The first season of Sydney FC’s time away from Allianz Stadium is almost at its conclusion, with the upcoming NSW state election bringing uncertainty to the rebuilding of the venue.
Having attended home matches at all three stadiums this season, the journey across the city has not been as difficult as originally expected. The three stadiums all have their pros and cons and will bring up an interesting decision when the time is right to return to Allianz Stadium.
After hosting the Sydney derby at the SCG early in the season, the Sky Blues will play their last two home A-League matches at the venue against Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory.
The SCG is the largest out of the three venues and has the most advanced facilities. With multiple large grandstands, finding a seat is not an issue and its location in the Moore Park precinct makes the journey identical to a match at Allianz Stadium.
The final two home matches at the venue will be against interstate teams, which means that attendances will be lower than the derby. It will be interesting to see how the fan experience fares in these matches, compared to the October fixture.
A major drawback of the SCG is that it is a cricket ground, which means that the pitch location affects the viewing. However, the club has done well in ensuring that the field is close to grandstands, instead of being in the middle of the oval. Part of the stadium will be closed off for the last two home matches here, which will make more fans as close to the action as possible.
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
The club played seven A-League matches in Kogarah this season and will play their Asian Champions League group stage fixtures at the venue.
The first of the seven attracted a sell-out crowd against rivals Melbourne Victory, with many flocking to the venue on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
In addition to the grandstand and seating all around the stadium, the hill is a popular spot of choice for fans. Many took advantage of that section of the ground and the views were decent.
Carlton train station is a short walk to the venue, which means that transport to the ground is not too difficult. However, those living far away from the stadium face a long journey to reach Kogarah and unfortunately this is a disadvantage for them. In addition to this, trackwork was taking place on the rail line that goes through the nearest station regularly, which added complexity to travelling to the venue. For those that drove, parking was available in streets around the ground.
Despite this, the matchday experience at Kogarah was a superb one and hopefully the club can utilise the ground when the time comes to return to Allianz Stadium. The improvement of amenities would take the matchday experience to another level, as queues were undesirably long around the ground.
The venue has played host to two home matches so far, with a third to come next round against Melbourne City. Originally two matches were scheduled here – Brookvale Oval was supposed to host the Melbourne City fixture, however it was moved due to concerns about the surface.
The journey to Leichhardt was the hardest of the three, as only buses and the light rail travelled near the oval. As a result, these services were packed, and it was an uncomfortable trip to the venue. The narrow footpaths make the walk from the light rail station to the ground similar to the Allianz Stadium to Central Station journey. The return home is just as difficult for those that used public transport, with bus and light rail services completely full. Improvement to this would make the experience at the ground a bit happier.
Views at the oval were spectacular, with many choosing to sit and stand on the hill. There were seats around the ground and the grandstand, while a bit old, provided a good viewing of the pitch. Fans felt close to the field and this was a highlight of the venue.
Many had issues with the sun and the heat in the match against the Central Coast Mariners in February, however the Friday night match against Adelaide United was much more pleasant, and future matches here should be played in the evening for this reason.
Like Kogarah, the improvement of amenities would add to the matchday experience. Lines were long and card payment was unavailable in some areas. The club should definitely consider utilising this ground in the future.
The next few weeks will be intriguing for Sydney FC fans, as the outlook for Allianz Stadium will be determined. Regardless of what happens, continuing to play at smaller venues, such as Kogarah and Leichhardt, should be an option for the club going forward. It will be an interesting and difficult decision for Sydney FC going forward.