All Teams Need A Place to Call Home.

September 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

There is no doubt that there are many sports fans who have a bucket list. A list that will undoubtedly include attending an F1, go to a Melbourne Cup, watch Manchester United at Old Trafford, Liverpool at Anfield, but these fans achieving their goals should not be impacting on sporting events too heavily. Yet something is, and few want to accept that it could in fact be the economy.

For the past 10-15 years sport has been all about money. Clubs from various codes have looked to increase the capacity of their stadia so that they can squeeze more fans into the live atmosphere and cash in on fans wanting to ‘be there.’ However the cost ob that experience has slowly risen, and unfortunately these prices have become the benchmark for pricing.

Arsenal FC were a prime example of a club needing to have more fans inside their stadium in order to compete with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United. In 1997 they were looking to expand their old home ground of Highbury, their plan would have seen them have to demolish 25 neighbouring houses, and this was why it never went ahead.

After bidding to use Wembley, they left that idea in 1998. Eventually they found a new home in Islington. Yet before building Emirates Stadium they agreed to build a new modern waste plant for the council, two developments of “affordable housing” as well as pay for improvements to roads and the tube station to accommodate the increase in traffic on match days. That was not all, they also agreed to build four health centres and replace a children’s play a era with a new playground. This was so they could build a new stadium and have the surrounding land that they could develop  and make money from. The hard truth being that it would be a long time before they had paid of the cost of the stadium and it was making money for them.

In 2003 Arsenal borrowed UKP357million to build the stadium alone; Loans repayable for this money due in 14 years!

The good news though is despite that cost Arsenal own their ground. In Australia very few if any major sporting associations own their grounds. They therefore have to pay a rental fee in order to use the ground on a match day and then have the ancillary costs of security on a match day which continue to drive the price of using the ground up. Which in turn drives the price of a ticket to watch the game up.

This is why the crowds are beginning to fall away at many sporting events, cost. Fans have an ideas as to what they are prepared to pay for the standard of sport they are going to watch. In rugby they will pay more to watch the All Blacks play Australia than they will to see them play Argentina. There is history, there is rivalry, there is the ‘being there’ experience from an All Blacks Test that simply isn’t there yet against Argentina. People will pay a little bit more for that experience.

A case in point was the recent F1 Grand Prix in Singapore. No Stadium issues here, but the crowds were well down on previous years, in fact many locals left town that weekend. Tourist numbers of diehard supporters were also down, and were very much in the range of 30-55 age group. The attendance by locals was also well down and seats were unsold in the grandstands, the reason being according to those who stayed being that it was an event once you have been to it, there is no real desire to go again, and… the cost is too much.

Australia faces a major challenge in the coming years. Stadium managers are going be continually asked to turn a profit on the venue that they manage. They will try and squeeze more money out of those sporting clubs that use the venue, but these clubs are walking a tightrope as to how much they can charge to their supporters before they turn around and say that they cannot justify the cost. Many feel that the price of watching professional sport in Australia is at a level where it cannot go any higher.

If the fans stop coming through the gate, and crowds start to dwindle sponsors start to question their investment, and it is a downward spiral from there. It is an incredibly fine line which is being trod at this present time.

The major issue is the fact that the clubs are unable to control their own destiny, by owning the venues that they play at. Imagine if Perth Glory and Rugby WA – who own and manage the Western Force – were able to broker a partnership where they owned the stadium that they played at, and both were able to create new revenue streams for themselves by having the stadium host concerts, expos etc. in the off season? This may well be a pipe dream, but it is something that both organisations will need to give due consideration to down the track.

The new mutli-purpose stadium in Perth will not benefit these codes, and they need to start looking at how they can ensure their own long term futures. The only way is to own the grounds at which they play, and determine their own ticket prices based on either the appeal of the game, the success of the team, or the general economy.

Rest assured the only the die hard fans will continue to empty their wallets and click through the turnstiles for non-international competition. Every fan has a price which they feel is acceptable and one that is too expensive. Sport was always about giving entertainment to the man on the street, and escape at the weekend from the drudgery of work. While the top end of town may have the money, it is the regular ticket holders who create the atmosphere and who will stay with the club and the team through thick and thin, hence these are the people who need to be looked after. Slowly they are becoming excluded and the ownership of the stadia and costs accrued by not owning them is one of the many reasons why.

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