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On Sunday, the Brisbane Strikers officially pulled out of the running for an A-League spot after the club’s financial backers reportedly got cold feet.

In an initial statement (which has since been withdrawn), the club pointed the finger of blame at the FFA’s expansion process and criteria, which it described as “neither clear nor specific”.

Want someone to blame? Look in the mirror. The Strikers have had 14 years to get ready for this moment and they squibbed it. Pure and simple.

Brisbane Strikers – or Brisbane United as the A-League team would have been known – had a lot to offer the A-League and Queensland football.

Not that anyone would have known about it.

Theirs was a truly transformative vision for football in Brisbane. The redevelopment of Perry Park into a boutique stadium would have been an absolute game-changer. But they sat on this vision for six months, while Brisbane City’s bid got all the publicity and all the buzz in the local football community.

The stadium would have seated 15,630 spectators (which would have been expandable with the addition of safe standing sections), with the pitch moved to the east to allow for community use around the stadium throughout the week and the continuation of the existing YMCA sports centre

Designed by acclaimed firm Cox Architecture, which also designed Melbourne’s AAMI Park, the Perry Park precinct would have been a community hub that would have boosted economic activity in Brisbane’s inner-north. Perry Park is situated in the middle of the burgeoning Bowen Hills/Newstead-Teneriffe/Breakfast Creek triangle. It’s a compelling economic argument to make for government funding through a Public-Private Partnership.

Public transport access would have been peerless among Brisbane sporting venues, with every CityTrain line stopping at Bowen Hills station, right across the road.

A plaza between the stadium and Abbotsford Road would have included space for a potential micro-brewery and an outdoor theatre. Parkland around would have been opened up for nearby residents and an Eat Street-style market was earmarked for the eastern side of the development.

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

It could have been 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 have removed the prospect of scheduling clashes or poor quality pitches at Suncorp Stadium.

While predominately for football, the stadium was also designed to allow for rugby union and league matches to be played on the pitch. Such versatility is a necessity when taxpayer dollars are involved.

All levels of government would need to be engaged to deliver such a vision, but the world game, with the highest participation rate of all football codes, had a good case to make to finally get a fair go.

It’s worth remembering that the AFL and cricket got a redeveloped Gabba stadium off the back of our game when it was redeveloped for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. There was no legacy for football. This was the chance to right that wrong.

A return to the Strikers’ previous incarnation, Brisbane United, was also on the cards. The Strikers name would have lived on in the NPL, but this was a chance to reconnect with the football community – a United football community. This is something Hollandia/Lions/Brisbane Roar has never been able to achieve since they saw off the Strikers’ bid to be an inaugural member of the A-League in 2004.

The release of these plans (which I have obtained, but have still not been officially been released by the club) would have changed the football landscape in Brisbane. But the Strikers sat on them and did nothing in the public sphere.

Nothing.

The inertia displayed was as frustrating as it was disappointing.

Then the secretive backers – the “Brisbane-based businessmen with a passion for football” – pulled out. There was no plan B for the club to fall back on, because nobody else had bought into this vision.

Well they can’t buy in to a vision that was never sold.

And those of us who have stuck with the Strikers since the NSL days are left asking the question – how do we maintain enthusiasm for a club that shows no enthusiasm?

The Strikers, it seems, have learnt nothing from the mistakes of 2004.


Categories: Analysis | A-League | Local

a-league expansion, brisbane strikers

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