Has Brisbane been abandoned by football in Australia?

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Well might Tourism and Events Queensland celebrate Jeff Horn’s historic win at Suncorp Stadium, because they’re not going to be celebrating a Socceroos game any time soon.

    How good was Horn’s incredible welterweight world title win in Brisbane yesterday? I was sitting transfixed in the stands for what was one of the most remarkable sporting events I’ve ever seen.

    And TEQ and Brisbane City Council deserve every plaudit they get for bringing one of the biggest events in Australian sporting history to the Sunshine State.

    The sun was certainly shining on Horn – who from my vantage point won the fight fair and square – and the reported crowd of around 50,000 that filed into Suncorp Stadium to witness his astonishing Rocky-esque victory.

    But a few unpalatable truths will get lost amid the fanfare, starting with the fact thousands of seats remained empty by the time an unsuspecting Manny Pacquiao sauntered into the ring.

    Here’s some free advice for Australian sports promoters: whatever you think is a fair price for a ticket, reduce it by a third and you’ll be a lot closer to the mark of what fans are willing to pay.

    Jeff Horn Boxing 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    For all the speculation about the ‘Battle of Brisbane’ breaking attendance records, the honest truth is that Duco Events struggled to shift thousands of unsold tickets, eventually moving the cheapest seats down a tier when it became clear no one was willing to pay huge costs to sit in the nosebleeds.

    Nevertheless, there were still swathes of empty seats throughout the stadium, with the promoters once again overestimating just how much money event-fatigued punters are willing to pay at the box office.

    Still, you could argue that fight fans in Brisbane at least had the choice of whether to attend or not, which is more than you can say for Socceroos fans in the city.

    By the time Australia hosts Thailand in Melbourne on September 5 – presumably at AAMI Park – it will have been more than five years since the Socceroos last played a World Cup qualifier in Brisbane.

    You could argue that’s largely the result of the Queensland state government putting all of their eggs in the Pacquiao basket, with the Filipino fighter walking away with a reported prize purse of some $10 million despite losing the fight.

    And with thousands of fans descending on Brisbane from interstate and beyond – packing out the city’s hotels in the process – you could argue that from TEQ’s point of view, it’s money well spent.

    But the reality is a significant portion of Queensland youngsters are missing out of the chance to watch their national team play on the biggest stage of all.

    Yet you could never accuse Football Federation Australia of caring about the welfare of fans.

    This is the same organisation that blithely expects fans to fly to Japan to support the national team at Saitama Stadium, but couldn’t be bothered informing those same fans where the next game is taking place until it’s effectively too late to book travel.

    Matthew Leckie Australia Socceroos 2016 Football

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    Does anyone at FFA headquarters care what the critics think? They’re probably more concerned with how they’ve come out looking in the wake of the Garcia report into corruption being leaked to the international press.

    But after the A-League draw was released last week – one which once again sees Brisbane Roar play second fiddle to a host of other codes and events – it’s hard to escape the feeling that football in Australia remains a frustratingly Sydney and Melbourne-centric pastime.

    Horn’s victory yesterday helped put Brisbane on the international map, even if many viewers in the northern hemisphere were bemused by the result.

    But it won’t be enough to convince the Queensland state government to open the purse strings and pay for a World Cup qualifier.

    More’s the pity for fans of a team that increasingly is national in name only.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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