It’s the stadiums, stupid

Nick Symonds Roar Rookie

By Nick Symonds, Nick Symonds is a Roar Rookie

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    New stadiums are critical to A-League expansion and promotion-relegation. Without a good stadium you can’t host a team.

    The trouble is that there aren’t many stadiums in major cities outside of Sydney which would be suitable for new teams in the A-League.

    In Brisbane there’s Ballymore, Dolphin Oval and QSAC which has an athletics track.

    In Melbourne there’s Lakeside Stadium which also has an athletics track.

    Adelaide and Perth don’t even have any suitable second stadiums.

    In the regions you have good stadiums in Wollongong, Canberra, Gold Coast and Townsville while new stadiums are planned in Tasmania, Darwin, Sunshine Coast and Geelong.

    Some of these stadiums such as Robina or the new stadium in Townsville are just too large and smaller stadiums suitable for the size of the market might need to be built to replace them.

    Other stadiums are in areas where there would be little support for a team or have poor connections to transport links.

    Then you have current A-League teams in stadiums that are too big like Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar, Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix.

    These teams should preferably have new boutique stadiums.

    Most new stadiums that are built should have 10-15,000 seats as recommended in the proposal for the Australian Premier League.

    In the case of larger teams their stadiums shouldn’t be any larger than 25-30,000 at most. Augsburg Arena would be a good example.

    Then you have to ask how many stadiums you need and how much they would cost.

    The number of teams across two divisions of 16 teams each comes to 32.

    If you use the projected upper cost of Tasmania’s stadium of $40 million as a guide that’s a lot of money.

    A 10,000 seat stadium like Dolphin Oval at a cost of around $15 million would lower this considerably but would still be pricey.

    It’s highly unlikely that government will spend money on stadiums for the old mono ethnic teams so you can count them out.

    This just leaves new teams based on geography who could find government funding and regional teams clearly have the edge in this regard.

    The only way the old teams could get stadium funding from government is if they merge together.

    In the north of Melbourne Green Gully are open to a joint zonal bid similar to Dandenong for example.

    The most likely way for the process to occur, I think, would be to start with a 3-5,000 seat grandstand along one of the sidelines and build up from there.

    Something like this would be appropriate for a team in a national second division.

    In terms of where the money is coming from to run the second division I don’t think that any of it should come from FFA, they’re just too much hassle.

    Instead the second division should be run independently and do all its own TV deals and raise all of its own revenue, none of this should go back to FFA, at least not initially.

    When teams can prove they have financial support and can draw good numbers in a second division then you can start to look at promotion and relegation between both divisions.

    But the availability of stadiums will be key to how this process occurs.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • March 21st 2017 @ 9:53am
      Square Nostrils said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      The NSL managed for 27 years, despite its ups and downs.
      Some of those NSL clubs are lined up for a second division along with clubs from regional areas, it will work out provided a set of criteria is laid down as you indicate, that would include stadiums.

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      March 21st 2017 @ 1:26pm
      Jeff Williamson said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

      It would probably help this article if there was a little more discussion about each stadium.

      As an example, AAMI Park in Melbourne is excellent for Victory. It is the only stadium in Melbourne suitable for the A-league.
      South Melbourne need to offer a better stadium than Lakeside – it is not ideal for football.

      Wollongong do have a good stadium. Very suitable for the A-league.

      Canberra have a very good stadium – as was seen during the Asian Cup – and is certainly A-league ready.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 9:02pm
        Paul said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

        Not that I support Central Coast, but Central Coast Stadium is a perfect boutique stadium if it was exclusively used for football.

        The real elephant in the room is the multi-purpose use of stadiums.

        We need boutique football exclusive stadiums for the smaller clubs.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 2:17pm
      Ken Spacey said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

      Marden the home of Adelaide Blue Eagles has fantastic potential for an 8-12,000 all seater. It also has the OBahn guided bus way going past.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 7:23pm
      Paul2 said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

      Nice article, Nick.

