Big trouble brewing for England Colombia and Matildas fans at Accor Stadium

UPDATED 10/08: Big trouble brewing for England, Colombia and Matildas fans at Accor Stadium

Update 2: After nagging organisers for a response (and ABC Radio Presenter, James Valentine getting involved), AccorStadium has announced that two large screens will be placed outside the stadium to show the game. The Matildas themselves have responded and so has John Graham, Minister for Jobs and Tourism plus, Steve Kamper, Minister for Sport. However, there has been no word regarding showing the match INSIDE the stadium. As such, the potential issue could actually have been made worse – if everyone is outside before rushing inside at the same time.


Update 1: SMBtech has been pushing for responses on this issue and Accor Stadium has replied. We’ll publish more details as we get them but for the moment they’ve said: “The relevant parties are looking into a solution that will work for all football fans this Saturday.”


Stadium Australia, currently officially titled, Accor Stadium, is heading for trouble on Saturday when England face Colombia there in the World Cup Quarter Final. The match kicks off at 8.30pm but it follows the Matildas vs France game at 5.30pm. A similar problem manifested to a lesser degree, two days ago (on Monday evening), when the Matildas faced Denmark at the same stadium but it could be significantly worse on Saturday.

The problem stems from the fact that, while football fans are gathering outside and inside Accor Stadium to watch the evening match, there’s no way of watching the afternoon match at the same time. There are no official big screens showing the game outside the stadium, the game wasn’t shown inside the stadium and phone reception quickly vanishes inside the stadium long before it’s at capacity.

The inside of Accor Stadium doesn’t so much have two big screens but several walls of big screens – the largest of which shows the same shot in triplicate. Those who entered the stadium early were not able to see the crucial eliminator between England and Nigeria – instead they were treated to a repeated cycle of blaring ads about toiletries, children waving at the camera and two insipid hosts (with a penguin mascot) dancing around.

All the while, England vs Nigeria moved into extra time. When that match went to penalties, Accor Stadium started showing a documentary on how VAR works.

While some fans in the upper tiers reportedly got enough reception on their phones to watch the penalties, many in the lower tiers were fuming and huddled around any phone that received an intermittent, highly lagged signal which showed a few seconds of the shoot-out at a time over 10 minutes. By the time that had finished, the national anthems for the Matildas match had started. This led to hundreds (possibly thousands) of people outside the stadium, who’d been watching the previous match at the one bar showing it, sprinting to get in at the last minute.

Problem?

It’s worth pre-empting some obvious knee-jerk responses here. Firstly, the Stadium itself makes announcements outside the ground and on social media about heading into the stadium early [to avoid a potentially dangerous (c)rush].

Secondly, however little sympathy you might harbour regarding the plight of English and Nigerian fans, and World Cup fans in general, who just want to watch a soccer match, it doesn’t take much nous to recognise that what happened on Monday is a precursor to the reverse happening on Saturday. Quite simply, the England fans, Colombia fans, respective-expat-Aussie fans, general football fans and… [checks notes]… tens of thousands of attending local Australian fans, are going to want to watch the Matildas game beforehand. But, they won’t be able to do so, inside or outside the stadium.

When this was pointed out to Accor Stadium at the Matildas vs Denmark game, Accor Tweeted[X’d??], “Hi Nick, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we are in a FIFA exclusive-use period and therefore unlike our normal games for NRL, we do not control the screens.”

The inevitable results of this will be a late – or potentially last-minute – rush into the stadium depending on how late the match ends. Plus, anger within the stadium about not being able to watch the match. History dictates that the spectrum of associated events, that come with those outcomes, ranges from no issues, all the way to… issues – regardless of how frequently it’s the former.

Solution?

As we’ve seen at major events like the recent Melbourne Grand Prix and last year’s Sydney Integrate Expo, it’s simple to bring-in, massive, high-quality screens with integrated sound systems and leave them mounted on the trucks they come in on. That would fix the issue for fans outside the stadium.

Inside the stadium, there are already huge screens and speakers. The FIFA team in charge of those screens need to show the game instead of the benign content that preceded the Matildas vs Denmark game.

Conclusion

These are common sense solutions but, as already evidenced, the organisers haven’t considered them. There may well be other concerns, like not wanting ticket-less fans to congregate outside the stadium to watch the game for, “Safety Reasons” – even though it’s a World Cup festival of football practice that’s normal throughout the world. However, the fact that Homebush has a long history of showing concerts, sporting events and the colossal Easter Show, concurrently, would counter any such claim.

We’ll reach out to all relevant parties to discover the existing reasoning for not showing the matches (inside and outside the stadium) and get clarity on how – and if – the situation will be addressed on Saturday.

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