A national second division is the logical place to introduce boutique stadia into the top tiers of Australian football and substantially improve the fan experience.
How good is the FFA Cup?
Pretty good in parts, as another entertaining midweek round of fixtures will attest, but still not as good as it probably should be.
My mate Grant and I ventured up to Redcliffe on Brisbane’s northern fringes on Wednesday night and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching football at Dolphin Stadium.
We stopped in for a bite to eat along the way, got to the ground early enough to nab some primo grandstand seats, necked a couple of tinnies and aimed several polite nods of recognition at Brisbane Roar legend Henrique, who was sitting with his family a few seats further down the row.
I missed Bradden Inman’s goal because I was on the concourse trying to frame a decent photo for my tens of social media followers, so I simply fired up the My Football App and caught a replay on coverage produced by niche broadcaster BarTV Sports.
We were even close enough to the action to make out Robbie Fowler’s thick Scouse accent, although in truth, the former Liverpool legend keeps things pretty low-key on the touchline.
In short, it was the sort of viewing experience many of us thought we’d get when the A-League kicked off but failed to materialise because of the size of the grounds.
And any Brisbane Roar fans who think they should skip the club’s A-League games in Redcliffe because it’s too far away or the car park is hard to exit or they need to wash their hair that afternoon have got rocks in their heads, if you ask me.
I still love Suncorp Stadium, and with its surrounding Caxton Street precinct, I still reckon it’s the best rectangular stadium in Australia.
But it’s safe to say the atmosphere at Brisbane Roar games has flat-lined ever since crowds started dwindling.
The quickest solution, as I occasionally point out to widespread derision, would simply be to fill all 50,000 seats.
I watched 1.FC Köln go down to Borussia Dortmund in their return to the Bundesliga on beIN Sports last weekend in a ground that could pass for Suncorp Stadium’s twin, and guess what? Every single ticket was sold.
But despite an army of online fans reminding anyone who’ll listen about how special and unmissable football supposedly is, actually prising them away from their keyboards and into an A-League stadium remains a tough ask.
The 6235 fans who turned out at Dolphin Stadium to watch the Roar lose on penalties to a resolute Central Coast Mariners outfit on Wednesday night deserve credit – even if I sometimes wonder about the accuracy of these crowd figures.
And the fact that more than 5000 fans turned out at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney’s south west to watch the Western Sydney Wanderers crush neighbours Sydney United is also worth noting.
But it would have been better if that attendance was 15,000.
And football fans like you and I can’t go around pointing fingers at rival sports when our own code isn’t exactly setting the world on fire.
If an independent A-League needs to reconnect with the fan base this season, then it’s safe to say the fan base also needs to reconnect with the A-League and football in general.
One of the best ways to do that is to turn out at boutique venues like Dolphin Stadium and encourage organisers to host more football.
I have no doubt my mates and I will be at Perry Park for Brisbane Strikers’ upcoming quarter-final clash with Victorian giant-killers Moreland Zebras.
We just enjoy watching football in boutique venues.
They should be near the top of the list for any clubs aiming to enter a national second division.
Because the last thing football needs is an A-League Mark II – complete with oversized stadia.