Recently, I journeyed to WIN Stadium to watch the Wollongong Wolves in the NSW National Premier Leagues, and as I sat in the grandstand, I imagined what this stadium would be like with an A-League team based here.
WIN Stadium is located between Wollongong’s CBD and the beach. It’s a great location, but car parking near the stadium is a little bit limited.
The featured part of Wollongong’s Sports and Entertainment Centre, over the last 15 years there has been significant work on developing the stadium to make it modern, and with good facilities. It is certainly up to A-League standard and even international football standards, with lighting, change rooms, media, etc.
Probably the only thing missing is permanently installed video screens, which are brought in for the big games.
The ground capacity is about 23,000. Of that, about 13,000 is seated in stands at the northern and southern ends, and the western grandstand. The eastern side is a grass hill.
On my visit, Wollongong Wolves FC impressed with their organisation, starting with the friendly assistance at the gate. To their credit, the club attracted a decent crowd by National Premier League averages, showing the region’s interest in football.
I am sure that the FFA and others are asking the question of whether the support in Wollongong is enough for an A-League team. There is no easy answer at this stage, but it is certainly possible.
The Wollongong region has a population base similar to the Central Coast, with an active player base and strong local competitions. The Mariners had an average attendance in 2015-16 of 8111. Wollongong would expect to be a bit above that.
Some might argue that is not good enough for the A-League, but Wellington Phoenix was lower, on 8048, and Perth Glory averaged 8986. A crowd of better than 9000 would create a great atmosphere at WIN.
Wollongong has produced championship-winning sides in the past, but if progress to the A-League was based on performance in the National Premier Leagues, then Wollongong is not quite ready. In the 2016 season, they are currently sitting in 11th position, fighting to avoid relegation to NPL2.
The next two rounds of the NSW National Premier Leagues promise exciting relegation battles, with the Wolves facing Parramatta and Bonnyrigg, while Blacktown Spartans face Sutherland and Olympic, as APIA take on Blacktown City and Sutherland.
© 2016 The Roar | This article was written by Jeff Williamson and first appeared on The Roar on 3 August 2016