Under the new requirements all club venues must be able to provide a current lighting certificate 30 days prior to the commencement of each season, the goal being that night games can be played.
Each team dressing room must be able to accommodate 20 people and ‘in accordance with the Building Code of Australia criteria for 20 people’ have, Clothes hanging facilities, Whiteboard with marker pens – is this really necessary? – toilets and a urinal immediately adjacent to the dressing room, working showers, washbasins with mirrors – Mirror essential at some clubs! – and power points.
Neither dressing room may be directly accessible from the other. Each dressing room must have their own toilets and showers, and must provide direct access to the pitch and be inaccessible to the public and unauthorised people.
Requirements for lower divisions in the State League will be aligned to those current standards for Sunday League teams. This will of course restrict their entry into the top division after the two year moratorium.
Football West has a rider that says ‘some of the requirements must be met by 1 January 2012. Other requirements may be met at a later date on assessment by Football West and on application by a club seeking to be admitted to the Premier Division.’
The next point is again admirable in principal but unless you have it done properly with a coherent announcer and a decent PA system is going to be a complete waste of time. ‘Clubs will adopt a number of initiatives which will give the competition a consistent look and feel regardless of the venue.’ These are believed to include: Scripted PA announcements, Optional music for team entries and goal stings (Seriously? It is appalling at A League level let alone state level) and code of behaviour announcements.
The minimum venue capacity must be 1000. Clubs will be required to produce a certificate as evidence of the capacity. A minimum of 300 people must be able to stand in an undercover area. In addition, a minimum of 100 people must be able to sit under cover. Each club must also provide clean and hygienic separate toilets for male, female and disabled spectators in accordance with legislation and government standards. The facilities may not have dual purposes and must be always available on match day.
‘Seats or benches in the technical areas must have backrests and a time clock must be installed which is clearly visible to the majority of spectators.’ The clock must be visible to spectators who are in the covered standing or seated area. A score board with specific club names not “Visitors” must be at every game. What happens in a Cup Game and honestly is a clock really necessary?
The venue must have a fully covered TV platform which must be situated centrally with an unobstructed view of the pitch. The venue must also have a fully covered area able to seat 3 people for use by radio broadcasters with a table and chairs. In this area there must be a dedicated working phone line, and the room must be situated within three metres of the halfway line, with an unobstructed view of the pitch.
‘The venue must have a dedicated interview area which must be well lit, away from the general public in a quiet area. It must be able to accommodate up to 3 journalists or 2 camera operators to conduct post match interviews with players or coaches. It must have sufficient space for the display of a media backdrop with dimensions of 1 meter wide and 2 metres high.’
These are only some of the key points in the document and it is quite a lot for a lot of clubs to comply with. In fact many will be unable to. Can for example Floreat or Sorrento move their club house in order to house a media box with a phone line? This is why we said maybe they should have given clubs the chance to nominate for the league rather than enforce so much change, and change that will be very hard to accommodate at many grounds.
However the key factor has been missed in all of this; the pitch itself. In so many cases the pitches in the state league here in Western Australia and interstate are appalling and not conducive to good football.
Look at what is now the Premier League, and it is relative. In the 1980’s pitches in the English top flight were mud baths. Colour television was the impetus for change, and the accessibility of football on television should be the impetus for change at state level. The television companies complained about how the standard of pitch was bringing both the coverage and the standard of football down. With their muddy pitch having almost cost them the league title in 1989 Arsenal invested in the reconstruction of their pitch in line with new scientific principles of ground management. The team was transformed. There is no way the clubs can afford the sort of pitch Arsenal have at the Emirates, but we can pressure councils to make sure that pitch lasts a season and is maintained properly, encouraging ball players to play football.
Clubs in England now spend $15-$20million on training pitches! Perth is never going to be the EPL, but we can learn the lessons from the top. If we improve the surface on which we ask our players to perform we will in turn raise the standard of the football played, which in turn will bring in spectators, which will also then attract sponsors. We will finally have a product that we can sell to sponsors.
The foundations have to be right. Football West and the Standing Committee are on the right track with so many of the issues in this blueprint, but some of the aesthetics are not a priority at this point in time. The key is to make your product good and build from there.
You don’t see third division teams in any country building massive new stands in the hope they will go from 3000 fans to 20,000. They have to climb the league and start playing good football, before they do that and the same applies here.