Football Federation Australia, clubs and fans have all expressed desires to grow football in Australia.

From expansion to promotion and relegation, and football-specific stadiums, there is plenty of work to be done before football can achieve its full potential in Australia. Yet there’s another aspect football in this country should be working towards: clubs need to own their own stadiums.

I know it won’t be easy as many A-League clubs share stadiums with other sports and see their stadium used for concerts, dirt bike shows and a plethora of other sports and activities.

Allianz Stadium in Sydney hosts games for Sydney FC in the A-League but it doesn’t stop there. The Sydney Roosters, Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels among others in the NRL use Allianz. Rugby Union also use the ground for NSW Waratahs and Wallabies matches. It is also used for concerts and other events throughout the year.

How on Earth is a football club supposed to make that stadium feel like home when everything else is going on?

Sydney is not alone as Brisbane, Melbourne and other clubs in Australia suffer similar limitations.

However, if A-League clubs owned their stadiums, they would gain more control. From security, food, merchandising and ticket sales, clubs will be able to run the entire operation – as well as making a bit of money if the NRL or other events come knocking and want to use their stadium.

As it stands, A-League clubs are very limited by what they can control and unfairly cop criticisms as a result. The best example of this is food and drink choices and prices. That’s down to the individual stadiums in most cases – not the clubs.

You may be thinking this is an impossible task and would require knocking down every stadium in Australia and re-build new ones for each code. That’s not entirely true. There are some stadiums in this country which are already perfect for football, and where football is the main occupancy. Take for example Coopers Stadium in Adelaide, or Central Coast Stadium in Gosford.

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As a matter-of-fact, the Central Coast Mariners drew up a detailed and exciting plan to buy the stadium from the Central Coast Council.

Some of these plans included new screens, a stage to hold concerts, yellow seats (praise the Lord – those grey seats that spell “Bears” are an eyesore), roofs over the northern stand and improvements to the western stand as well as a hotel fitted with cafes and a Mariners museum.

Credit: Central Coast Mariners

By making these changes, it allows the Mariners to make Central Coast Stadium their own. It can feel like a home for the supporters and players alike. But furthermore, it means the Mariners are no longer at the mercy of the local council who own the stadium.

Engaging with the local community has been something the Central Coast Mariners have been proud to do since day one and making these changes to the stadium could be a crucial part in growing the club.

In a statement by the Mariners in January 2017 after revealing their plans to take over management rights of Central Coast Stadium, Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp outlined the reasons they wanted to take over the stadium.

“New revenue opportunities presented by the stadium will empower us to invest long-term towards our football resources. Our football will reap the rewards of the club’s growth and it is important to understand that this is a long-term play for us to compete with the big four clubs who are growing bigger and faster every day,” said Mielekamp.

“The worst thing that can happen is nothing. Our main priority is to drive change and growth. If the Mariners aren’t going to do it, then who is?

“The stadium is now and will always be our home. Like any home, the stadium can get tired and need some love and energy injected to keep it thriving.”

Financial benefits aside, fans want to connect to a club and its spiritual home – the stadium they play out of every second week.

For example, I recently went over to London to watch some games in the Premier League and being able to attend my favourite team’s stadium was something I will never forget. Walking to the stadium there are flags and banners full of colour in nearby streets with people selling merchandise. You feel immersed into a completely different world. This is something we should be striving for in the A-League and clubs like the Central Coast Mariners are daring to achieve it.

Imagine walking by the palm trees at Central Coast Stadium or making the short walk from Gosford train station into the ground. It should be full of colour and noise, and then you walk into the stadium and you know where you are thanks to the yellow seats, the advertising boards, the Mariners museum and that beautifully unique view of Brisbane Water.

The same can be said for any A-League club, they should all be striving to make their stadium their own. But unfortunately, this is not the case. Using Sydney FC and the old Allianz Stadium as an example – a Sydney FC fan must walk into the stadium seeing statues of former NRL players, walk past cricket and rugby union merchandising and they maybe they’ll see some Sydney FC flags or other paraphernalia.

Ideally somewhere down the track clubs like Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar will have the funds and ability to build their own football-specific stadiums so fans don’t have to see statues of legends from other sports – and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a statue of Henrique out the front of a stadium in Brisbane celebrating his Grand Final-winning penalty from 2011.

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For me, clubs owning their stadiums is a huge step in the right direction and it’s one of the reasons I’m excited by Western Melbourne’s inclusion into the A-League in 2019. They plan to fully fund and own their own purpose-built stadium.

This is how we grow communities in the A-League. This is what every A-League club should be striving for in the future.

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Football writer and radio presenter. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).