I’d tell you how I became a Wanderers member, but I’ve been over it before.
As you might know, we’ve made it through to the final of the Asian Champion’s League – an absolutely massive feat not just in our club history but in that of Australian football.
We’re up against Al-Hilal, a giant club from Saudi Arabia, with a 60,000 seat stadium, a vocal following, lots of money and the hefty support of the Saudi royal family.
By contrast we’re a team that was started by the league and is now financed by a consortium, does NOT have lots of money, and only a 20,000 seat stadium.
What we do have is the vocal support, and the supporters are a massive part of the club. The club wants them to feel included, so they asked all members to vote on where they would like us to play our leg of the Asian Champion’s League final. We were given a few options, and as much as I wanted to select Parramatta Stadium (it’s seriously just down the road, we walk to home games) I went with Allianz in Sydney.
I figured most other people would too. To me it seemed like the logical choice when you consider things. Sure it’s Sydney FC’s home ground but what better way to rub our success in their faces?
Anyway, logic apparently had little to do with it, and on that fateful Saturday, Al-Hilal FC will be making their way to Parramatta’s relatively miniscule arena.
I’m not bitter about it, but personally I think it’s a STUPID DECISION! Why?
Allianz Stadium is TWICE the size!
It’s so fucking obvious! The Wanderers have already pretty much sold Parramatta to capacity with memberships for this season, and there’s no doubt that some people have missed out. There’s no doubt that a LOT of people who are interested in going to this game will miss out because so many tickets will go in pre-sale there’ll probably be about 30 left when the public release comes along.
Every ACL fixture so far has been on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, and while the attendances were hilarious in the group stage, the quarter-final and semi-final home legs were practically sell-outs. On a weeknight. THIS GAME IS ON A SATURDAY. There are a lot of people out there who love football, and there are few bigger games we’ll get played on our shores. Interest from Australian fans is already going to be much higher than 20,000 – and then there’s the AWAY fans!
You might have read how popular the WSW are becoming over there, and there’s little doubt that these guys will have far more travelling fans come here than we will have over there. Not only that, there are already large Saudi and Arabic community groups from around the area who would no doubt love to come to the game.
In the Quarter-Final against Guangzhou, the away support was amazing. With so much more on the line in the final there’s surely going to be a large sense of disappointment from many Saudi football lovers as well as our own that they can’t fit into the condensed arena that is Pirtek stadium.
But think of the money. For the venue sure, but more importantly for the clubs! Why would you willingly halve your income on what could be such a profitable venture? I know the prize money is probably already great at this stage but still.
Then there’s the other big thing that pisses me off about this decision.
We’re hosting the ASIAN CUP in 3 months time.
The Asian Cup will undoubtedly be our biggest venture into the world of football, and I fail to see how people can’t see this match, the Asian Club Championship, as a prelude to it all. The audiences and interest, here and all around the region, will be huge.
The atmosphere at Parramatta will be amazing, sure, but a Sydney derby at Allianz is about the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in live football. 40,000 passionate fans in full voice, a great stadium, it’s amazing, and it’s made for broadcasting big matches.
A sell-out game at Allianz will look good on the world stage, it will show, or at least give the appearance that the level of interest in the nation is high, and that we can rise to the occasion.
A sell-out game at Pirtek stadium will be great, undoubtedly, but it’s another missed opportunity as far as I’m concerned. It’s the most prestigious game in Asian club football. I’m not saying that Pirtek isn’t good enough, but it deserves more.
Take a band scheduled to play at the Metro, who suddenly sells enough tickets to play at the Enmore, but they refuse. You might view the artist as having integrity, and you might view the person who criticises that decision as cynical, but you know who I really feel sorry for? The fans.
Either way what do I care? I’m a member, I get access to pre-sales so I’m going, and because it’s at Pirtek I don’t have to worry about driving into the city… OR DRIVING AT ALL! Ha! I’m walking. Ten minutes down the road. To the biggest possible match in Asian Club Football.
If I can still see it as a stupid decision despite the convenience, surely I can’t be the only one.