Fan labour the answer to football’s stadia problems

Nick Symonds Roar Rookie

By Nick Symonds, Nick Symonds is a Roar Rookie


39 Have your say

    The Amish might not be the most obvious people you would think of when it comes to stadium construction but maybe they should be.

    As we get closer to having a second division in Australia, the demand for good quality stadiums for smaller clubs will increase. But if the designs proposed are too expensive they might struggle to get funding.

    The Wanderers’ new 30,000 capacity stadium in Parramatta will cost $300 million, or $10,000 per seat. While in Perth their new oval stadium for AFL and cricket will cost a whopping $17,000 per seat.

    These costs are far too high for small clubs and their proposals won’t get the go ahead if they are simply too expensive.

    One solution to reducing costs is to get the fans to build the stadium themselves. Oddly enough this has happened before in Berlin.

    Back in 2008, German club Union Berlin wanted to bring their home ground, the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, or ‘Stadium By The Old Forester’s House’, up to date.

    Around 2500 supporters put in 140,000 work hours voluntarily to get it built. Not only that but they donated blood to raise money to pay off the club’s debts. They built the stadium themselves, and literally bled for their club.

    The stadium has a capacity of 22,000 with only 3,600 seats. The rest is all terracing.

    Why can’t we do the same here?

    If ambitious clubs want to build stadiums so they can have the chance to be promoted to the A-League they can ask the fans to volunteer and help build the stadium themselves.

    Not only will this save money but the joint experience of those who take part will help to bind the fans together as a community, like a good old Amish barn raising.

    The next question that needs to be asked is what sort of stadiums would be appropriate in Australia?

    While a capacity of 22,000 fans might be suitable for Union Berlin this might be excessive for an Australian second division club. It might even be too much for an A-League club when the average attendance is only around 12,000 across the league.

    The best guide might come from the original proposal for an Australian Premier League, which recommended that stadiums should have a capacity of 10-15,000 to create a good atmosphere. But this might also be too much for a second division club. They may be better off with between 5-8000 seats. Something simple like Yeovil Town’s stadium, Huish Park.

    To overcome this issue the stadium could be designed to expand outwards if the team is promoted. Or contract inwards if it is relegated. This would allow the stadium to be kept at the optimal size depending on which league the club is in.

    Again, like building it in the first place, the fans can do this themselves in the off-season. The cavity below the stands could be used as storage space.

    Another option might be to build a permanent main grandstand along one of the sidelines and use temporary stands around the others in a similar layout to Hindmarsh. Wellington Phoenix did something like this at Hutt Recreation Ground.

    But this doesn’t mean you can’t use the same methods with larger stadiums. Adelaide United could use a stadium with 30,000 seats but the South Australian government is hesitant about putting up the cash. If Adelaide United fans build it themselves the cost can be kept much lower. Would they rather go to Norwood Oval instead?

    How about Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar? Wouldn’t their fans prefer to have smaller stadiums? They can build new ones themselves if they want.

    Temporary stadiums with around 30,000 seats have been built before and would be ideal if they were used permanently.

    In 2010, the Vancouver Whitecaps built a 27,000-seat temporary stadium, which took only 111 days to construct for just $14.5 million. This led some commentators to suggest that temporary stadiums should be used on a permanent basis for other MLS teams whose football-specific stadiums were averaging $200 million.

    I guess that temporary is the wrong word in this context. Maybe ‘kit stadium’ would be more accurate. The price of $14.5 million comes to just 2.9 per cent of the cost of the club’s new permanent BC Place Stadium.

    In terms of amenities and features, the temporary stadium was on par with most permanent stadiums featuring covered seating, broadcast booths, luxury suites, scoreboards, enormous video screens, concession stands, restrooms, retail space and locker rooms.

    Another temporary stadium is Rugby League Park in Christchurch which has 18,600 seats and which was constructed in under 100 days in 2011 for just $30 million.

    Closer to home the 48,500-seat QSAC is still in use in Brisbane, showing that even large designs are possible without breaking the bank.

