SIMON Hill is unsurprised there’s a disconnect between A-League fans and clubs given how few teams have put down “strong roots” by building infrastructure.
Most Australian football clubs don’t own their own office, training ground or stadium.
Fox Sports football expert Hill believes that’s contributed to low fan attendances and empty-looking venues (Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium), as well as problems with match scheduling.
Western Sydney Wanderers had to postpone their round seven clash with Wellington Phoenix and move a December 2 match against Brisbane Roar to ANZ Stadium after problems with the playing surface at Spotless Stadium.
(14 points, 2nd)McDonald Jones Stadium(7 points, 6th)
(13 points, 3rd)(7 points, 7th)
(5 points, 10th)Westpac Stadium(6 points, 9th)
(16 points, 1st)Allianz Stadium(6 points, 8th)
(8 points, 5th)Coopers Stadium(8 points, 4th)
However, Hill thinks these types of issues can be avoided and fan culture can be boosted if teams choose to invest in infrastructure. He pointed to Major League Soccer as an example.
Hill told the Fox Football Podcast: “Look at MLS. One of the reasons why their clubs have become much more established in their communities is because they have strong roots and part of those roots is building infrastructure. It’s actually bricks and mortar.”
He added: “We don’t have any of that. Most of our clubs, in fact I think 100% of our clubs, they don’t own a stadium.”
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“Some of them don’t even own their own office or training ground. They’re squatters moving from place to place.
“How do we expect them to feel apart of their community until they own bricks and mortar in the city that they play.
“Look at the Wanderers – I’m not saying this is their fault – but Parramatta Stadium, then they go to Spotless, then they shift to ANZ Stadium. They’ve played at Penrith, they’ve played at Campbelltown.
“No wonder there’s a disconnect there.
“It’s the same with Sydney FC even though they play at Allianz Stadium. It’s way too big for them. They rent a training facility… I don’t even know where their offices are.
“Some are better than others. Obviously the Mariners have their own facility, Adelaide do now, Wanderers do.
“It’s starting to get to that point but we’ve got to have our own stadiums and then we won’t have these pitch issues and the clubs can own their own revenue and start to be a focal point for their community.
“As a football fan, you go to your shrine every fortnight. It’s like a religion… You feel the place, you smell the history of the place when you walk there.
“I go to Allianz Stadium… and I think who’s playing here today?… It doesn’t feel like home to me.”
However, former Socceroo Ned Zelic raised the big issue with clubs investing in more infrastructure.
“There’s a cost issue involved. We have to look at it realistically,” said Zelic.
“We all agree it’s so much better with playing in a small stadium where it’s packed rather than say Allianz or the issues with the Roar have at Suncorp as well.
“How do you rectify it?”
Hill said: “Money”.