FORMER Yarrawonga bookie Matt Tripp has a stake in the landmark deal that has resulted in English Premier League powerhouse Manchester City taking control of battling A-League outfit Melbourne Heart.
Manchester City’s United Arab Emirates backers, who have transformed the club into a European soccer force, have sealed an 80 per cent stake in Melbourne Heart, which is due to play at Lavington Oval on February 10.
One of the most significant takeovers in A-League history, believed to be worth about $11 million, also involves Mr Tripp and his fellow directors of Melbourne Storm rugby league team.
They will have the remaining 20 per cent share in the Heart.
“It is something I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be jumping into,” Mr Tripp said yesterday.
“Basically we are going to control the back office of the Melbourne Heart and have a commercial arrangement in place with Manchester City.
“To align ourselves with someone like Manchester City is not only a huge feather in our cap, but a huge endorsement for Australian soccer in general.
“They believe in the young players in Australia and want to see Melbourne Heart become a powerhouse.
“Hopefully they won’t be at the bottom for too much longer as they are about to get a huge injection of talent and expertise.”
Mr Tripp was one of the driving forces behind the rise of online bookmaker Sportsbet in the mid-2000s.
He transformed the business from a $250,000 Darwin-based operation into a $338 million juggernaut that was eventually purchased by Irish boomaker, Paddy Power.
Mr Tripp is about to make another foray into online bookmaking when his “non-compete” period expires in March.
He said he and his fellow Melbourne Storm directors were attracted to Manchester City’s expansion plans including the creation of a major league soccer team in New York.
“We want to build the club up similar to what we have done with the Storm,” he said.
Mr Tripp and his father Alan also played a key role in recruiting former AFL star Brendan Fevola to the Yarrawonga Pigeons.