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Adelaide United must increase crowds to warrant a new stadium

Adelaide United held Sydney to a thrilling draw over the silly season. (AAP Image/ James Elsby)
Roar Guru
12th December, 2017
27

A new rectangular stadium in Adelaide has been an ongoing discussion, especially in the last year, with the city’s A-League club seeking support to turn this dream into a reality.

Not only do the Reds hierarchy believe it is important for the State Government to support the only South Australian club in the A-League, but it is also vital to help grow the world game in the local market.

But a new stadium seems a distant dream right now.

Why can’t we be friends
Sports minister Leon Bignell has made it perfectly clear that until crowd numbers improve, any talk of a new stadium is mute.

United are also having issues as a current tenant with Adelaide Venue Management, who run Coopers stadium, and Chief Executive Anthony Kirchner in particular.

The lease at Hindmarsh is due to expire in May next year and there is much work to repair this relationship if the tenure is to be extended.

If Adelaide United is not managing the stadium itself under a new deal, it desires increased control in the overall operation as a major ground tenant.

The Reds have not ruled out a possible move to a new location at the end of the current deal.

Earlier this year, Norwood Oval was discussed as a potential home, but these discussions do not appear to have advanced past initial consultation.

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It is hard to imagine the configuration of Norwood Oval being appropriate or met with fans approval for that matter.

Current fan demand
Last year, United bosses suggested the Reds had outgrown Hindmarsh stadium. Crowd numbers last season and this year would suggest this is not quite accurate.

Interviewed on 5AA last week, Greg Griffin was straight to the point as usual with his crowd expectations for the upcoming home clash against Sydney: “We will fill Hindmarsh Friday night.”

While weather played a part, it was disappointing the night contest against the best team only drew a crowd of 7021.

The first game at Coopers this season attracted a crowd of 11,689. The next three home games have not broken the 10,000 barrier.

The one home game this season at Adelaide Oval saw the biggest attendance of the year to date, in front of 19,416 fans.

Was this because it was against Melbourne Victory? The first home game of the year? Or helped by the fact the game was played in the city?

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Ignore code wars and embrace all
While there will always be those who engage in mindless bashing of other codes, plenty follow multiple sports and are not interested in the squabbles.

There is obviously interest in the A-League but not enough fans engaged in turning up on a more regular basis. An issue not just applicable to Adelaide United.

The majority of AFL fans in South Australia are Crows or Power fans. With plenty of seats available at Hindmarsh and with the AFL primarily not clashing with the A-League, it makes sense to try and win more support from AFL circles.

The relationship that exists between United and Port Adelaide is an interesting sub-plot, given the history United owner Rob Gerard and most notably Greg Griffin has with the AFL club.

Is it a major issue? Maybe not. But if you are a Power fan with some passing interest in football and are thinking about investing time and money in the local team, then why would you actively support an organisation that runs down the AFL club you support?

The commentary just does not seem to serve any purpose. Rather than risk the possibility of alienating a potential customer base, maybe best to not fan the flames.

Finance and marketing
Adelaide United need to continue to make their brand more visible and appealing to the general public.

Members and regular patrons will likely feel the product is good quality, deserving of the money they spend. But if crowd numbers do not reflect positively then ticketing cost is something to ponder.

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As a friend of mine remarked at the last AU game we went to at Coopers, “There is something fundamentally wrong when a seat in the western grandstand tonight cost me more than attending some Premier League fixtures when I was on holiday.”

A general admission ticket at Coopers is $26 plus booking fee. Pricing may not require a complete overhaul, but simple supply and demand dictates the mix is not quite right.

Maybe Sydney FC are on the right track for the game at Allianz this week. Discounted food and drink prices is a nice reward. Currently many sporting venues require a personal loan before you can afford a beer and some hot chips.

Set the foundation for an upgrade
A lot of pundits share the view ‘build it and they will come’, with the AFL clubs’ move to Adelaide oval cited as a prime example of the benefits a stadium in the city provides.

Unfortunately, the best compromise on offer for Adelaide United from the State Government seems to be an expansion at Hindmarsh – if crowds start turning up on a more consistent basis.

There are plenty of factors for Adelaide United to consider in what they can do and where the long-term future of the club lies.

But there needs to be an upturn in attendance soon otherwise talk of upgrades and new stadium discussion will fall completely off the radar.