Why Canberra isn’t ready for an A-League Men team

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The nation’s capital need to increase support of their current women’s team, and improve facilities before they stand a chance of being granted an A-League Men’s licence.

Despite holding two premierships and being an inaugural member of the women’s competition, Canberra United have not been able to attract consistent home crowd support.

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In their opening match against Melbourne City last year in the 2021/22 season, United attracted a crowd of 1,237 which is a mere 17% of Viking Park’s 7,000 capacity.

For the remainder of the season, they were lucky to see 900 attendees at a match despite the average for the league being just over 1,200.

United’s roster features a mix of local talent and ex-internationals, including the ALW’s all-time leading goal scorer Michelle Heyman.

The team has continually held an impressive roster but still fails to draw consistent attendance at home games.

If Canberra are looking to establish a men’s team, supporting their existing national league team is a way to show that there is mass interest in the A-Leagues.

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Another issue with Canberra hosting a men’s team is that they don’t have the appropriate facilities to support a team.

United’s home ground for the 2022/23 season is McKellar Park with a capacity of 3,000. The current average attendance for the ALM this season is 8,980.

Canberra only has two other fields, Manuka Oval and Canberra Stadium, that are large enough to hold such a crowd.

However, Manuka is designed as an AFL field and the ACT Government’s lease on Canberra Stadium is set to expire in 2024.

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Proposals for new stadiums at other sites have not been of interest to the government and even if one was given the green light, it would take years to complete.

Plans are currently underway to build the ACT’s Home of Football, a facility which would include multiple outdoor grass and synthetic pitches.

However, the project is already behind on their estimated finish date and even once completed, Capital Football has said further upgrades would be required before it can host a high profile team.

This would leave a men’s team without a suitable home ground to kick off their ALM campaign.

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After Canberra’s first bid in 2008, the ALM was trialled at Canberra Stadium with two Central Coast Mariners matches played the following year.

Each game drew an attendance of just over 5,000 spectators to a Friday and Saturday night game.

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This created doubts for Canberra’s viability in the league and the bid was suspended in 2012.

A second rebranded bid was put forward in 16 and the ALM was again trialled in the 2016/17 season.

Two more Mariners games were held, however, this failed to show an increase in interest with crowd attendance remaining around 5,000.

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Canberra now have two additional active bids, one from Capital Region Football Collective and one a private ownership bid lead by Andy Bernal.

With the state of support for their current ALW team and the lack of local facilities, Canberra is going to have to wait to add an ALM team into the mix.

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Grace Buckmaster
Grace Buckmaster
Sports Media student at the University of Canberra. Covering Canberra United for the 2022/23 season. Women's sport enthusiast.

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