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Football is the biggest loser from Sydney's stadium debacle

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Expert
7th March, 2019
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3050 Reads

Michael Daley hates football and wants to deny your kids the chance to dream of growing up and one day playing the game for the Socceroos or the Matildas.

See how shrill and sensationalist that statement sounds?

So why is it okay for the New South Wales opposition leader to spout equally shrill electioneering slogans and have no one question his motives for it?

And more to the point, could the supposedly global city of Sydney possibly get any more provincial?

NSW Labor’s “Schools and Hospitals before Stadiums” is a calculated piece of political strategy.

It ignores the fact that there’s enough money in the state’s purse to pay for schools, hospitals and stadiums, and ensures the party is diametrically opposed to the incumbent Liberal government.

Sydney FC fans

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s up to the voters of New South Wales to decide in two weeks’ time whether that’s a sound election strategy, but in the meantime football fans should feel genuinely concerned.

Why? Because right now an A-League club that produced several of the highest attendances at Allianz Stadium is homeless, and Australia’s two senior national teams may never set foot in the CBD of the nation’s largest city again.

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“There’s a class of people who have been forgotten and that is the workers… who have families, who have mortgages, who have bills to pay, who are worried about their security,” Daley told the media over concerns that contractors employed to demolish Allianz Stadium would lose their jobs.

There’s another class of people he’s completely forgotten – A-League fans.

But here’s the thing – and I’ve banged on about this since the start of the Sydney stadium fiasco – for politicians like Daley, the A-League simply doesn’t exist.

It cannot be stressed enough how little the Australian mainstream thinks of football.

Even when politicians like Daley do think about ‘soccer’, they still believe it’s a game enjoyed exclusively by ‘new Australians’ wanting to feel a connection to the old country.

It’s a sentiment shared by a significant proportion of mainstream Australia.

That’s precisely why whenever anyone points out that the Sydney derby was regularly sold out at Allianz Stadium, they have no idea what you’re talking about.

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They literally don’t know what the Sydney derby is – or the A-League or Sydney FC – and the second you mention it’s to do with football is the second they start resorting to clichés about the National Soccer League and flares and ethnic violence.

Many of these are the same sort of people who claim Australia needs to forge closer links to Asia and in the same breath admit they’ve never heard of the AFC Champions League or the Asian Cup.

Then you have this strange trend among the left wing of Australian politics to equate ‘sport’ with ‘jocks’ and automatically label every sports lover as ‘bogans’.

Read the comments section in any Sydney Morning Herald article about the Sydney stadium debate and many of the readers will make references to NRL side the Sydney Roosters.

The argument is always the same – why should Allianz Stadium be knocked down and rebuilt when the Roosters never fill it?

“Because other codes like football and rugby union often do,” you might reply.

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“Huh?”

Once again, some of these folks would be mortified if the Art Gallery of New South Wales was half-demolished and replaced with a temporary building.

Yet there’s an assumption that certain forms of public entertainment are automatically more worthy than others.

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At the end of the day, my interest lies in football and that’s obviously why I feel obliged to speak up for the game.

But if I were Sydney FC, I’d be alarmed by Michael Daley’s stance right now.

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They’ve gone from a club who busted a gut to bring fans through the gates of a stadium that was no longer fit for purpose to being homeless on the back of a political whim.

So much for putting people first.