Wanderers have been shafted by Parramatta Stadium upgrade

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

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    The Western Sydney Wanderers have said they will help fans appeal bans handed down by the FFA. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    When it is full, Parramatta Stadium is one of the most atmospheric venues in Australia. Its capacity will soon increase, but have the Western Sydney Wanderers been shafted by the deal?

    The news this week that Parramatta Stadium would receive what the Federal Government has called “a major upgrade” came somewhat out of the blue.

    With the incumbent Labor government facing electoral annihilation at the polls, perhaps they’re just engaging in the sort of slash-and-burn spending you see punch-drunk corporations indulge in at the end of every financial year.

    “Sports fans and local sporting teams will benefit from a major upgrade of Parramatta Stadium, which will ensure more A-League and NRL matches can be played in Parramatta and secure the stadium’s future as key infrastructure for Western Sydney,” read a typically asinine media release.

    Well, no – actually. The Wanderers will still play all of their home games at the ground, just as they did last season, while co-tenants the Parramatta Eels are now likely to explore the option of a permanent move to the cavernous ANZ Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park.

    In other words, far from “securing the stadium’s future,” this half-baked stadium upgrade will almost certainly spell its demise.

    The problem is that the upgrade falls well short of solving any genuine long-term issues, especially in terms of capacity.

    The fact it will cost $20 million to tack on just 3,300 additional seats to the northern and southern ends of the ground is an absolute farce.

    At a venue crying out for two new covered two-tiered stands at either end of the ground, the Federal Government has all but condemned Parramatta Stadium to redundancy in one fell swoop.

    Now a stadium which as recently as a decade ago held 27,000 spectators will undergo costly renovations to bring its capacity up to 24,000 – well short of the number realistically needed.

    The ill-fitting behind-the-goal terraces at Parramatta Stadium are a remnant of former Eels chief executive Denis Fitzgerald’s 30-year-reign of power.

    After beer bottles rained down on the southern end during a particularly spiteful derby between the Eels and hated local rivals Canterbury many years ago – I should know because I was ducking them at the time – the Machiavellian Fitzgerald lobbied the State Government, if memory serves me correctly, to replace the grassed hills with seats.

    It was a rushed job at the time and 10 years on it looks even more ill-conceived, given that the Eels are currently pushing upwards of 17,000 members and newcomers the Wanderers have the potential to sell out the ground on a regular basis.

    There’s no doubting that Parramatta Stadium needed an upgrade; its corporate facilities were all but non-existent and the players trained and changed in cramped conditions.

    However, the Federal Government is taking its constituents in western Sydney for a ride if it thinks a 24,000-capacity stadium is suitable going forward.

    The Wanderers, in particular, have the potential to become the biggest sporting club in the region – a fact I suspect is almost always lost on anyone who doesn’t come from the area.

    Even Sydney FC fans, of which I’m one, would have to admit that unifying the football-loving tribes across the sprawling basin west of the city centre was bound to generate support.

    And while the Wanderers will need to do it all again next season – and a few early defeats could well see the club suffer a case of second-season syndrome – there’s no reason to believe that Western Sydney will get anything but stronger as the years roll by.

    It’s a shame, then, that their current home won’t reflect that – because the Wanderers deserve better than this largely pointless “stadium upgrade”.

    The Eels will simply pack their bags and move to ANZ Stadium, however the Wanderers are now caught in a bind.

    Hopefully their supporters prove a point by packing out Parramatta Stadium every game next season.

    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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    The Crowd Says (190)

    • July 5th 2013 @ 3:45am
      1860melbourne said | July 5th 2013 @ 3:45am | ! Report

      Gotta agree 100%. This is nothing more than a grab for votes. Bet the federal government gets tossed out and it wont even go ahead!

      • July 10th 2013 @ 11:03am
        Gordon said | July 10th 2013 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Are you kidding? Of course the Liberals will try to buy Western Sydney votes by pressing ahead with the upgrade, especially when they are pressured by the NSW Premier who also happens to be Minister for Western Sydney.

      • July 10th 2013 @ 11:03am
        Gordon said | July 10th 2013 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Are you kidding? Of course the Liberals will try to buy Western Sydney votes by pressing ahead with the upgrade, especially when they are pressured by the NSW Premier who also happens to be Minister for Western Sydney.

    • July 5th 2013 @ 4:15am
      Jukes said | July 5th 2013 @ 4:15am | ! Report

      Upgrade……….What upgrade. Its all words at the moment. Until that shovel hits the dirt I wouldnt be counting on it. I will believe it when I see it.

    • Roar Guru

      July 5th 2013 @ 5:54am
      NUFCMVFC said | July 5th 2013 @ 5:54am | ! Report

      I’m speaking as an outsider obviously but looking from afar I would think 25k would have been good in the interim and then there is a longer term issue where there is a need for a 40k stadium in Sydney’s west I would think

      I have heard that wsw have about 7500 members, this is a great core developing here and good to see, but at the same time I’m not so sure they are going to have the same rate of growth as in the back end of last season and much of it is still the novelty stage. Much of it will be a slow build which is good as the will be time to arrange upgrades etc.

