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There'd be more magic in the FFA Cup if teams could play at home

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Expert
25th July, 2019
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The FFA Cup may signal the start of a brand new season but we’re still stuck with the same old problem of some teams having to host home ties in neutral venues.

Wednesday night’s Round of 32 fixtures were as dramatic as we’ve ever seen in the six-year history of the competition.

Adelaide Olympic’s 4-3 comeback win over Perth visitors Floreat Athena on the synthetic pitch at the VALO Football Centre had to be seen to be believed, while Manly United twice took the lead and missed a second half spot-kick before ultimately downing Sydney rivals Mount Druitt Town Rangers on penalties.

Moreland Zebras also beat Bulleen Lions on penalties, while Gold Coast Premier League battlers Coomera Colts may have gone down 2-1 to Magpies Crusaders in Mackay but they probably enjoyed the occasion more than any other club.

Edgeworth FC were too strong for Darwin Olympic, even without former A-League regular Daniel McBreen, but it was Brisbane’s Olympic FC who had the honour of hosting the live Fox Sports game, against Bayswater City.

And despite some pre-match comments suggesting that Olympic were playing “at home”, that wasn’t quite the case.

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The club founded by Greek migrants has been based in Yeronga on Brisbane’s south side since 1982, where their Goodwin Park home is one of the more atmospheric grounds in Queensland’s state league.

However, Wednesday night’s clash took place on the north side of the river, at Perry Park in Bowen Hills – home to NPL rivals Brisbane Strikers – because the lights at Goodwin Park don’t meet the required lux standards for broadcast.

It meant there was no repeat of the epic scenes at Olympic’s first ever FFA Cup game in 2014 when more than 2000 fans – including several Brisbane Roar first-team regulars – crammed into Goodwin Park to watch the Brisbane outfit down Melbourne Knights 3-1 in a fiery affair.

Having seen off the Knights to qualify for the Round of 16 that year, Olympic was then ‘rewarded’ with a home tie against the Central Coast Mariners at the derelict QSAC Stadium in Nathan.

It meant the reported crowd of 1374 fans that night rattled around in what is ostensibly a 48,500-capacity stadium.

Moving ties to the compact Perry Park makes a lot more sense, but it’s still a shame they have to be moved at all.

Last year, Lions FC reportedly offered to bring in their own lights to host Adelaide United at their storied Richlands home but still ended up playing their Round of 16 match at Perry Park anyway.

And in moving games to what are essentially neutral venues, we’re losing the essence of what’s supposed to make the FFA Cup great in the first place.

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Less than a thousand fans turned out at Perry Park to watch Olympic FC hammer Bayswater 5-2, but there should be more in attendance when Brisbane Strikers host A-League outfit Wellington Phoenix at the same venue on August 7.

Wellington Phoenix

Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

The Strikers still conjure plenty of fond memories in the city, but in another case of strange scheduling, their clash kicks off at the same time as Brisbane Roar’s FFA Cup visit to Sydney FC. Lucky we’ve got the My Football app.

At the end of the day, these are first-world problems.

Olympic losing their home-ground advantage was probably a welcome trade-off given that Ben Cahn’s team got the chance to impress in front of the TV cameras.

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The canny Cahn will one day coach in the A-League and if that’s where some of these lower-tier clubs want to end up – at least in the form of a second division – they’ll invariably need to invest in their grounds.

But it’s a shame some clubs still have to play FFA Cup games away from home.

There’s magic in the cup – just not as much as there should be.