13 May 2024

Review recommends moving Throsby's 'Home of Football', bringing health, Defence and DFAT to diversify AIS's future

| Claire Fenwicke
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Aerial artist's impression of Throsby's Home of Football

Aerial artist’s impression of Throsby’s Home of Football. Photo: ACT YourSay Conversations.

Moving the promised ACT Home of Football from Throsby to Bruce could be the key to Canberra getting an A-League men’s team, according to a new report.

We already know $250 million in Commonwealth money is coming in tomorrow’s (14 May) budget to upgrade the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) after the Federal Government agreed to an independent review’s recommendation that the facility stay in the ACT.

The rest of the review’s report has now been published. It recommends more than funding upgrades of ageing infrastructure and developing new centres.

It has also recommended that the AIS develop a “sustainable future” by building relationships with allied health, Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and commercial sporting codes.

Moving the Home of Football could also be a deciding step to finally getting an investor so Canberra can enter the A-League men’s competition.

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The review noted the Throsby precinct was promised in 2019 with detailed design taking place in mid-2023.

Capital Football, which currently runs the Territory’s A-League women’s team, Canberra United, will use the facility for both community and high-performance programs.

It’s expected to cost $33.5 million, with $29 million from the ACT Government and $4.545 million from Capital Football.

Delays from the COVID-19 pandemic mean the promised facility is not expected to open until 2026.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) has flagged it wants the A-League men’s competition to expand to Canberra for the 2024-25 season.

The review recommends that the AIS “Investigate[s] whether the ACT Government could relocate the high-performance aspects of its ‘home of football’ development in Throsby to the Bruce campus to also leverage off the existing AIS campus and support ASC [Australian Sports Commission] efforts to increase its commercially-based support football/soccer teams”.

The APL’s submission to the review outlined discussions with potential investors for a Canberra A-League men’s team that showed the AIS was the “clear preferred option.”

Capital Football submitted there was room in the AIS’s overall footprint to build facilities to accommodate a full men’s and women’s program (which isn’t currently planned or funded).

“The ACT Government has confirmed that its commitment to the project at Throsby stands and is not contingent on Federal funds,” the report noted.

“However, the priority within this commitment is for the community-use aspects of the project, with the high-performance elements included in the absence of any other opportunities for provision at this time.

“There is a need to examine the extent to which the AIS would be better placed to meet APL and other high-performance football needs.”

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Other options have also been recommended to diversify the AIS’s offerings.

The AIS is currently solvent, and cash reserves aren’t expected to run out until the early 2030s.

The review recommended that the Commonwealth and AIS start investigating how to make the facility more sustainable in the future.

It noted additional Defence uses could be investigated “on the assumption that revenue from Defence should offset actual costs”.

Invictus Australia submitted to the review that there were commercial access and cost barriers for teams to use AIS facilities.

The Commonwealth could also liaise with DFAT to see whether the AIS could provide more opportunities for Pacific athletes to build their skills.

The ASC has previously noted the potential to commercially expand the AIS via allied health services, as athletes currently go off-site for scans when injured.

“These and other allied health services could be offered in under-utilised AIS buildings and structured so that they could be used by AIS athletes and the general public,” the report noted.

The report recommended creating a commercial business arm of the Sports Innovation Hub to investigate these types of offerings.

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I haven’t been following this review. The artist’s impression of the plans looks pretty fabulous all the same.

Maybe I am missing something but I do not understand why Throsby on the outskirts of Gungahlin, and a bit off the beaten track, was chosen as the site for the ACT government’s Home of Football. The panel’s final report provides a logical conclusion but does not seem to have been considered when the review was first established and when seeking comments from the public.

As with all government reviews, it would have been an expensive undertaking and seems a bit of a cart before the horse type of inquiry. I would have thought that any consideration or partnership with sports bodies to plan for such a major undertaking would have first considered the federal government’s plans for the AIS, whether they planned to budget for its upgrade and the potential for a new major sports stadium in either Civic or Bruce. The announcement for the $250m funding for the AIS upgrade opens up the opportunity for development and renewal in the Bruce health, education and sports precinct discussed in this article, as well as the expansion of the light rail network which will diversify the area and benefit the wider ACT community.

Marie Macpherson2:00 pm 14 May 24

Yes please move it somewhere else. The present site is a block from me. This is an extremely quiet neighbourhood fronting a nature reserve. Seems ridiculous to build a complex that will generate a lot of noise and unnatural light here.

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