Saturday 13 July 2019

Stadium push needed

Geelong Advertiser, Friday 7 December 2006, p. 52.

For a city with a population catchment of over 200,000 Geelong lacks a compact stadium to house the non-AFL codes of football particularly soccer. This is holding back the development of the game, though it is not the only reason why the sport has not kicked on in this area as it has done in the rest of Australia. The responses of the clubs to my colleague John Didulica’s questions about an application to join the new Victorian V-League in 2008 give the clearest indication why it is no use waiting for the existing soccer organisations to catch up. As with the national transformation under Frank Lowy and John O’Neill any expansion of the game locally is going to have to come from outside the traditional clubs.

There is a clear opportunity for the City of Greater Geelong, the Committee for Geelong, Geelong Major Events and other similar bodies who have a serious concern with the development of the region to step in to create the conditions under which the world game can take its proper place in the local sporting scene. Designing and building a stadium to hold around 5,000 spectators would be a huge boost to the area since the facility would get much more use than Skilled Stadium for example, which only hosts less than a dozen AFL matches every year.

Where should this new facility be located? Given that there is no significant vacant space in central Geelong or close to the waterfront, the logical place to build should be at one or other end of the ring road currently under construction. The ring road has resulted in the truncation of the existing Myers Reserve and current plans involve compensating the soccer tenant, Geelong Rangers, with some extra facilities in revised soccer complex. Two decades ago this would have been a sensible solution since most of the soccer fraternity lived in the northern suburbs within walking distance of Myers Reserve in many cases.

Now the growth in the game lies in the south and east as the sons and daughters of the post-war migrants have moved to Highton and Grovedale or to the coast at Ocean Grove and Torquay. Clubs and teams from the coast and the Bellarine Peninsula are growing in number and popularity every year. So there is a strong argument for building a new facility close to the existing baseball complex and the new leisure centre at Waurnvale. It would be both accessible and clearly distinguished from the old soccer clubs allowing a focus on the representation of Geelong and its region rather than one particular subsection of that community. This is what has happened brilliantly with the majority of the new A-League clubs at national level, particularly the Melbourne Victory, which may draw an Australian record crowd to its match with Sydney FC at Telstra Dome on Friday.

If Geelong waits for its existing soccer clubs to pull together then this wonderful opportunity will have been squandered and the game in the area will have been let down by the very people who have been so important to its recent history. That would be a sad legacy.

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