Football Australia chief calls for stadiums review ahead of Olympics

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Football Australia CEO James Johnson has called for a rethink of the stadiums that will host football during the Brisbane 2032 Summer Olympic Games after claiming that the venues lined up for the games are not big enough.

Johnson called on Australian members of parliament to support expansions of existing venues after the recently concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand smashed attendance records, with sell-out crowds of 75,784 recorded for five matches at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.

Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, with a capacity of 52,500, has been slated as the venue for the Olympics gold-medal matches. Suncorp Stadium staged eight matches during the Women’s World Cup, with three of the clashes drawing sell-out crowds.

Other venues that have been proposed for the men’s and women’s Olympic competitions include 42,500-seat Allianz Stadium in Sydney, 30,000-capacity AAMI Park in Melbourne, 27,400-seat Cbus Super Stadium in Gold Coast and 25,000-capacity Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Other stadiums that are set to host games in nine years’ time include Barlow Park in Cairns, Sunshine Coast Stadium and Toowoomba’s Clive Berghofer Stadium, all of which have capacities of 20,000 and under.

Referring to a possible bid to host the men’s edition of the Fifa World Cup in 2034, Johnson said: “The question for us is can some of the decisions that are being taken right now with the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games – can they be taken with a future men’s Fifa World Cup in mind so that there is no leakage of investment?

“We have not had any consultation with 2032 to this point, and we hope that we will in the months and years to come. In my view, the stadia available are not big enough for football. I can categorically say that.

“If this is what is the case for 2032, there are going to be hundreds of thousands of fans and community members that are not going to be able to watch the Matildas or the Olyroos. They’re not going to be able to watch great global teams like the US women’s national, or the Lionesses or Brazil, or Argentinian men’s team.

“To put it into perspective, at the recent Fifa Women’s World Cup, there were 1.9 million attendees across Australia and New Zealand, which represented huge growth from the last Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2019.”

Johnson added that Australia’s opening match of the recent tournament against the Republic of Ireland was shifted from Allianz Stadium to Accor Stadium to accommodate demand.

Johnson added: “We are currently in the race to host an AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and we are putting together our strategy around a potential bid for a men’s Fifa World Cup in 2034. If we are looking forward to how we host the 2032 football side of the tournament, we know that we will have more than 25,000 people in the stadium.

“We saw it at the Fifa Women’s World Cup, averaging 32,000 per match, so 25,000 is a very small stadium for football. That is one example of where we could potentially invest and make a bigger stadium that could be part of a men’s Fifa World Cup bid in the future.”

Image: Carles Rabada on Unsplash