Melbourne Victory Must Get House in Order

Stadium issues continue to plague the A-League side
by Perry Tsangas   |   Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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

A-League clubs continue to be treated like second class tenants as long as they continue to share stadium usage with other codes and events.

Football Federation of Australia and affiliated members must put stadium ownership on the agenda. Football clubs must forge relationships with city councils and stadium management for longer term ownership models. Otherwise when fixture clashes occur, clubs such as Melbourne Victory will continue to look for alternative, sub-standard venues for critical matches.

Melbourne Victory’s success over the years has also met its demise. The club outgrew Olympic Park and then relocated to Etihad while AAMI Park was being constructed. Leading some fans to wonder, where is their home?

The Victory’s audacious attempt to move so called ‘blockbuster’ games to the oval shaped Etihad Stadium in season 2 of the A-League proved to be a hit, with its close proximity to Southern Cross train station and the stadium’s position within the city business district. Attendances rapidly increased with 50,000 attending a match against rivals Sydney FC. Further crowd increases were to follow with the grand final match drawing a record 55,436, never seen before in Australian domestic football.

Not only was the club attracting huge numbers, but they managed to negotiate a beneficial stadium deal with stadium management, many arguing even better conditions than AFL co-tenants, which didn’t go down well with AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou who vehemently made his feelings public knowledge.

This current campaign, Melbourne Victory has once again set the benchmark as the largest supporter base in the A-League. The club has come a long way since their first preseason game against Perth Glory at Olympic Park that drew a crowd of 4,000. But this season’s average home attendance is barely over the 21,666 membership base.

Inaugural members of the club have seen Etihad Stadium attendances diminish over the years. Ian Robson, the CEO boldly predicted that 35 thousand would attend the ‘blockbuster’ Australia Day clash against traditional rivals Sydney FC. The club was lucky enough to scrape over 20,000, with many fans walking out before the final whistle after a humiliating five nil defeat, in what was historically the clubs most disastrous day.

So what has gone wrong?

The disenfranchised relationship between the club and its ‘hardcore’ supporters has disappointed the typical Victory fan. The morgue type atmosphere at so called home games has been very noticeable, as away supporters from both Western Sydney and Sydney FC have outdone the home support on the terraces. The Melbourne Victory board must be made accountable as these football issues need to be addressed. This once great club is no longer, as new Sydney rivals Western Sydney Wanderers are making headway on and off the pitch. The Wanderers have given themselves an identity and have created their own ‘Wanderland’. They play all derby matches at the 20,000 Pirtek Stadium, with a further increase to 24,000 on the cards. The atmosphere generated at the venue is first class and has propelled the Wanderers to be the best supported club of any code in Australia.

It beggars belief that Melbourne Victory is still hell bent on playing at the 56,000 capacity Etihad Stadium if the club qualifies for the Asian Champions League. First the Melbourne club will make the journey to Kardinia Park for the all-important ACL qualifier against Thailand powerhouse Muangthong United. The Victory’s 2 other ‘home’ venues aren’t available due to fixture clashes with other events. This scenario has become common place for many A-League clubs as they are continually treated like second and third class tenants by stadium management in Australia.  

The ACL qualifier is arguably Melbourne Victory’s biggest fixture in the clubs short history, the match against the Thais is no certainty, as Brisbane Roar learnt last season when they themselves relinquished home ground advantage to Buriram United and played their qualifier in Thailand, consequently losing in a penalty shootout. Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium wasn’t available to host the match. With 5,000 tickets sold so far, a crowd of 15,000 is expected in Kardinia Park on Saturday night. If Melbourne Victory qualifies for the tournament group stages, it cannot allow history to repeat itself with disastrously low attendances at Etihad Stadium, similar to the ones experienced in 2010 and 2011, with averages of less than 7 thousand turning up for the midweek ACL fixtures.

The Victory board's answer is staring them straight in the face. Tear up the Etihad contract and play all the home games at AAMI Park. The rectangular shaped stadium was built to accommodate a growing Melbourne Victory franchise. The blue and whites train out of Goschs Paddock, it makes sense to play ACL and home matches at the venue across from Olympic Park, where the club was once formed. A permanent home will give the club sustainable growth and a cultural identity.  


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.