WA needs to learn lessons from first FFA Cup

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The FFA Cup rolled into Western Australia this week and left the state’s football fans both eager for more and under no illusion that massive improvements are needed.

Both Stirling Lions and Bayswater City put in respectable performances before bowing out to A-League opposition, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory respectively, but a lot of the excitement around the games was lost in the lead up when it was announced that neither club had adequate facilities to host.

Bayswater’s Frank Drago Reserve was ruled as an option early on so the club came to an agreement with Stirling Lions to switch the game to Macedonia Park, a tight suburban ground that has the potential for an intimidating atmosphere.

However, FFA informed both clubs in July that the lighting at Macedonia Park was unacceptable, forcing them to find an alternative venue; the Western Australia Athletics Stadium. So dismayed were Bayswater by the shift that they tried to have their fixture moved to Melbourne in the hope of at least generating some revenue from ticket sales.

Speaking to FourFourTwo earlier this week, Bayswater coach Chris Coyne stated that the request was denied by FFA and expressed his disappointment at the governing body’s stance.

“I think the FFA should’ve shown more foresight. It’s not just this one game, it’s about the next 10-15 years,” he said.

“We could’ve got $100,000, for example, off Melbourne game receipts and all the rest, why not let us do that? The money could’ve been spent in the right ways, such as floodlights so we don’t have this issue next year, junior infrastructure, facilities or coaching.”

FFA though said that it is open to ties being moved but had not received any official request from Bayswater to do so in this instance.

Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat last night told the media that he disagrees with the idea of switching games at the request of the club drawn at home.

“I’m actually grateful that the game was played here [WA Athletics Stadium],” he said.

“It would devalue the competition if home teams can move state to state; it certainly would have set a precedent if you like so I’m grateful the game was here. It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t at the home ground, but at the same point in time, the safety of the players is pertinent.”

Ultimately it was the spectators who lost out on Tuesday and Wednesday night; there is very little worse than being separated from the pitch by a standard running track, never mind one with 12 lanes as well as long jump facilities in front of the main stand, as is the case at the WA Athletics Stadium.

Perth is renowned for being expensive and the price of tickets for the FFA Cup games did nothing to dispel that notion. While it cost $12 to watch Perth Glory take on the Newcastle Jets at Magic Park a fortnight ago, and just $8 to $10 for some of the other last 32 ties across the country, WA football fans were charged $20 (before you add in the ludicrous Ticketmaster charges for those who bought online well in advance).

Unfortunately the inflated price couldn’t be avoided as the clubs needed to generate the money required to hire the WA Athletics Stadium, something that doesn’t come cheap.

Any atmosphere struggled to carry to the players in both games, with Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey admitting that the gap to the pitch had resulted in Stirling Lions losing any possible crowd impact.

“I think we were helped by the fact the fans were about 40 metres from the ground, so they couldn’t affect the atmosphere,” Mulvey said.

“That negated some of the advantage that the home team probably had.”

Stirling boss Gary Williams echoed Mulvey’s sentiments, saying he was disappointed that the 1152 fans in attendance were so far away from the playing field.

Fans were far from pleased with the distance between the main stand and the pitch at the WA Athletics Stadium

Bayswater coach Chris Coyne was keen to stress that the facilities at the Athletics Stadium had nothing to do with his side’s defeat to Victory, but he also was clear with his opinions regarding the future and what is required to bring WA football up to scratch.

“I think, as a state, we need to look at ourselves and try to get something, whether it’s a home of football, whether it’s northern suburbs/southern suburbs, whether we do it regionalised, I don’t know,” he said.

“I don’t know what the answers are but I think we do have to look at it and start banging on the parliament’s door and getting some things done so we’ve got floodlights, we’ve got facilities.

“It’s imperative; it’s not about us now, it’s about the next generation, it’s about building the game in the western state.”

While the onus is on the WA clubs to work with Football West to improve facilities, the FFA’s late notice of the updated lighting requirements left hands tied for 2014 at least. To call a spade a spade, watching games at the Athletics Stadium was a horrible experience, and not one that should be repeated.

The games themselves played out as expected, with Brisbane Roar’s quality shining through after they were given an early scare by Stirling, while a goal in each half was enough for Melbourne Victory to overcome Bayswater.

Despite the 4-0 score line, Stirling were very competitive for the first hour of the contest and were unlucky not to go ahead early on when Hayden Doyle struck the woodwork. Henrique De Silva eventually put the visitors ahead with a neat overhead kick.

Lions striker Moses Kalau was very impressive, and brought a save out of Michael Theo with a swerving free kick, but as legs started to tire Brisbane capitalised with three goals in 14 minutes from Corey Brown, Matt Smith and Jean Carlos Solorzano to kill the game.

Mike Mulvey had some kind words for the NPL outfit, and was pleased to see their positivity and desire to take the game to the Roar.

“I thought they tried to play the right way and I give them full credit for the way that they tried to play football against us, rather than resort to what a lot of teams do, which is just sit back and wait for us to make a mistake,” he said.

“They did that to a certain extent, but they were adventurous. They tried to play and tried to play out from the back.”

Stirling boss Williams was delighted to have been involved in the FFA Cup and admitted to enjoying seeing Roar up close, though he would have liked his side to have found the back of the net.

Bayswater also failed to score in their 2-0 loss but came close on a number of occasions, with David Heagney and Todd Howarth forcing Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe into a couple of strong saves in front of 1650 spectators.

Kostas Barbarouses and Archie Thompson were on target for Victory but they didn’t have it all their own way, particularly after the interval.

“I thought in the second half once the nerves settled we got to grips with the game and they were superb,” said Chris Coyne afterwards.

“Bar that goal when they went forward, and a bit of class from Archie [Thompson], I thought we were miles the better side in the second half so credit to them.”

Coyne was full of praise for the concept of the FFA Cup and believes that buzz around Bayswater and Stirling in recent weeks will only increase the appetite amongst clubs to qualify.

“The opportunity, the potential, to show your wares and to prove yourself against the best players, it is there,” he said.

“I think it’s a great initiative. We’ve really enjoyed this path, it’s given us a taste but, don’t worry, we’ll be super duper hungry next year going into the [Cool Ridge] Cup because the whole buzz and the whole excitement it generated was great to be a part of.”

WA’s participation in this year’s competition now relies solely on Perth Glory who will no doubt be keen for a home draw in the last 16.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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