Red Devils aim high in Ballarat

To say the Ballarat Red Devils are an ambitious club may be understating it.

To say the Ballarat Red Devils are an ambitious club may be understating it.

The regional club, founded in the late 1960s, will soon have facilities comparable to Melbourne's two Hyundai A-League clubs.

It comes as no surprise the Red Devils, who are in State League Two North-West this season, are aiming to one day feature in Australia's top flight.

They are one of 44 to express an interest in the National Premier Leagues Victoria, which has caused controversy among some of the state's leading clubs.

Andrew Burgess, who is the chairman of the Red Devils' NPLV bid, said the club wanted to represent the region.

"What we are very excited about is the fact that it is an opportunity to have a team from regional Victoria, particularly western Victoria, come in and play in the National Premier League competition - to represent the whole of this region," he said.

"As a club we've been on this journey for the past 10 years, looking at the best way to move our club forward.

"We see ourselves as a representative club of not just the Ballarat Red Devils but also the wider region and very much western Victoria."

They may be the only club from the region to express an interest in the NPLV, while in the city, Victorian powerhouses Melbourne Knights and Green Gully have opted against doing so.

The Federal Government are providing $2.675million in funding to complete the Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility, with the council matching that investment.

Synthetic and turf pitches and grandstands are all included.

It will be considered as a host for a team at the 2015 Asian Cup - to be held in Australia - and can host Hyundai A-League games.

"The idea with the region, with the club and with the facility is that outside AAMI Park and probably Etihad (Stadium), I would argue that this will be one of the best, if not the best, purpose built stadium in Victoria and one of the best in Australia," Burgess said.

With participation 'growing all the time', facilities - too often a problem in the past - will no longer be an issue.

Perhaps it will see locally developed players also take the step up, putting the potential problem of needing to attract top-class talent from the city behind them.

The Red Devils have come a long way since 2003, when they gained promotion from Victoria's sixth division.

And, with both Hyundai A-League clubs Melbourne-based, a regional team in the top-flight competition is not out of the question.

"As the years progress, we feel that as a standalone identity, the region itself has every opportunity of being able to go into that tier of competition," Burgess, who has been involved with the club for over 40 years, said.

"It certainly will need significant support, we'll need significant backing and we're a long way from it, but the overall vision is to see that the Ballarat Red Devils are a team out of the western region, based out of this complex, playing in the A-League."

And with their goals set and so regularly achieved, no-one can blame the Red Devils for being ambitious.

Image courtesy Ballarat Red Devils.