said.
"We've got more discussions to have with the AFL, but my confident expectation is they will support the scheduling of games here if we so request."