    Similar construction methods can be scaled for different needs on a case by case basis.

    But whether it’s a large or small stadium the use of volunteer fan labour might be a way to keep costs down and it’s something that we should think about here in Australia.

    As for building big expensive stadiums like ANZ or Lang Park, that’s just horse and buggy thinking.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • July 15th 2017 @ 3:48am
      jeff dustby said | July 15th 2017 @ 3:48am | ! Report

      you obviously have no idea about australian health and safety laws among other things

      • July 15th 2017 @ 6:28am
        Waz said | July 15th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

        Jeff, a rather flippant comment – what are the specific issues with health and safety?

        QSAC in Brisbane is built using three temporary stands so the technology is sound and has moved on significantly since the stadium was built.

        I’d imagine getting 2,500 fans working in an Australian construction site would present numerous challenges but no different to bringing in ‘Labour Hire’ so a challenge, but one that can be overcome.

        • July 15th 2017 @ 8:07am
          j,binnie said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

          Waz – The QSCA stadium at Mt Gravatt has a history dogged by bad decision making,not by those concerned with Health and Safety regulations but by sheer bad decision making.
          When it was first built (for the Commonwealth Games) three of the four seating areas were as you suggest erected in timber,no doubt with the future in mind where the “cheaper” stands could be removed if necessary
          Since those days there has been many re-furbishments to the site and it is in these expenditures it is hard to fathom the logic behind those responsible for such use of taxpayers funds.
          It is not widely known that the original grassed area was never at any time large enough to allow any football code to stage a game under international rules at the time
          The excuse given at the time was that the stadium was not built for football but for athletic contests which, as apparent to everyone except Brisbane City Councilers have a record of pulling around 2 or 3 000 people to a “meet”.
          The Broncos,due to a political dispute between major sponsors, were forced to use the ground for a number of years but had to use false grass in the corners of the ground to facilitate that use.
          Despite having their best ever attendance figure at the ground the Broncos could not get back to the re developed Lang Park quickly enough and so QSAC once again became a remembrance site to bad decision making.
          I was in the stadium on that magical opening day in 1982 when 60,000 welcomed the Commonwealth Games . The atmosphere was fantastic but It would be correct to say that in the stadium’s 35 years in existence the “house full ” sign has been seldom, if ever, used again.
          The tragedy of the site is that Wembley Stadium in London ,that world renowned sporting edifice,had been used for sporting events ,football AND athletics since the 1945 Olympic Games,but even that fine example was apparently totally ignored by our City Fathers of the time who knew better.
          Such is the dangers inherent in our political system. Cheers jb.

          • July 15th 2017 @ 10:46am
            Waz said | July 15th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

            Stadiums in QLD are solely a political decision jb; if, as rumoured with the southern Sydney bid, there was suddenly $300m to build a football-specific stadium the last place you’d want to build is Queensland so we’re left with the irony that Suncorp is way over used and QEII way underused. Only in Brisbane!

            • July 15th 2017 @ 1:50pm
              j,binnie said | July 15th 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

              Waz – As you are aware ,Perry Park was originally to be the home of football in Brisbane but unfortunately, as is usual, money became scarce and the Grandstand that was to be built over the present “clubhouse” was never built,even though the foundations to carry that stand were completed.
              When Rangers were treated as guests there in the ’70’s it was felt that it would be nice to have a big crowd so temporary seating was erected on the far side of the present pitch and it was recorded that over 8000 people paid for accomodation.
              Things at the site have changed somewhat and today it would be feasible to “turn” the pitch around 90 degrees and have seating down both sides with the original stand being built and another stand behind the other goals. With a railway station across the road and the bus journey from the city at almost the same distance as city to Suncorp there would be little change to existing travel arrangements.
              If these improvements were costed at many millions I’d like to see the costings even at today’s prices. Cheers jb.