      MVFC are facing the same issue with AAMI Park, the stadium just about holds most of the regular crowds with the exception of the derbies played there and some of the sfc and even wsw games. For this wsw can do the member seat confirmation regime MVFC have started doing but the other option is that if they really do get big they can play some matches like one derby a season at ANZ

      The other option of course is for the FFA to ram through another expansion team like they did in Melbourne to cannibalise 6k supporters, perhaps base it in the far western fringes like Penrith.

      • Roar Guru

        July 5th 2013 @ 8:43am
        Cameron Kellett said | July 5th 2013 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        NUFCMVFC,

        8,000 members was the last update on the 3rd July.

        Expect that number to continue growing. Who knows where it’ll finish but I would at least expect they’d reach 12,000 minimum.

        • July 5th 2013 @ 8:57am
          striker said | July 5th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          Kellett 8000 members and thats without the general public as yet my tip they will get close to 15k once the season starts.

          • July 5th 2013 @ 9:05am
            warren said | July 5th 2013 @ 9:05am | ! Report

            Isnt it funny about the membership issue. GWS have supposedly 10k members yet have to give tickets away to get people to the game but WSW with less (at this stage) have the house full signs up.

            Great to see WSW doing so well and look forward to another great season from them.

            • July 5th 2013 @ 9:25pm
              Avon River said | July 5th 2013 @ 9:25pm | ! Report

              Compare the win:loss ratio and that is half the story. The Gisnts figure id split across Syf & Csnberra.

              Re the Stadium upgrade. How many millions will the FFA and/or WSW snd/or NRL be contrinuting? If this were an AFL venue upgrade then there’d be $5-10 mill from AFL/clubs and that tends to unstick perhaps all 3 tiers of govts purse strings (altho the venues tend to be public assets).

            • July 13th 2013 @ 7:35pm
              Michael said | July 13th 2013 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

              Gws have half their members in Canberra, and Parramatta still have twice the members. Rugby league is still the dominant sport in Western Sydney, because it has 4 professional clubs

      • July 5th 2013 @ 11:52am
        Ian said | July 5th 2013 @ 11:52am | ! Report

        NUFCMVFC – Victory’s average crowd at AAMI last season was 19,700, well short of capacity (which is not an insult). taking into account a crowd of 26882 for the big blue held there.

        from what i’ve read AAMI is a quality ground but it doesn’t appear MV are too big for AAMI and should keep their 8 games there along with the 5 they play at etihad. i think the 5 biggest games should be played there.

        when you say FFA cannibalised 6k supporters i assume that’s a reference that the introduction of Heart simply stole their crowd from MV. sydney also had a large fall in crowds the same year and that’s after winning the GF and premiership, wellington suffered a large fall as well. and considering MV made the grand final and finished 2nd in the 5th season i can’t see 6000 MV fans jumping ship 6 months later when Heart were introduced.

        • Roar Guru

          July 5th 2013 @ 12:44pm
          NUFCMVFC said | July 5th 2013 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          There’s a bit of a strange trend with aami where given its placement perhaps there seems to be about 2-3k less for comparable fixtures. Think it might be because docklands is on th city loop so is accessible by train from all areas of Melbourne while aami park is basically along a specific line. It’s a small thing but seems to make a difference.

          The wsw home game was also a sellout, but about 4k members didn’t turn up meaning 4k empty seats. We had the same issue with the old OP before the move to docklands in season 2. The solution is to have members confirm they are attending by making the games all allocated seating and if they aren’t there spot gets sold to someone else for that game

          WSW will have similar tricks to utilise before they are really too big for Parramatta stadium, It will still hold them for some time though the extra 3k seats will help if it does go ahead

          The 6k figure is a generalisation, but by and large it holds true, a,my are former MVFC fans, there won’t have been many new people brought to the league plus it isn’t good for football to have one NRL team, one super rugby and two a-league teams where one that was head and shoulders above the other two but now only a head above the others, then there’s one which is the smallest of the lot and barely fils a quarter of AAMI Park

          • July 5th 2013 @ 1:31pm
            Ian said | July 5th 2013 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

            i recall the sell out thing for WSW and Sydney though its very strange that the crowd figures were in the low 20000s (for the WSW game).

            perhaps the games expected to be larger should be at etihad. the draw shows victory’s 5 etihad games are against heart, wellington, roar, adelaide and sydney. if the 5 were to be any home derby against heart, games against sydney and wsw this perceived issue in my opinion would be solved.

            i noticed out of the 5 etihad games they are stacked at the front of the season. 4 of them are held by round 7 and the 5th is round 16. the same thing happened last year. seems like they want the etihad games played first.

