Melbourne's new derby: The fans' club v City?

Melbourne Victory investor Robert Belteky says his preference is for the club to avoid the ownership model of crosstown rivals Melbourne City and instead be a ‘supporters' club’.

Belteky, a former Victory board member, and property developer Harry Stamoulis are selling their 35 per cent stake in the club, launching an ‘expressions of interest’ campaign on the weekend.

Care Park managing director Belteky is selling his share due to the difficulty of balancing his increasing business commitments and young family with the demands at Victory.

The early response to the campaign has exceeded expectations according to Belteky, with more than 22,000 unique page views on the website in the first 24 hours.

And those numbers are exactly what appeals to Belteky, who said he preferred not to see Victory follow the lead of Melbourne Heart who were bought by the Anglo-Arabic City Football Group in January but rather add to the club's unique shareholder base.

“This is why we haven’t gone privately through financial advisors, we haven’t gone directly to look for a Melbourne City type buyer,” Belteky told FourFourTwo.

“Our main marketing focus is going out to the supporter base. It’s our preference.”

The long-term vision would create an intriguing Melbourne rivalry, with a view to Victory being the supporters’ club.

Victory currently has approximately 50 shareholders, with around 10 being substantial, and Belteky would prefer to see an increase in the overall shareholder base.

Despite that, he admitted he would assess all possibilities, from one buyer to multiple, and was using the ‘expressions of interest’ phase, which closes at the end of October, as a chance to test the market.

“We have a shareholder base - no other club has that,” Belteky added.

“Yes it’s fundamentally controlled by a group of seven to eight unrelated shareholders but growing that base is a good thing.

“I’m speaking as a shareholder selling my shares, the next step in making your members loyal is for them to have a part in the club.

“It ensures your supporters and members have the opportunity to be involved with the club.

“It’s something the two of us as sellers would love to see happen.”

Belteky said the club had recorded a 2013-14 profit of approximately $960,000 which showed it was well placed.

He also pointed to the A-League’s current stability, with the FFA TV rights’ distribution covering each club’s salary cap plus the extension of all nine Australian clubs’ licences until 2034.

 Victory’s share price has risen from its original value of 50c to $1.70, although Belteky and Stamoulis are understood to be selling at a fixed price between $2 and $2.50 per share.

“I believe now we’re not selling at a time where we think we need to capitalise on Victory peaking,” Belteky added.

“If we ever were going to say, let’s move out of being involved as owners, and putting our time and effort into the club, it’s probably now.

“No one is going to disagree that the next ‘x’ number of years are looking pretty good.”