Which A-League club offers the best match-day experience?
103 Have your say
Melbourne Heart's Fred is tackled by Scott Jamieson of Sydney FC during their round 13 match at Sydney Football Stadium on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)
The fact Western Sydney Wanderers will play all of their fixtures at Parramatta Stadium – including their derbies against Sydney FC – is a boon to all A-League fans.
Yesterday’s announcement means Wanderers fans will watch their team at one of the A-League’s most intimate venues – a ground which comfortably holds just over 21,000 fans sitting right on top of the action.
That already puts the Wanderers ahead of neighbouring teams from rival codes who have ignored their own fans’ wishes and traded atmosphere for the cash offered by the cavernous ANZ Stadium at Homebush.
And by essentially limiting the number of tickets on offer, the Wanderers have assured demand will be high, meaning packed terraces should be the norm when the red-and-blacks run out in Parramatta.
Already there have been a few grumblings from Sydney FC fans about their away-day allocation for the derby, but there’s nothing stopping them from buying tickets en masse and simply turning several bays blue themselves.
The derbies should be crackers regardless, and judging by the fact more than 3,500 fans turned out to see the Wanderers hammer Nepean FC 5-0 in a friendly at Cook Park in St Mary’s on Wednesday, the A-League’s newest club should have no shortage of support.
I ducked down the road myself the other night to catch Brisbane Roar in action against Olympic FC at a well-populated Goodwin Park in Yeronga, and by all accounts there was another big crowd at the Jack Edwards Reserve to watch Melbourne Victory take on local side Oakleigh Cannons.
And the fact such impressive crowds turned out at suburban grounds during the week got me wondering what sort of match-day experience fans actually want from the A-League.
Obviously there’s a big difference between suburban grounds and the modern stadia A-League clubs by necessity call home.
But given that A-League fans are expected to shell out generous sums of money for their match-day experience – not just for tickets but on food and beverages as well – it begs the question of what makes for a good experience on the day?
And which clubs, for that matter, offer the best overall experience?
Personally speaking, I’ve watched most of my A-League football at the Sydney Football Stadium, where I used to trundle up Foveaux Street and sample a few ales en route to the ground.
That was generally to avoid paying the exorbitant costs of buying mid-strength beers at the ground, and surely one of the biggest problems for A-League clubs – and indeed all tenants of Australian sporting grounds – are the catering and beverage contracts tied to said stadia.
I can only speak for the A-League grounds I’ve been to, but the food and drinks on offer are generally so expensive and of such mediocre quality I have no doubt some fans stay at home to avoid them.
It may sound a petty a complaint, but the issue of A-League fans staying home to watch matches on Fox Sports instead of actually going to games has been raised time and time again.
Likewise, having attended a number of A-League grounds as both an away fan and as working media, I’ve received a none-too-pleasant reception from security staff on too many occasions for it to be a mere coincidence.
There’s nothing enjoyable about paying good money for the privilege of being harassed by security staff and I’d venture to say the problem most affects one of the A-League’s key demographics – young males.
Hopefully that won’t be an issue for fans of Western Sydney Wanderers or any club this season, as the A-League looks to regain some of the momentum lost from Gold Coast United’s swift exit.
So let’s open the debate to that very question, and while we’re at it let’s find out which A-League club – in your opinion – offers the best match-day experience.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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