            • Roar Guru

              July 8th 2013 @ 9:43am
              NUFCMVFC said | July 8th 2013 @ 9:43am | ! Report

              There is a bit of a difference of opinion shall we say between admin and fans , admin love etihad but fans love aami park, so they have put some of the bigger games at aami plus it allows for a much better and imposing atmosphere at a fullish aami park. When we host two games against big teams I think they play one of the ties at each

              Some of it is also timing, MVFC fill a gap at etihad in spring, then the twenty20 is able to be hosted there plus nye festivals or whatever, and so in summer it suits MVFC to play at aami park

              The reason for the ‘smallish’ crowd is that obviously not all the members literally turn up for each game, I think a I heard an interesting quote that it isn’t above 65% each game. This isn’t a massive problem because the revenue the club gets is still as if they were there (hence my personal opinion that season ticket membership is more important an indicator than attendance), but now you can return the seat or opt not to confirm your presence at category a games so they can sell your seat at an sfc or wsw game at aami park

          • July 5th 2013 @ 1:55pm
            red said | July 5th 2013 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

            “along a specific line”…..

            come on mate, Richmond station serves the whole south east of melbourne. Frankston, Dandenong, Pakenham, Sandringham, Alemein, Lilydale, Belgrave all go thru Richmond. Epping and Hurstbridge lines stop at Jolimont, which is just on the other side of the MCG. that is the same MCG where people park their cars for the AAMI games.

            there is a problem with AAMI park in selling tickets to people who dont have memberships/season tickets. i have seen people either wait in line for 2 hours or get turned away from a game with 19000 inside. or a “sell out” at 20,000.

            • July 5th 2013 @ 6:30pm
              daniel p said | July 5th 2013 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

              True last year having to wait in line for my friendsto gget their tickets was a big pain so they switched on and got a membership this year and no more lines now.

            • Roar Guru

              July 9th 2013 @ 12:16am
              NUFCMVFC said | July 9th 2013 @ 12:16am | ! Report

              Yeah there is no problem getting people to go to the MCG which is literally across the road so I have always struggled to understand why games at etihad get a couple of thousand more to similar sized fixtures

              The train line could make some sense, I am an inaugural member so never had issues with lines personally, the only time I ever did was way back in seasons 1 and 2 when I occasionally went with a mate but there were never any issues

    • July 5th 2013 @ 7:18am
      whiskeymac said | July 5th 2013 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      If it happens it would be a waste. The area deserves more and with homebush already representing one sporting folly out west what has the region done to deserve another? You may aswell spend the money on a polo park in mt druitt.
      Or are the plans not quite so terrible and it will create a good stadium?

    • July 5th 2013 @ 8:05am
      Franko said | July 5th 2013 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      Absolutely, this is the best way to spend tax payer funds, make bigger stadiums!!!

      Forget spending $ on transport to get to the ground (that could be used 365) spend the dough on a bigger stand so it can be used 25 times a year by a few thousand people who like sport.
      Sporting clubs in this country are practically broke, and the players and administrators earn a pittance.

    • July 5th 2013 @ 8:07am
      Todd said | July 5th 2013 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      It should only be an interim measure until a larger stadium is built in the Prospect area (Think the current drive in movie site on the M4), that can hold 50,000.

      This would give the west a proper stadium which is 15 mins from Penrith and Parramatta, and the Panthers, Eels and Wanders can co-tenant.

      • July 5th 2013 @ 9:44am
        Kasey said | July 5th 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Prospect Drive-In site?? really? how does one get there if one doesn’t own a car? Part of the beauty of Parra Stadium is it is only a short walk from a station where so many train lines from further west congregate.

        • Roar Guru

          July 5th 2013 @ 10:34am
          Ben of Phnom Penh said | July 5th 2013 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          I agree, any practical stadium needs to have a mass transport option. Certainly I’ve been know to have a few beers before, during & after the game so the car isn’t an option.

        • July 5th 2013 @ 12:55pm
          Todd said | July 5th 2013 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

          I’m pretty sure there are 3 major train stations in the area that special event bus services can run from?

          • July 5th 2013 @ 2:19pm
            The (not so) special one said | July 5th 2013 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

            Special event buses? No thanks. The only mass transit that works is trains. An eight carriage carries more people than a dozen buses.

          • July 5th 2013 @ 2:32pm
            NY said | July 5th 2013 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

            Special event buses (provided by City Rail) from Blacktown/Rooty Hill Station to travel to a stadium in the middle of nowhere? I can see that bringing the punters in!

            • Roar Pro

              July 5th 2013 @ 3:27pm
              albatross said | July 5th 2013 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

              Mind you having a few quiet ales at the Royal Cricketers Arms just adjacent to the Drive-In site appeals,

              • Roar Guru

                July 5th 2013 @ 3:43pm
                mds1970 said | July 5th 2013 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

                🙂 That’s a good pub.

              • July 5th 2013 @ 5:03pm
                Whacko said | July 5th 2013 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

                Cricketers Arms good pub but has one bar and hodls 20 people

      • Roar Pro

        July 5th 2013 @ 11:47pm
        A View From the Top said | July 5th 2013 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

        Plus two movies for $12, dont think your taking that off me! Although I did notice 1/2 of field one is already being developed

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