Every football match must take place somewhere

Whether it’s a local park that consists of 90% mud or the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium, all matches have a location.

But for some teams, namely those with strong supporter bases all around the world, sometimes that’s not enough. In our day and age, nearly any team can make a meteoric rise up the football food chain and establish themselves as a ‘big club’.

As an example, let’s look at Manchester City. A club that 20-30 years ago was a relegation battler in the First Division. They would go up and come back like a yo-yo. They weren’t a mainstay in the top flight, and they weren’t even close to the financial powerhouse that they are today.

In fact, let’s fast forward a little bit to the end of the 2007/2008 Premier League season. They weren’t relegation battlers, but they were still hardly world-beaters. It was the last day of the season, nothing was on the line.

Middlesborough had come off a disappointingly uneventful season and also had nothing to play for. With City in managerial turmoil with Sven Goran Eriksson on the way out, City were smashed 8-1 by a Middlesborough side that with respect to players like Mark Schwarzer and Stewart Downing, was nothing special. Boro were relegated last season and have only come back up once since (2016-17).

But soon after that dark day, City were overtaken by Shiekh Mansour and ever since, he and his endless streams of money have turned Manchester City into a dominant football club.

From playing at Maine Road to the jaw-dropping Etihad Stadium, City have come a long way. Maine Road seated 35,000 fans but was consistently under construction, plainly designed and bluntly, nothing spectacular.

Now, they have the magnificent Etihad Stadium. A rich, strong club with 60,000 fans (most weeks anyway). It’s futuristic, sleek and above average for a standard Premier League stadium. It even has world class training facilities right next door for their stars as well as their youth academy players.

The point I’m getting at is this. Your stadium can go a long way to defining your club. If your stadium looks the part and has a fanbase that can back up your players on the pitch, it gives everyone a good idea who you are as a club.

Stadiums are a place where people can come together. It’s a place of unity for thousands of passionate fans. They are all united in the same cause. Bringing together tens of thousands of people to fight for one thing is what makes football unique and it’s what makes stadiums special.

It’s the place where magical moments take place. Etihad Stadium was the location for perhaps the greatest moment in Premier League history. Needing a win to take home the league title, City were 2-1 down to relegation threatened QPR. Manchester United, City’s old foes, were the only challengers and they were leading away at Sunderland.

Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero then scored to put City ahead in injury time, derailing United’s title hopes and creating the most iconic piece of commentary in world football. Martin Tyler’s ‘Agueroooooooo!’ call will forever in football folklore, as will City’s title win.

For Australians, it will be where John Aloisi scored the winning penalty against Uruguay in 2005 to send the Socceroos to the World Cup. A moment forever entrenched in the minds of Australian soccer fans.

ANZ Stadium was the location and regardless of what takes place in the future, it will always be associated with that infamous penalty.

As will Wembley Stadium with England’s 1966 World Cup win. Same goes for Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul for Liverpool fans after their heroic 2005 Champions League victory. Every set of fans will always hold a moment close to their heart.

And they will always remember when, who and most importantly, where.

All these moments are just that. Moments in time that are so significant to so many fans across the world. And they all take place somewhere.

A cauldron. A theatre. A stadium, where extraordinary and unforgettable moments happen all the time.

Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

Major events return to NSW with Matildas match series

Matildas fans

Football Australia have announced that the Commonwealth Bank Matildas will host Brazil in a two-match series next month.

The matches are set to be held at the newly named CommBank Stadium in Western Sydney, on October 23 and October 26, 2021.

October will mark 19 months since the Matildas last played on home soil in a 2-1 win against Vietnam in a Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Play-Off match in March 2020.

Since then, Football Australia has made it a key priority to bring the Socceroos and Matildas home following the significant impact of COVID-19 on the world.

The plan to stage a Matildas double header marks the first of its kind for any sporting code in Australia and opens up opportunities for other international sports and the broader entertainment industry to consider similar arrangements.

This is a symbolic announcement as Australia begins to grapple with a COVID normal roadmap internationally, as the Matildas prepare for a busy international schedule ahead including the much-anticipated FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023.

Behind the scenes, Football Australia has worked tirelessly to develop an innovative Quarantine Management Plan to meet the requirements of Government, taking a leadership role in being a COVID-19 responsible sport and offering solutions that work within Government frameworks, protocols, and vaccination roadmaps.

This announcement also coincides with New South Wales being on target to reach a double vaccination rate of 70 per cent of all people aged 16 and over in advance of these fixtures, with crowd capacities to be determined by the Public Health Order at the time of the matches.

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer James Johnson was delighted with this announcement that will see the Commonwealth Bank Matildas play on home soil for the first time in over 18 months.

“We have made it our priority to bring our national teams home for international football so this is a phenomenal outcome for Australian football and one which we have been working tirelessly towards behind the scenes with both the Federal and NSW Government for a considerable amount of time now and appreciate the efforts of the NSW Government in particular,” Johnson said.

“International football is unique in that players are only made available during an international window of nine (9) days.  With many of our Commonwealth Bank Matildas and Socceroos based overseas, the 14-day compulsory quarantine period for international arrivals effectively rendered any international football in Australia impossible.

“Our team at Football Australia put together a submission based on global best practice, focused on ensuring the safety and wellbeing of players and staff, which has been accepted by the NSW Government and aligns nicely with its roadmap to opening up.

“We are excited that the first matches will be the Commonwealth Bank Matildas against Brazil on 23 and 26 October to be held at CommBank Stadium and can’t wait to welcome fans back into Stadiums.”

With confirmation of theses matches, Football Australia is now in the process of locking in the proposed fixtures between the Matildas and the current FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions, the United States Women’s National Team, in a two-match series earmarked for November 27 and November 30, 2021, both of which are to be hosted in Australia, subject to Government discussions and Public Health Orders.

Liverpool confirms expansion for Anfield Road Stand


Liverpool Football Club’s proposed expansion of the Anfield Road Stand has been confirmed.

The project, which has been undergoing enabling works throughout the off-season in anticipation, will begin with an official ground-breaking ceremony planned for next week.

Liverpool City Council awarded the club planning permission in June 2021, which included the right to hold up to six concerts and major events at the stadium for a period of five seasons.

The redevelopment of the stand will see 7,000 more seats added to Anfield, taking its overall capacity to more than 61,000. Following two stages of public consultation and feedback on the initial plans, Anfield Road’s expansion project will reroute Anfield Road itself around the footprint of the new stand.

Akin to the construction process undergone by the recently redeveloped Main Stand, the Anfield Road Stand will be worked on throughout the season while matches continue to be played.

Liverpool Managing Director Andy Hughes outlined the steps taken by the club to ensure that the Anfield Road Stand redevelopment could go ahead.

“We have been clear from the beginning that in order for this expansion to go ahead we needed the co-operation of local residents and the community, to successfully navigate the complex planning landscape, and to ensure the project is financially viable,” he said.

“We needed certainty for this project to progress and are now in a position to be able to move forward. We began this journey in 2014 and are grateful to everyone for the contributions they have made to bring the project to this stage.”

When complete, the expanded Anfield Road Stand is expected to create around 400 matchday roles in addition to the 2,200 people currently employed in various operations at each home game, of which 95 per cent are known to live in the Liverpool City Region.

The redeveloped Anfield Road Stand is anticipated to be ready for the 2023/24 season and its design will see the lower tier retained and refurbished with a new upper tier built above it.

As well as an increased capacity, the redeveloped stand will be similar to the Main Stand, with improved concourses and sports bar lounge hospitality facilities. This stand will also see the relocation of the Family Park to a covered position.

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