              • July 15th 2017 @ 2:17pm
                Waz said | July 15th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

                There’s a few problems with PP as you’ll know jb; the YMCA hold the lease on the site and sub-lease the football facilities to the strikers and then there’s the local residents who have been very vocal against redevelopment. But otherwise I agree with you

              • July 15th 2017 @ 2:26pm
                marcel said | July 15th 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

                JB…a pitch needs to run in a North/South orientation ….otherwise one of the keepers will be facing into the afternoon Sun .

              • July 15th 2017 @ 2:38pm
                marcel said | July 15th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

                Nick…unskilled and unlicensed labour forms a very small component of any building site in Australia.

                Even still have to address the realities of Workcover, Unions, Site inductions, PPE , training and organising of the workers..and the quality of their finished work….I’d expect that in the end youd be lucky if it actually wasnt more expensive.

              • July 15th 2017 @ 10:33pm
                j,binnie said | July 15th 2017 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

                marcel – Don’t know if you are aware of the fact but when “summer soccer” was first envisaged it was recommended that the games ,especially in Brisbane, be played in early evening (6 to7 pm start) and played under floodlights so if this had been adhered to by the then powers that be, the sun would not be a problem for either goalkeeper.
                Actually heat was not envisaged as a problem for Brisbane ,the greatest threat being from thunderstorms and heavy rain at that time of year..
                Actually why that part of the original suggestion was ignored was the fact that not many clubs playing in the then NSL had floodlights at their grounds, under which an official game could be played.
                So, under the voting system at head office,that part of the suggestion was shelved, no money being the reason. Cheers jb.

              • July 15th 2017 @ 10:42pm
                j,binnie said | July 15th 2017 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

                Waz -Yes I am aware of the leasing arrangements at PP but these arrangement are comparatively recent, for the then QSF were granted the lease back in 1966 and one can only imagine it was the financial hardship suffered by that organisation that saw YMCA welcomed as a new lessor with Football being granted a sub lease over the greater part of the available land.
                To the best of my knowledge this arrangement appears to be perfectly satisfactory.
                Re the complaints from residents ,the amount of re-development going on in the area does not appear to be attracting much complaint so don\’t know just how serious this oft cited argument is?
                Standing on PP it is hard to imagine great numbers of residents on the hillside for on the other 3 sides of the ground there appears to be only industrial development. Makes on wonder. Cheers jb.

    • July 15th 2017 @ 7:45am
      League table speaks said | July 15th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Great article! 🙂

      But yes this is straya, riddled with all sorts of regulation adding costs and headaches to this DIY self starter mentality.

      Can we get an “owner builder” category for stadia? lol

      The volunteer mindset is alive and well at NPL level and is the key to a seamless pro to semi pro pyramid league structure. Would be great if this could translate to development of facilities.

      Football should not be so dependent on government monies and stadium plans for defining the future of the game.

      Why wait for political expediency which is only ever playing catchup with what free peoples could do in the now. 🙂

    • July 15th 2017 @ 7:47am
      tigranes said | July 15th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      I might br mistaken but aren’t German soccer clubs at least partially owned by the fans? This might incentivise the fans to put in their blood and sweat.

      A-League clubs are privately owned entites held by billionaire owners. Will fans genuinely provide free labour to help businesses owned by Paul Lederer and Frank Lowy…u reckon Frank would grab a shovel and help out?

      • July 15th 2017 @ 12:47pm
        Waz said | July 15th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

        Fans would and often do volunteer their time for free already.

    • Roar Guru

      July 15th 2017 @ 8:22am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      It is the way much of the community infrastructure gets built in the country (they joys of the working-bees) so it is definitely possible if you have sufficient members with emotional investment and labour skills. For a member-owned club it should be possible for much of the grunt work associated with construction which can bring down costs significantly.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 15th 2017 @ 8:38am
      Grobbelaar said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      Handing out hard hats and working boots alone would cost millions of dollars.

      • July 15th 2017 @ 8:44am
        Nemesis said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        So what? From what we are told it is the cost of labour that makes construction much more expensive in Australia than overseas. Not the cost of work boots & safety gear.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 15th 2017 @ 1:02pm
          Grobbelaar said | July 15th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

          so you reckon the idea of thousands of fans donating their labour to build a stadium is feasible?

