Hyundai A-League fans want clubs to listen. Western Sydney Wanderers have certainly done that by confirming the first derby of the season against Sydney FC will take place at Parramatta Stadium.
It didn’t take long for speculation to mount that Wanderers could move their first ever derby to the cavernous ANZ Stadium in the wake of Sydney FC’s signing of Alessandro Del Piero.
But having liaised extensively with the western Sydney football community prior to the club’s launch, Wanderers executive chairman Lyall Gorman confirmed the match would take place in Parramatta.
“We understand that our first ever match against the Mariners and the first ever Sydney derby will be hot tickets and that some of the public may miss out, but our commitment to our Members comes first,” Gorman said
His final remark is important, because members are the lifeblood of Australian sporting clubs and the more Members there are in the A-League, the healthier the state of the competition.
Already the Wanderers have sold over 2,000 memberships and if fans want to snare a derby ticket, signing up as a Member is the best possible way to guarantee seeing the big match in the flesh.
Some may say the match should take place in a larger venue to ensure no one misses out, but the reality is that catering to those casual fans that turn out only for the biggest encounters dilutes the match-day atmosphere for everyone else.
Members deserve to be rewarded for their financial investment and playing the derby at Parramatta Stadium is an excellent way to do that.
It also marks a change in attitude from the mentality of simply shuffling in as many fans as possible to the largest ground available.
Perhaps there has been a watchful eye cast towards Major League Soccer clubs like Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union, who play in front of noisy crowds in boutique football-specific stadia.
Ticketing and security considerations notwithstanding, what a fantastic sight it would be to see a genuine away end full of Sky Blue supporters in Parramatta, with the rest of the ground packed with red-and-black clad Wanderers fans.
Let’s not forget that Western Sydney’s inaugural coach Tony Popovic will see no reason to do Sydney FC any favours – even if he is a former Sky Blue favourite.
Wanderers fans now have a wonderful chance to turn the 21,000-capacity Parramatta Stadium into an intimidating fortress, not least because the club will play all but one of its home fixtures at the compact venue this season.
Ironically it is Sydney FC and not Western Sydney who will take an early-season match to ANZ Stadium, with the Sky Blues’ round four clash against Perth Glory moving west to allow the pitch at Allianz Stadium to be re-layed.
It will also allow fans who miss Del Piero’s first two games in Sydney a third bite of the cherry, with Sydney FC anticipating a sell-out at Allianz Stadium for the Sky Blues’ clash with Newcastle Jets on October 13.
That means the city’s first two A-League games of the season are likely to sell out, to say nothing of the big crowds expected to turn out elsewhere around the country and across the ditch in Wellington.
The script could hardly have been better written as the clock ticks ever closer towards a mouth-watering start to the campaign.
And in keeping the derby at Parramatta Stadium, Football Federation Australia has ensured interest will be sky-high not just for the first meeting between the two sides, but also for the next two derbies to follow.
The views expressed in this article are purely those of the author and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.