The Importance of the A-League’s Opening Match

Wanderers setting the benchmark on and off the field as new season starts
by Perry Tsangas   |   Monday, October 06, 2014

Oz Football – column on the Australian A-League, Socceroos & the Aussie soccer scene.

Melbourne Victory has the honour of hosting the Western Sydney Wanderers in the opening night of season 10 of the Hyundai A-League.

The rivalry has exploded since the inception of the Wanderers, as the new boys have taken the limelight away from their illustrious opponents. The Blue and White of Melbourne will be envious of the Red and Black part of Sydney, as the Wanderers have represented Australian football with the greatest distinction, by reaching the final of the 2014 Asian Champions League. A financial windfall of $1.6 million is up for grabs for the Wanderers and a spot in the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup.

The Victory on the other hand, has been branded the A-League's biggest club by many experts, but since the inception of the Wanderers they’ve had to play second fiddle. Their home games last season felt more like being in a morgue type atmosphere. The issues between the board of directors and the Blue and White Brigade didn’t help the situation, with the overall product suffering as a whole, as stricter security rules where applied towards the active supporter end. Consequently, the Victory’s most passionate supporters remained silent for many games and non-existent in others.

The Melbourne Victory board should feel obliged to look at how Western Sydney Wanderers have grown and performed as a club after only 2 years of existence.

Paul Lederer has become the new owner of Western Sydney Wanderers, after taking over the ownership from Football Federation Australia. In what is seen as a bargain price of $12 million, Mr. Lederer has seen the Wanderers take all before them in the Asian Champions League, while previously making two A-League grand final appearances. Silverware isn’t too far away for the battle-hardened Westerners. The club has captured the imagination of the people and has come a long way since their first official match against the Central Coast Mariners which attracted a crowd of 8,000. The Wanderers have reached their membership limit of over 16,000 members.

The region of Western Sydney has long been admired as the heartland of the game, but to create a club culture with a passionate supporter base and geographic identity in a short space of time is the greatest achievement in Australian club football. The club has listened to the fans and united the tribes. Members of the board have proactively been on the front foot regarding the club's future at Parramatta Stadium.

The Wanderers have pledged to make Parramatta Stadium their permanent home. “Pirtek Stadium” has become a fortress for Western Sydney with a sea of red and black at every home game and a full stadium Poznan during the 80th minute of play, an incredible sight in Australian sport. With the red and black bloc as their 12th man, it has fast become the best and most passionate supporter base in Australia, of any code.

CEO John Tsatsimas reiterated the idea of hosting the home leg of the Champions League final at the 21,000 capacity sized stadium, Pirtek Stadium, but affectionately known as ‘Wanderland’, “look we want to stay in Parramatta, Parramatta is our home, Parramatta is our fortress, for our fans, for our region and for our players”. These sentiments are a far cry from the Melbourne Victory board that has elected to play out of three home venues for the forthcoming season. (Note: Melbourne Victory would have to be one of the few teams in world football who uses 2 home venues. This season they will play a ‘home’ game in Geelong, making it three different ‘home’ venues.)

What makes matters worse is that both Etihad Stadium and Geelong’s Skilled Park are both oval shaped. It’s mindboggling to think that AAMI Park’s rectangular shape was increased in capacity to 30,000 in order to accommodate Melbourne Victory’s large supporter base. To further heighten the situation, before AAMI Park was even built, the Victory board lobbied the Victorian State government to increase the capacity of AAMI Park, after countless sell-out crowds at Victory’s spiritual home of Olympic Park.

Whether Victory fans are happy with the close proximity of Etihad Stadium within the CBD and the financial benefits that the club reaps from the stadium deal, the multi-purpose state of the stadium is still not fit for the game of football. The fans and players don’t feel the same intimate atmosphere that AAMI Park provides. It’s also been public knowledge for countless years that the AFL has denigrated and belittled the code of football. The AFL has become Australia’s richest sporting body and will officially own Etihad Stadium in 2024, but has suddenly made plans to own the stadium by 2017.

As an inaugural 10 year Melbourne Victory member, it will be a blessing in disguise if the AFL diminishes Victory’s relationship with Etihad Stadium, therefore forcing the club back to where they belong, AAMI Park. Only then will the club re-create the vibrant culture that it once had by making AAMI Park its permanent home. 


Northern Melbourne Institute of Tafe
Club Domestic:
Melbourne Victory FC
Club Foreign:
PAS Giannina
Perry hopes he can contribute to the growth of Australian football and play the best ambassadorial role for the sport. Currently a coach of Victoria in 7-a-side football for players disabilities.