Boutique stadiums the way forward for the A-League

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A string of games in the 2019-20 A-League season have proved that rectangular, boutique football stadiums are the way forward for football in Australia.

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On a day where the A-League’s summer rivals the National Basketball League broke their all-time attendance record, Jubilee Stadium and Dolphin Stadium were abuzz, brimming with passionate football fans.

The demolition and redevelopment of the Sydney Football Stadium has seen Sydney FC move their games to Leichhardt and Kogarah, of which the latter was less than 4,000 shy of its 20,000-seat capacity for the first big blue of the season against Melbourne Victory.

Sydney fans launched a stunning tifo in front of their active bay and the family friendly grass banks create one of the league’s best atmospheres – a stark contrast to the cavernous SFS and the poor visibility at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

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Brisbane Roar’s home fixture against Melbourne City was played at Dolphin Stadium in Redcliffe, the first of its kind at that venue. The open ends and the row of palm trees overlooking the entrances give this stadium an innately Queensland feel, and the Roar fans lined the terraces in orange and filled it to less than 1,000 off its 10,000-seat capacity.

Brisbane’s home fixtures at Suncorp Stadium had been much maligned early in the season, particularly their Friday night game against Victory in round 3 that brought just 13,000 to a stadium that holds more than 50,000 people.

In Parramatta, the Western Sydney Wanderers call one of Australia’s best rectangular stadiums home and Perth Glory have called HBF Park home for their entire 23-year existence.

The world class Optus Stadium played host to the 2019 A-League Grand Final as did Adelaide Oval in 2016, and while they were, admittedly, stunning television events, viewing was poor for fans who wanted to intensely watch the football rather than be drawn into an atmosphere that was more like what you would expect from an AFL crowd.

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As a broadcast, a good atmosphere and a crowd that looks and feels bigger in a smaller stadium considerably improve the game for viewers, just as it does for fans at the venue.

A capacity crowd, albeit in a smaller stadium, gives the A-League a more reputable feel. The rectangular stadiums hold noise better and creates an atmosphere that makes the league more appealing to its own fans, and to international viewers and fans of other sports.

For the meantime, these stadiums are the way forward, and clubs should be encouraged to do away with these 50,00 seat stadiums.

Feature Image Credit: Steve Christo

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