Brisbane needs a boutique stadium and the World Game can deliver it
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Brisbane needs a boutique stadium and the World Game can deliver it

Brisbane City’s decision on Friday to pull out of the A-League bidding process, while disappointing at face value, offers an opportunity for football in this city to take a huge step forward.

And, most importantly, it offers the chance for Brisbane’s football community to come together and fight for what the city so clearly needs – a boutique stadium.

The Brisbane Strikers commissioned Cox Architects to design a boutique stadium for Perry Park.

The Brisbane Strikers commissioned Cox Architects to design a boutique stadium for Perry Park.Credit:Brisbane Strikers FC

Brisbane City’s bid was the second from the Queensland capital to fail, after the former National Soccer League champions, the Brisbane Strikers, fell down before the first hurdle.

Now is the time, before the next round of A-League expansion – or, indeed, the introduction of second division – for both clubs to come together for the benefit of football.

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After all, it is no coincidence that “United” is such a common feature in football club names around the world.

There is no doubt both bids were flawed. The Strikers were beset by inertia, a lack of discipline and, at times, outright unprofessionalism.

City, meanwhile, centred its bid around improving the inaccessible Ballymore, thus handing the Queensland Rugby Union an improved home, while football continued to be the poor cousin.

What the Strikers lacked in professionalism and drive, City had in spades. And what City lacked in a potential playing venue, the Strikers could deliver.

Properly funded, a united bid would be nearly unstoppable.

Fairfax Media understands that, just three days before the May deadline for formal expressions of interest to the Football Federation Australia, the Strikers made an approach to Brisbane City to combine the bids.

City went it alone, believing it was simply too late in the process to change tack.

Or was it? Tellingly, such a “superbid” has already emerged in Sydney.

Two bids – Macarthur and South West Sydney – announced last month they would join forces to join a 12-team A-League. The result? Hot favouritism to claim one of the two spots currently on offer.

There is no reason that can’t happen in Brisbane.

And there’s no reason that, after decades of neglect, Perry Park could not reach its true potential as the home of Queensland football.

Not only that, it would complement Suncorp Stadium, allowing for more events, of varying scales, to be held in Brisbane. The burgeoning NRL Women’s Premiership, for one, would be a perfect fit for an inner-city boutique ground.

Plans for a 15,694-seat boutique stadium at Perry Park, Brisbane.

Plans for a 15,694-seat boutique stadium at Perry Park, Brisbane.Credit:Brisbane Strikers FC

It must be remembered that the AFL and cricket got a brand new Gabba stadium off the back of the World Game, when it was redeveloped for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. There was no legacy for football, despite the round-ball code being the impetus of the Gabba’s funding.

A new boutique stadium is the chance to right that wrong.

The Strikers’ plan for a 15,694-seat Perry Park (expandable with the inclusion of safe standing areas), which formed the centrepiece of the club’s A-League bid, would have been delivered through a public-private partnership.

Even at a time when Queensland is not exactly flush with cash, there is still a sound economic argument to make.

Perry Park was a sell-out for Tim Cahill's senior Australian club debut against the Strikers in the 2016 FFA Cup.

Perry Park was a sell-out for Tim Cahill's senior Australian club debut against the Strikers in the 2016 FFA Cup.Credit:Bradley Kanaris

It would boost economic activity in Brisbane’s inner-north. Perry Park is in the middle of the burgeoning Bowen Hills/Newstead-Teneriffe/Breakfast Creek triangle.

Public transport access would be peerless among Brisbane sporting venues, with every CityTrain line passing through Bowen Hills station, right across the road.

A plaza between the stadium and Abbotsford Road would include space for a potential micro-brewery and an outdoor theatre. Parkland around the ground would be opened up for nearby residents, as would an Eat Street-style market at the eastern side of the development.

As a boutique stadium, this vision of Perry Park would be ideal for A-League matches and international matches involving the Matildas and Socceroos’ youth teams.

It could be considered as a venue for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which Australia is bidding to host. As the World Cup will be held in the middle of the NRL season, a Perry Park stadium would remove the prospect of scheduling clashes or poor-quality pitches at Suncorp Stadium.

And yes, even the Brisbane Roar could use the stadium for some of its matches (as much as the idea of the Oranje playing at Perry Park is sacrilegious to this Strikers fan, I’d be happy to see this happen for the good of the game).

But for this vision to be realised, old rivalries need to be put aside.

It will take a level of determination and energy hitherto unseen from the local football community.

It would also have to contend with a state sports minister who has been openly antagonistic towards the World Game, something the state opposition has been quick to jump on.

If the Roar is ever to have a cross-town rival, the local football community needs to stand united.

A Brisbane City-Brisbane Strikers superbid would be a good start.

Cameron Atfield is PM editor of the Brisbane Times and a long-term fan of the Brisbane Strikers, who informally offered the club advice during its abandoned A-League bid process.