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Western Sydney Stadium is the feel-good story the A-League needs

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Expert
28th February, 2019
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The new Western Sydney Stadium will be a game-changer for the A-League, even if the Wanderers have a bit of work to do between now and next season to fill it.

The news that the Wanderers have signed a deal to play all 13 home games at Bankwest Stadium next season was the feel-good story the A-League needed.

Judging from the photos alone, the new stadium will not only be the best in the A-League but also one of the most amazing venues anywhere in the southern hemisphere.

The safe standing terrace will give Bankwest Stadium a major point of difference, but even without it the stadium has all the ingredients to become an even more formidable fortress than the old Parramatta Stadium.

Wanderers fans will get the chance to check out the new venue when their side faces English heavyweights Leeds United in a friendly on July 20. They should definitely take it.

That the Wanderers have finally announced plans to move into the venue can probably be interpreted one of two ways.

Artist's impression of Parramatta Stadium

An artist’s impression of Parramatta (Western Sydney) Stadium (supplied)

Firstly, a multimillion-dollar government stadium isn’t cheap to build, and the fact that NRL side the Parramatta Eels originally baulked at the cost of the tenancy agreement probably said much about how the New South Wales government planned to claw back construction costs.

The Wanderers are no doubt being charged a pretty penny to play there as well, but the two clubs were always going to be the stadium’s anchor tenants, and the fact that the Wanderers deal has only just been announced probably had more to do with the government wanting to give the Eels some clean air to sell tickets.

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Those will invariably be in short supply when the first Sydney derby at the new venue rolls around, but the best thing about the stadium is that it should be an attraction in itself.

If people can’t be bothered checking out a ground with the steepest seating rake and no doubt the best atmosphere in Australia, then perhaps they’re not football fans at all.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to how things at the Wanderers are currently going.

‘Not well’ would be the short answer.

Last October I wrote a column suggesting it was a myth that the Wanderers are a well-supported club and that they languished behind Sydney FC in the city’s pecking order.

Not surprisingly, Wanderers fans didn’t take too kindly to the suggestion, with a few of them more or less offering me explicit instructions on where to go.

But here’s the thing: I was right.

Before last Sunday’s dramatic 1-1 draw with Perth Glory at Spotless Stadium, the Red and Black Bloc released a statement to say they would be “present but not active” for all remaining home games at Sydney Olympic Park.

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It was a reasonably eloquent statement as far as these things go, and the suggestion that A-League games continue to be “over-policed” and that stadium bans are “still not being addressed” certainly has merit.

But the problem for the RBB is that they’re the fan group equivalent of the boy who cried wolf.

Having complained about practically every single aspect of supporting a football club, everyone else started tuning them out long ago – including the Wanderers.

And there’s a lingering suspicion that more than a few fans who chanted “Wanderers ‘til I die” at the old Parramatta Stadium only to disappear in Homebush, will conspicuously reappear as soon as the new stadium opens.

That’s fine – we are in the entertainment business after all – but it hardly makes the Wanderers the best-supported club in the land.

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To put it simply, Western Sydney officials will have to do a bit of legwork to reconnect with a fan-base that has disappeared into the ether.

Fortunately the new Bankwest Stadium looks so amazing it should do a lot of the hard work for them.

If the new Wanderland doesn’t get you excited about the A-League, then nothing will.

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