The aim for every football club within Australia should be to play on a ground that is both made for football and of a suitable size – and for some, eventually own them. While this is already starting to happen, there are still A-League teams that are playing in stadiums far too big for their supporter base. Fortunately, we are seeing less huge oval stadiums like Adelaide Oval and Marvel Stadium being used by clubs. However, there is still some way to go until every A-League team has a suitable home.
One of the best stadiums in the country to watch football is Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium. It is the perfect size for a club like Adelaide United, and the atmosphere during big games when it’s packed out is second to none. The only addition needed is a roof covering more than just the Eastern grandstand.
Currently, AAMI Park is the premier football stadium in Australia. This is because it is a great size for Melbourne Victory (especially with bumper crowds), and it was designed with football in mind. For the other Victorian teams, it is simply too large for their home games scheduled at AAMI Park next season – Western United and Melbourne City.
With talks of a 15,000 boutique stadium being built in Dandenong to host Melbourne City games, it could be a game-changer for the club. The atmosphere at these matches would be greatly lifted, which would help them win new fervent supporters.
If Western United manages to get their stadium built, it will instantly make them the most important club in the A-League. Owning their own stadium was the entire cornerstone of their bid and while the delays to putting shovels in the ground are worrying, if they can fulfil their promise they will become the first A-League team to have complete control over their infrastructure. With at least two more seasons playing games at AAMI Park, Western United have to work hard to win supporters over without a geographical distinction from the other Melbourne-based teams.
Another club with a great stadium is the Central Coast Mariners. If their bid to take over the administration and running of Gosford Stadium is successful, then it will help ensure the viability and sustainability of the club. While it is on the larger side for the Mariners’ supporter base, it is one of the most scenic stadiums in the world, with its iconic palm trees and ocean view.
Their F3 rivals Newcastle Jets find themselves in a similar situation, with a great rectangular stadium to call home. If the clubs were successful like in the early years of the A-League, their stadiums would be a lot less empty and the atmosphere would shine through.
The difference between seeing 10,000 people at the Sydney Football Stadium, compared to seeing the same size crowd at Kogarah oval is night and day. If Kogarah was better positioned within Sydney FC’s catchment area and had a roof and a rectangular setup, it would be perfect. While the upgraded SFS is in the works, they have found a good temporary home that is suitably sized. Western Sydney Wanderers wouldn’t be the club they are today without Parramatta Stadium, which truly feels like hallowed turf for the club now.
While Brisbane Roar’s move to Dolphin stadium takes them outside the city, the difference in atmosphere when compared to the cavernous 55,000-seat Suncorp Stadium makes it well worth it. If Brisbane had a stadium in the city that’s similar size to Perth Glory’s it would take them to the next level. Instead, they travel outside of Brisbane for a stadium that’s better suited to their needs.
Wellington Phoenix would be much better served in a rectangular stadium about half the size of the cake tin. Surprisingly, there is no suitable venue despite New Zealand’s love of rugby, and at 34,000 capacity it is far bigger than needed for a club of Wellington’s size.
While the A-League is finding more suitable grounds to host their games, the next step is owning infrastructure. While for many this is a pipe-dream, it is how so many clubs around the world have become institutions that have lasted for decades. It ensures financial stability and it has to be the aim for the clubs going forward. To achieve this, football needs to collectively lobby government to supply the money for stadiums A-League teams desperately need.