I know this subject has been a hot topic recently, and some will say that it’s been done to death. But particularly at this point in the game’s journey in Australia, I really think it needs to be revisited, and acted upon swiftly.
Football has always had its issues when it comes to infrastructure, and it will continue to do so, but the game and its stakeholders must now help themselves.
With the three other football codes all overlapping into each other’s season at some point in Australia, demand for sports stadia is now at an all-time high.
Couple this with the well publicised terrible pitches that our stadiums have dished up for Socceroos friendlies recently, and you can see that there’s a gap in the market, particularly for our game.
The FFA must recognise this and put a plan together to rectify it. It won’t happen by talking to the existing stadium managers around the country, because as we’ve seen in the last month, and for the last 20 years in my experience, nothing will change.
There’s no coincidence that our best surfaces have been at places like nib Stadium in Perth or Coopers Stadium in Adelaide. These are football specific pitches or close to it. The other codes, particularly the two rugby codes, cut up the pitches badly, and the length of grass for AFL is too low for football matches, which means that the ball flies around too quickly, becomes too hard to control and it ruins the game, not to mention that those grounds are ovals.
A pristine surface for football is a must, it should be a given, a non-negotiable, and the FFA can help fix this issue once and for all.
We’ve heard many high-profile media figures such as Francis Leach recently talk up the need for a national stadium, or ‘our Wembley’, most likely to be located in Sydney. Yes, it’d probably mean more games in NSW, but even coming from Melbourne, I’d have no issue with this as the game needs to crawl before it can walk.
A national stadium would help give the game the oxygen it needs. The FFA could fixture Socceroos and Matildas fixtures there, as well as all the junior national teams, both male and female, FFA Cup matches, some A-League matches here and there if need be, and community football programs/tournaments and events.
This should be built as a place for all participants and lovers of the game. A minimum capacity of 40,000 would be enough. This would house our national teams and a football museum to show off the sport’s history in Australia.
The A-League is now nearly 12 seasons old, and it’s a great competition. But the clubs have been all about surviving rather than investing in facilities. Sure, some now have new training bases, which is fantastic, but they’ll always be playing out of the same government-owned stadiums, sharing those with NRL clubs, and having the same issues well into the future.
I know such a project wouldn’t come cheap, but the FFA could look to do a number of things to help fund this. A family like the Lowys with all their contacts could look to get some government assistance, as all the other codes do to great effect.
The FFA could also build a levy, either into the existing registration costs, or at worst add a $20 or $50 levy per year for up to five years into players’ registration fees. Now I know the costs to play our game are already astronomical in many cases, but at least people would know their money was getting re-invested back into bricks and mortar for the sport.
The third option is that Frank Lowy himself could build a national stadium for the game, or even help to part fund the operation, as he certainly has the coin. Not likely, but the game has options, and they should use the large participation numbers, and their year on year growth to their advantage.
Even if nothing comes of it, the games needs to at the very least be having these discussions. Infrastructure is the next frontier for the sport and one which will set the game up for future generations.
What do you think, Roarers? Does the game need a national stadium, how would it be funded and where would you put it?