          • July 15th 2017 @ 1:48pm
            Waz said | July 15th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

            I’d say it is. It’s remarkable what fans will do for their club.

          • July 15th 2017 @ 1:55pm
            Nemesis said | July 15th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

            Absolutely it’s doable.

            Sweat in exchange for equity in the club. Why wouldn’t fans who have the skills want to get involved?

            • July 15th 2017 @ 6:33pm
              Jack Russell said | July 15th 2017 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

              Yeah, why wouldn’t the average Australian want to donate their labour for free so their multi millionaire owners can benefit??

              I can’t see any reason.

              • July 15th 2017 @ 10:07pm
                Nemesis said | July 15th 2017 @ 10:07pm | ! Report

                You obviously don’t understand the concept of “equity”? You aren’t the target audience for this discussion. Go back to discussing coward punches, smoking ice & whatever else they do in your sport.

              • July 16th 2017 @ 11:57am
                marcel said | July 16th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

                You obviously don’t understand how the construction industry works. Why don’t you go back to the Fin Review and stop embarrassing yourself.

              • July 16th 2017 @ 12:54pm
                Nemesis said | July 16th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report


                Maybe get a job & then enter discussions about commerce?

                There are currently schools, clubs in Melbourne that use labour from parents & members for construction & maintenance.

                Ask your parents about it.

              • July 16th 2017 @ 4:50pm
                marcel said | July 16th 2017 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

                @NemFuss…I’ve been running a very successful business, in the construction industry, for over 30 yrs. I have received awards for my work both locally and internationally….some of these in the field of stadium design.

                The fact that you consider that a few P+C members doing a bit of casual maintenance to be in anyway analogous to the construction of a stadium…is highly amusing to those of us that actually have expertise in this subject….again…educate yourself …or stop embarrassing yourself.

              • July 16th 2017 @ 5:48pm
                Nemesis said | July 16th 2017 @ 5:48pm | ! Report


                Do you understand what this article is about? It’s not about constructing another AAMI Park. It’s about constructing grandstand like the members of Melbourne Knights did at Somers Street. Grandstands have been erected, churches & schools have been constructed in Melbourne by the sweat of parents & club members.

                No one suggests these buildings will win awards for design.
                This is not fantasy. It has happened & it still happens.

                If you are in the construction industry, I’m sure you don’t like the fact work like this is being done.

              • Roar Rookie

                July 16th 2017 @ 8:09pm
                Grobbelaar said | July 16th 2017 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

                The author’s exact words are: “If ambitious clubs want to build stadiums so they can have the chance to be promoted to the A-League they can ask the fans to volunteer and help build the stadium themselves. ”

                So I think Marcel has read the article.

                And I’d like to add my support for what he is saying, it’s a silly idea, and to be honest, I thought the author was just writing another one of his humorous pieces.

                There’s a big difference between using your sponsors, who happen to be in the building industry to enable you to add a grandstand to a surburban ground, and building a whole stadium using the labour donated by thousands of fans.

                AS for how things may have been built in the past, yes, 50 or 60 years ago community groups got together to build churches, or church halls, or even the foundations of a school, not sure if such examples are applicable in the modern age in relation to stadiums.

            • July 16th 2017 @ 3:37am
              jeff dustby said | July 16th 2017 @ 3:37am | ! Report

              safety laws and training will stop people getting involved. Trade unions will not allow it

    • July 15th 2017 @ 8:39am
      Nemesis said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      This is the way things were done in Australia 30+ years ago. Buildings & facilities for sporting clubs, schools, churches relied on members, players, parents, congregation rolling up their sleeves & doing the job.

      Provided the building regulations met, I’d be surprised if it cannot be done today.

      And, not just bricks & mortar. I’m sure all ALeague clubs all have fans who vast array of skills that could be leveraged if they went looking. Technology, marketing, medical, catering, trades, etc.

      Sweat, in exchange for equity in an ALeague club? Why not think about it?