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The NSW stadiums strategy is costing a fortune at the taxpayer’s expense, which isn’t good for football.
To overcome this, I have four suggestions, followed by a fifth idea about where the money could actually come from to pay for the venues.
1. Modular design
Modular design allows you to scale capacity as required. If the team grows or is promoted, you can easily increase capacity and vice versa if the opposite occurs.
Secondly, the individual sections can be taken out and replaced in the off-season without interrupting the club, an issue the Western Sydney Wanderers are grappling with.
There’s no need to knock down the whole stadium in one go, it can be rebuilt in stages.
In America’s second tier, the United Soccer League, construction firm InProduction were declared by the league to be the “official modular stadium and seating supplier” of the USL.
By having an official supplier, FFA could create an economy of scale through standardisation of components. This would lower the cost of both the initial construction itself, as well as ongoing repairs and maintenance.
According to a KPMG report, the cost of maintenance and repairs are typically two per cent of the final construction cost per annum. So the cost of maintenance and repairs for the new, $730 million stadium at Moore Park would be around $14.6 million per year.
But if you had multiple stadiums sharing the same construction system and parts, these costs could be reduced.
The selection of materials could also reduce costs, such as if timber was used, since wood doesn’t crumble over time like concrete. This is a strong point of the Bear Stadiums concept.
3. Fan design
The architectural design itself could also be an area where costs could be cut. If the fans design the stadium themselves, like the WikiHouse Project, then you don’t have to pay for the plans either – they’re open source.
If you can have a WikiHouse then why not a WikiStadium?
Too often with exotic stadiums, form follows finance. Rather than designing stadiums for the ‘few with a lot’, we should be designing stadiums for the ‘many with a bit’.
4. Fan labour
Fans have taken part in constructing their own stadiums before, such as in 2008, when 2500 supporters put in 140,000 work hours voluntarily to bring the Stadion An der Alten Försterei up to date for FC Union Berlin.
If this was combined with a sweat equity deal on memberships, I’m sure you could get a few people offering to put in time as volunteers for the construction.
Not only would this save money but the joint experience of those who take part will bind the fans together both as a community and a club.
There may be issues with WorkCover, unions, site inductions, PPE, training, organising workers, OHS and so on, but I’m pretty sure they have all those things in Germany as well and it didn’t stop them, did it?
Maybe FFA just need to lobby the government to create a new owner-builder category for stadiums?
5. Fan financing
Financing is always the biggest hurdle, so why don’t fans just pay for their own stadiums as part of their memberships?
Government funding is a major hurdle to overcome in financing a stadium and private investors willing to put up the money themselves may not be forthcoming.
But if fans are willing to finance the construction, then anything is possible.
Take a design such as Robina Stadium on the Gold Coast, for example. The stadium cost $160 million in 2008, which works out to about $190 million in today’s money. With 27,400 seats, that works out to $6934 per seat, or just $346 per annum spread over 20 years.
That’s less than a dollar a day.
But that’s nothing compared to some of the costs for ‘personal seat licenses’ in America, which allow fans to buy season tickets for a particular, private seat.
The NFL’s Raiders – who will be playing at a new, US$2 billion stadium in Las Vegas currently under construction – will partly fund it through PSLs, which will cost anywhere between US$20,000 to US$70,000 each.
At Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, ‘stadium builder licenses’ ranged from US$2000 to US$80,000, and the average season ticket cost per game ranged from US$85 to US$375, according to the 49ers’ website.
I don’t even want to think what PSLs will cost at the new Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park. That stadium is set to cost US$5 billion to construct (AU$7 billion).
Hopefully Australian fans won’t have to fork out that kind of money, but it does show what fans are willing to do if they’re passionate about a club.
To wrap things up, stadiums need to be modular, with standardised parts and construction methods using open-source designs created by fans. These same fans can also build, finance and own the stadium themselves without having to rely on government or mega-rich owners for support.
Power to the people!