With a struggling Victory, A-League crowds are not pretty reading

A-League, featured, football

2022-23 was the A-League Men’s 18th season, and the first full season without crowd restrictions since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The average attendance of 7553 was the lowest since the competition began, excluding the previous two COVID-affected seasons, and only including the 2019-20 season up to Round 21 (before restrictions started).

With thanks to Ultimate A-League, here are the ratings of each club’s home attendances.

Success stories

Adelaide’s average of 10,359 was their best since 2015-16 and reversed a downward trend in the four years before the pandemic. Nine of the Reds’ 13 games at Hindmarsh, still the only football-specific stadium in the country, attracted more than 10,000 people.

Sydney’s first season in its new stadium saw them average their best crowds since 2014-15 (17,008), and was the first time the Sky Blues had the highest attendance in the league since the inaugural A-League season. Sydney’s success was helped by hosting two derbies against an in-form Wanderers (34,232 and 28,929), but only dropped below 10,000 once, in the Christmas Eve derby against Macarthur.

Foundations for future success

Central Coast’s average (6646) was lower than each of their first 13 seasons, but was the best since 2017-18. Their game in Mudgee (1408) was disappointing, but their strongest crowd in the last home game of the season against Melbourne City (10,556) highlighted the importance of on-field performances.

Wellington’s first season at home in three years (6333) was below their all-time average. However, noting the games in Auckland (10,420 and 8320) didn’t raise the average in the same manner as previous seasons, and their lowest crowds were in Wollongong (2502) and Palmerston North (4518), the average at Sky Stadium (6286) provides some foundation for future success.

Western Sydney is still not living up to the attendance potential shown in their first few seasons, but this season (10,769) reflects Wanderers’ improved on-field performance. After three seasons at temporary stadiums (where crowds declined significantly) and the interruption of the pandemic, this season could provide a bedrock for growth in coming seasons.

Poor but a one-off

Melbourne Victory had a stinker. Crowd bans and restrictions and a poor performance on the pitch led to Vuck’s lowest-ever average attendance (10,124). Their previous worst was the inaugural season at the lower-capacity Olympic Park (14,167). The club (and the APL) will be hoping this season is never repeated.

Perth’s lowest season of attendances (4,451) was due to having to play 10 games at Macedonia Park, with a capacity of below 4000. However, the three games at HBF Park only averaged 6,354 - well below the usual average. Hopefully that’s just a reflection of a one-off year away from home.

Soul-searching required

Brisbane’s lowest-ever season (5629) is possibly the biggest own goal in the competition. Roar knew for years that a one-fifth-full Suncorp kills the atmosphere, yet the only solution they could devise was to move more than half an hour out of the CBD. Once the novelty factor of Redcliffe wore off, the crowds declined.

Jez Lofthouse celebrates with Roar fans

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Next season Brisbane returns to the cavernous Lang Park, possibly with an eye on a future move to the rugby-owned Ballymore. Meanwhile, the football-specific stadium Perry Park continues to sit undeveloped and unloved.

Macarthur’s first full season without pandemic restrictions (3514) was on par with Gold Coast and the NZ Knights, and lower than either of the Fury’s two seasons. The Bulls have their own stadium and geographic region, yet the people are not showing up. They only got above 3500 when three other NSW-based teams visited. Some serious soul-searching is required.

Melbourne City’s lowest-ever season (6481) is another disaster, particularly as they became premiers for the third season in a row and play at a modern, centrally-located stadium. Where are the fans?! Perhaps they are in Dandenong…

Newcastle’s lowest-ever season (6152) is also concerning. Granted they haven’t been setting the world alight on the pitch, but when low crowds only fill one-fifth of the stadium, the dull atmosphere makes it difficult to attract new supporters.

Finally, league nomads Western United continue to disappoint with an average of 3168 – the worst in the competition this season and historically beating only NZ Knights’ final season (3011). While they were unlucky to host Melbourne Victory during the peak of the crowd bans, playing most of their games a 40-minute drive from their supposed home is unhelpful.

They only venture west for games at an oval-shaped ground in Ballarat, as they’ve dropped Geelong and continue to dabble in Tasmania. How many more seasons until we see “the stadium”?

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