The women who helped build Western United

People may have the impression that a football club is a male-dominated environment, but the truth is far from it at Western United.

There are many women who have brought exceptional knowledge and experience to different aspects of Western United in such a short space of time.

From building offices to creating a new brand, here are just some of the stories of the women who helped build the Western United Football Club from scratch.

Lisa Pacher, Executive Assistant

After spending years in her ‘comfort zone’ at KPMG, Pacher made the switch to Western United as the Executive Assistant, becoming one of the first employees at the Club.

“The opportunity to be a small part of such a big adventure was an overwhelming decision,” Pacher said.

“Having said this, it would probably be the only time this opportunity would arise in a lifetime so I thought, don’t wonder, just do it!

“And so I did and the adventure began. It’s funny how you think you’re living life and then you get thrown in the deep end and you start living life at a whole new level.”

Pacher’s experience when arriving at United was quite unique. The offices were empty with no chairs, desks or even pens.

It was Pacher who helped create the foundations of both the head office and the Football Department’s office ahead of the Club’s historic first A-League season.

“I remember sitting on the floor with a pen and notepad from home making a list of what we needed and making a lot of phone calls.

In the early days I worked a lot with our GM of Football to help with the set up of their office and equipment.

“Then for our headquarters, I worked on IT equipment, furniture, signage, helping staff and players find temporary accommodation, media events - really the setup of the entire office.

“It was a crazy time where I was literally learning or creating something new every day.”

Lisa
Pacher (right) at a Western United home game.

Fast-forward to March 2021 and the Club has grown in every facet.

There are over 25 head office staff, 12 of which are female spread across all departments.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Pacher expressed how proud she is of the women who help make Western United tick.

The female staff are such hard-working people.

“They never stop thinking about the Club and how they can make it better. It’s a credit to them how they have built their departments and a foundation for us to grow from.

“They don’t just do their job; they live and breathe it. I’m really proud to stand alongside these talented and inspiring women who I learn from every day.”

Pacher is fast approaching her two-year anniversary of arriving at the Club and will be one of the first employees to do so.

During those years, she hopes that she’s contributed to creating a working environment that is inclusive to everyone.

I’m hoping that I’ve helped create an inclusive place to work where everyone feels comfortable to be themselves.”

Chloe Alsop, GM Marketing

In mid-2019, Chloe Alsop crossed over to the world of football and Western United from the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), where she had looked after brand, marketing and acquisition.

After years of delivering one of the biggest sporting events in the world - the Melbourne Cup Carnival - Alsop decided it was time for a new challenge.

And it was the chance to be part of such an ambitious project that was most enticing.

“Hands down it was the opportunity to be part of such a big dream - it felt one part crazy but two parts ambitious and driven - I knew I needed to be part of it,” Alsop said.

“To build a brand from scratch and use learnings from my career to help shape the Club and Wyndham City Stadium was too good to pass on.

“I also really like the luxury being a marketing and media professional gives you. You get to learn new things with each category or in this case a new sport.

“My football knowledge was minimal (even though I’ve always enjoyed spectating the sport and A-League), and now each day I learn more about the sport and each day I’m more fascinated by it.

“I have some very good teachers that I rub shoulders with each day too - Steve Horvat and Mark Rudan just to name a few!”

Walking into the new A-League club was eye-opening for Alsop.

Going from a well-established organisation in the VRC, to a football club less than one year old, her mind was blown.

“A small office, about six people and a season commencing in only three months’ time,” Alsop said.

“I remember the then CEO making me a coffee on a budget pods machine and thinking ‘wow it’s hand on here’!

“Not just because of the budget machine but because the CEO was making the coffee. I knew then that it was going to be inclusive.

“I had no employees when I started, my first recruit was our event manager (a savvy young female I might add) who I think started two months before the season started.”

Chloe
Alsop (central) after United's 6-2 win over Central Coast Mariners.

From the start, Alsop wanted to use her wealth of knowledge and experience to implement high-performing systems and processes.

But she quickly had to adapt to the nature of a start-up environment, which brought some obstacles.

“I quickly learned in a start-up environment that it’s a lot more “do” and “try” than plan.

“Time simply doesn’t permit so you need good people and good relationships, so you don’t drown or miss opportunities.

“A big focus was building out a match day experience and product that reflected our brand values and personality and made people want to come back.

“We also wanted to reach people beyond the rusted-on football fans, draw them in to the sport with an entertaining day out.

“With a humble team we mapped out fan experiences and used our event experience as a building block for the brand.”

As one of Western United’s first employees, Alsop has been able to observe the effort and growth of females within the club.

Alsop was full of praise, not just for the staff, but for all the women who have had a positive impact on Western United.

“It’s all about the effort. The quieter, relentless effort that I observe from all of the females at Western United.

“It’s a humble, continuous effort that powers varying areas of the Club.

“It’s not just the staff though - it’s the partners of the team who you see at every match, it’s the mums in the stands with their families, it’s the female active fans singing their lungs out, it’s our new Calder United family.

“Everywhere you look at this club there are strong women and it’s awesome.

“I hope I’ve brought effort, experience from other categories and creativity as a means to think and do differently to what’s been done before.

“I enjoy sharing my experiences and learnings with younger colleagues too and challenging them to be better each day, a mantra that has been built in to Western United from the board and CEO.

“We’re at the start of a long journey and as long as we get better and stick together, we’ll get there.”

To Alsop, International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the types of effort she has seen at Western United.

“For me, International Women’s Day is about a pause. A moment to think, thank and be proud of women.”

Jannelle Jorgensen, GM Consumer Markets

Jannelle Jorgensen joined Western United after spending three and a half years as Commercial Manager at Ovarian Cancer Australia.

She was also part of Western Sydney Wanderers when they joined the A-League back in 2012.

After a few years away from football, Jorgensen wanted to be involved with the world game again.

“I wanted to go back into football. I started with the Wanderers back in 2012. I moved up to Sydney for that role,” Jorgensen said.

“I always wanted to be involved in a sporting club down here [in Melbourne] and this opportunity came up – it was perfect timing.

“I suppose from my perspective, what I’ve brought to the club is my past experience of building something from scratch – not just at the Wanderers but at other organisations that I’ve been involved with.

“We built membership from scratch, ticketing from scratch and merchandise from scratch.

“They were three of the responsibilities early on but there was a lot of other stuff that we were multi-tasking on as well.

“Having that opportunity to pull everything together and be part of a team and build a really good team – that’s not just the Consumer Markets area, but to be part of a bigger team and a bigger picture.”

In her one and a half years at the Club, Jorgensen’s observations of the women at Western United are not dissimilar to Pacher’s and Alsop’s.

Jorgensen has seen values such as effort, togetherness and wisdom that have been ever-present among the female staff.

“The experience that we bring in different fields is quite amazing.

“We can be adaptable, we can be flexible, and we can provide support to one another – that is enormous.

“Especially in the last 12 months we’ve had to live through a pandemic but at the same time still work to the best of our capabilities with what we were doing.”

Jj
Jorgensen (right) alongside colleagues.

When asked what International Women’s Day means to her, Jorgensen stressed the importance of a balanced workplace where men and women can complement each other.

“Recognition of women. I think that is one thing that is so important in an organisation.

“A lot of people think that a football club is a man’s domain, but it’s not. There always should be a balance of men and women because we complement each other.

“We should have the ability to show what we can do within an organisation as well.”