      A couple of points. You say to $40m is the upper limit for Tasmania’s stadium. Are you sure that’s right? That seems a little conservative to me. Melbourne Rectangular Stadium cost (i think) b/w $200m and $300m; the Parramatta upgrade projected to cost something similar. Those are bigger than the boutiques you’re thinking, but still, it gives you an idea of the sort of money involved in these things.

      Consequently, I really think they should be open to letting in existing clubs (even the mono ethnic ones), and allowing to them play at their existing venues. If the league goes to two divisions, consisting of 25+ teams, then the reality is that a good number of those clubs are going to draw crowds significantly below those currently witnessed in the Aleague. Can’t see state governments forking out tens of millions in freshly built boutique stadiums for all of the new clubs that have been mooted recently.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 9:19pm
      pacman said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

      Interesting article Nick, but for you to state; “But the availability of stadiums will be key to how this process occurs” is missing the point.

      The availability of money is paramount. Without this ingredient, availability of stadiums is but a pipe dream. As you also wrote, “Without a good stadium you can’t host a team.” Very true, but you still need the money first.

      We now arrive at the investment scene for, as you have correctly indicated, governments are unlikely to be convinced to build the required stadiums. So, who will invest? Unlikely to be an individual, so that leaves us with consortiums. Among other things, that opens up the possibility of minimal government investment, be that local, state, Federal, or a combination thereof.

      Such a consortium would require considerable community input, and be led by the football community. The next step is to develop a business plan. How will the asset be utilized? A stadium for the exclusive use of one football club will never work, The economics of such an operation would deny success.

      I suggest to you that stadium sharing should be seriously investigated. If the San Siro in Milan (shared by AC Milan and Inter Milan) can be a success, why can’t it be done here?

      We should look at overseas models to see what we can learn. And no, I am not suggesting costly overseas junkets for bureaucrats and hangers on. Media resources are quite adequate.

      The San Siro in Milan is hired out for entertainment concerts, but only during the off season. Can you imagine the reaction if the San Siro was churned up a few days before match day?

      Yes, I know, the San Siro accommodates near capacity football crowds, therefore enjoying a different set of dynamics to, say, Suncorp. But, boutique stadiums should be able to operate in a similar fashion, simply on a smaller scale.

      Something to ponder.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 10:18pm
      MarkfromCroydon said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

      I agree that stadia is a major issue. For me, the biggest issue is the lack of government foresight and the lack of effective pressure by football bodies to achieve some decent level of funding to improve the situation. The huge problem of Federal and State Governments massively underfunding football stadia as compared to stadia that cater for other sports or events has been around for years. This is something the FFA, and all state federations and clubs must address. We need to sell the idea to government that it is an investment that will generate a return. If you have 2 teams playing out of a stadia, and a season of 28-30 matches, you can make it economically viable to have it ‘football only’ and supplement income with concerts in the off season. For me, there is a real need for a second team and 20-25k stadia in both Brisbane and Adelaide. Play the derbies or finals at the existing ‘big grounds’ as per currently, but week to week use a ‘football only stadium’. In Brisbane, theres a good location at the Murarrie recreation reserve, well located to be accessible from a lot of the city, train and main road right there, limited loss of parklands when you look at the surrounds. In Adelaide, you could build a new stadium near the Adelaide Oval or Mile End.
      We need to look at MLS for some examples of how to do it. e.g. The new Orlando stadia would be perfect for Brisbane. Other great examples, Houston, New York Red Bull or LA Galaxy stadium. Even Poland has great examples of recently built/renovated stadia that would suit. You could do it for about twice the cost here as in the U.S, (there are much higher profit margins here in Australia with so few construction companies being able to take on the construction of new stadia). In reality, it would be cheaper to hire a foreign firm to build a new stadia (probably even with local workers) but that just wouldn’t fly politically. Anyway, even with Australia’s high construction costs, new stadia can be profitable to operate, we just need to get a couple of football only ones built!

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