Was stadium access a reason for A-League’s reduced finals series?
When the FFA last week announced the draw for the 2012/13 season, it included a streamlined final series. By many experts the new final series for next season has been applauded for its simplicity as each game will be sudden death.
Personally, I think it is a good move. It teaches our young upcoming players to deal with pressure cooker type games in the finals, which would therefore prepare them for more pressurised environments should they eventually make the move to top tier leagues like EPL, Serie A, La Liga etc. Or playing for the Socceroos in World Cup qualifiers
However, after a considerable thought, I wonder if the FFA reduced the final series simply because they would find it difficult getting stadium availability over a four week period where the other codes, NRL, AFL and Super Rugby are in full swing.
The new finals series will take place over three weeks with five finals matches, while the old system had seven matches over four weeks. However, reducing two finals matches would mean reducing revenue. Can the FFA afford to do that?
While the NRL and AFL both have their finals in September, there are no clashes over stadiums. The AFL is played in oval-shaped grounds, while the NRL is played in rectangular stadiums. Add to that, the Super Rugby season is over, while the A-League is yet to kick off.
When the A-League has it’s finals series in April, these are the stadiums the FFA may need access to at different stages:
A lot of those grounds are needed by the other codes. Fitting in the finals schedule around those grounds with the other codes on would be tricky.
Add to this also, if the A-League decides to expand to 12, 14 or 16 teams down the track, that would mean the FFA would need more stadiums to become available from other codes in a tight schedule. In other words, it becomes even more complex!
Some may point out that the Super Rugby finals series deals with the same dilemma that the FFA is faced. Wrong! Their finals series (which by the way, employ the same finals system the FFA will have) commences when the A-League season is in off-season, which means it makes it easier for the ARU to get ground access. Plus also the ARU don’t require that many grounds compared to the A-League
These are the stadiums the ARU may require for the Super Rugby finals series:
So as you can see, the ARU only needs half of the stadiums that the A-League does.
When Australia failed in their World Cup bid, two things stood out for me. First, half of the stadiums were oval shaped. Second, football didn’t contribute a stadium in the bid book. Football may have had a legacy with a new stadium at Blacktown, but as far as existing stadiums are concerned, football had to rely on co-operation from the other codes to get stadium access for the bid.
As we all know, not everything went according to plan. Etihad Stadium may not be available, while AAMI park in Melbourne couldn’t be upgraded.
The FFA needs to learn it’s lessons from the World Cup bid in regards to stadium access. Perhaps the solution for the FFA is for more football type venues/stadiums to be built over time so that football can eventually become self-sufficient.
Yes, there will be many stadiums that football will share with other codes, however, the FFA must still have a plan in place.
One priority should be a new venue for the likes of Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar. Both of those sides currently play out of big stadiums with capacities well over 45,000 or 52,000 respectively. The ideal situation for both teams is to have stadiums that have capacity of 25000 or 30000.
In Adelaide there needs to be a long term solution as far as Hindmarsh Stadium is concerned. Due to its location, Hindmarsh can’t be expanded beyond 20,000. This year, Adelaide United may host the final of the ACL. If that happened, where will the final be held?
Hindmarsh has a capacity of 16,000, while Adelaide Oval, which would be in the middle of the cricket season, would have a hard cricket pitch in the middle of the ground for the players to contend with. That’s the problem United face in the present should they make it to the ACL final.
In the future, Adelaide United should move close to the city and build a stadium of 25000 to 30000 which is capable of upgrading to 40000 in the long term.
Another example is in Melbourne. The two main grounds are MCG and Etihad stadium. MCG is the worst ground in the world for rectangular sports, while in 2025, Etihad will be owned by the AFL. The AFL may have the right to use that venue exclusively for AFL, and therefore shut out other sports.
The best option is to upgrade AAMI Park to 40,000 which will cater for finals games and Socceroos.
In Perth, Glory should stay at NIB stadium, provided that the new stadium at Burswood has retractable seating in place to cater for the rectangular sports.
The FFA need to have a 15 to 20 year plan for all of these stadiums to come into fruition, provided that the FFA chip in, along with private investors and government assistance. The aim is for these new stadiums to be suitable for A-League teams and the Socceroos. This will also provide less congestion and hassle to get access for stadiums from other codes, especially if the FFA own or have a major say in a few venues.
Also let’s not forget the regional areas as well, as more A-League teams will base themselves there over period of time
We don’t need to bid for a World Cup to improve stadiums.
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