Double headers: A walk down memory lane

Oh Facebook memories sending huge reminders that three years ago I had the summer of my dreams. In the name of football I galavanted up and down Australia’s east coast during that magical time between university and finding a proper, adult job.

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First outings at Marconi Park

I visited a passionate McKellar Park, a boisterous Marconi, an electric Cromer Park and a roaring Lions Stadium.

There was also the empty ANZ Stadium and the soulless AAMI Park.

And stuck in between was Kogarah Oval that seemed the only fitting venue for double headers. Spacey for the W-League, yet still a right buzz that built into an army of Sky Blue by the time the men’s started.

The 2021/22 fixtures have dropped. I have feelings.

Many of those feelings are whether double headers work. 

My immediate, simple answer is no.

An honest answer is it’s a little more complicated perhaps.

I talk of an empty ANZ Stadium in the context of the men’s Sydney derby too. A rain delayed match, that was beautiful to witness but wasn’t anywhere near capacity.

AAMI Park can be a buzz. Possibly only the new Commbank Stadium with its safe standing areas can compete with a full house at AAMI. My last outing at a Melbourne double header at the Emirates Stadium was shocking for watching football and the atmosphere hadn’t built enough by the men’s match to convince me that would’ve been a solid showing either.

Cromer Park always brings a full house.

If last season’s cellar dwellers in Melbourne Victory can continue to pack AAMI Park, that’s wonderful. If the Wanderers can show up and create the wall of black and red that we know they can, then please make Commbank Stadium their home.

However hosting double headers at these venues with the women’s matches don’t work and screams of laziness.

Our game is growing. It’s a beautiful thing. But the women’s game isn’t in a position to fill 30,000 seater stadiums [YET].

Heck even just lower that to 20,000 of Kogarah Oval and the difference is visible for double headers.

We have a competition that our national coach in Tony Gustavsson clearly trusts and respects given the recent debuts of players who are W-League products.

We deserve experiences that draws crowds, creates a buzzing, active culture and sells a boutique experience that you can’t find elsewhere.

Crickets at kick-off for a double header hosted at Olympic Park.

Our competition is packed with current and future Matildas. We are knocking on the door of hosting a World Cup. 

The best preparation we could have is to make sure our W-League teams are housed in a stadium that reverberates with the drama that comes from a full house. Not housed in a stadium is too large, with ticket sales skewed for the “main fixture”.

A simple, non-negotiable step needed for the double headers that have been announced is to have the time of the women’s match on the ticket. Plus having the gates opened a good hour before the match to allow the atmosphere to build.

It’s the A-Leagues now isn’t it? Start living it boss.

But for my vote? Doubleheaders stink at the best of times. Very rarely is the women’s match treated as more than the curtain raiser. There’s been times I’ve had to wander to the other side of the stadium for a beer because the closer options only open for the men’s. 

I love the concept of one club, one match day. But it’s going to take a lot of work by the clubs and the competition to convince me it’s a winning formula. Too often the women’s match is treated like nothing more than the reserves competition that plays before a NRL match. Something only family, friends and dedicated fans go to watch. That doesn’t feel right by me.

Don’t even get me started on the cost of tickets for a double header compared with a stand alone match.

PS I skipped over my fun time at Newcastle’s McDonald Stadium. I watched a rescheduled, early morning match that was boiling hot and sought refuge of air conditioning in the media box.

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