One of the hottest debates around town this week has been around the scheduling of the our elite women’s football team’s home semi-final on Sunday afternoon, which on the plus side means a lot more ACT soccer fans are now aware of Canberra United’s hugely successful 2016-17 season and that Sunday will provide them with a veritable festival of the world game out at Bruce.
Update: The W-League semi-final has been rescheduled from 2pm till 8pm due to the extreme temperatures forecast for Sunday.
Our W-League side finished the home and away season as premiers, and the team was looking forward to playing the semi at McKellar Park, their usual home turf.
Meanwhile, the Football Federation of Australia and its local arm, Capital Football, saw an opportunity to double Canberra football fans’ fun by scheduling the game at GIO Stadium as a curtain raiser to this Sunday’s men’s A-League round game clash between the Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United.
Thus United’s game was locked in for a 2pm kick-off at Bruce ahead of the A-League at 5pm.
I’ve read plenty of comments on social media and in the mainstream media complaining about the loss of home ground advantage and about playing in the hottest part of the day when the temperature is forecast to reach 35. The talk has come from fans, players and even the Canberra United coach.
Who can blame them? It is going to be obscenely hot for players and fans alike on Sunday.
Pack (and drink) plenty of water, wear a hat, lather yourself in sunscreen and try to find a shady spot from which to watch, Canberra.
As for the home ground dilemma, the Sydney Swans have faced the same challenge year in, year out, winning match after match at the Sydney Cricket Ground only to find themselves forced to play some home games and many finals at Homebush, a ground in which their fan base suddenly appears tiny compared to the sea of red and white of the smaller SCG. Swans fans, players and executives were thrilled when a decision was made to play all their home matches at the SCG from 2017. Finals remain on a case by case basis, with clashes against GWS still to be played at the former Olympic Stadium.
Still, it could be argued that it is fitting for Canberra United’s semi-final to be played at the larger, more prestigious GIO Stadium and it will make it easier for die-hard soccer fans to see both matches.
Surprisingly I haven’t seen anyone complain that the table-topping women playing in a semi-final are playing a curtain raiser to an ordinary round match between two lowly ranked men’s sides. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
The Mariners play Adelaide United at 5pm. Why not schedule the women’s game for immediately afterwards so that it’s the men who are playing the curtain raiser? Probably organisers felt an 8pm W League game was too late on a Sunday [we contacted Capital Football on Tuesday to ask whether they’d considered this and have yet to receive a response]. I’m guessing it’s also that eternal problem that women’s sport tends to attract smaller crowds due to leaner promotional budgets (well, leaner budgets all round).
On that note, it’s exciting to see the AFL investing in women’s sport with both netball and women’s AFL set to benefit in 2017.
The AFLW starts this Friday with another of Canberra’s adopted teams (aside from the Central Coast Mariners, that is), GWS, among the competitors. You can catch every game on FoxSports, and find out more here.
GWS will field a team in the new Suncorp Super Netball national league from February 18, too, and they’re playing two home games in Canberra, at AIS Arena, at 1pm on both March 19 and May 14.
Go United! Go Mariners! Go GWS!
Will you be heading out to the soccer on Sunday? Which of the two matches matters most to you?