Back in early 2016, Chris Losco and I were privileged to be part of the Focus Group which discussed design inclusions for the new Parramatta Stadium. Chaired by representatives of consultancy group PWC, the meetings debated and proposed features that we considered to be important for spectators in a stadium that would have a 50 year lifespan.
The 24 person group was organised to comprise of six fan representatives from each of the main user groups – Parramatta Eels, Wanderers, Rugby Union, other NRL and Community groups. The striking feature of the meetings was the extraordinary number of people who arrived wearing Wanderers merchandise. That said, after some hiccups around the proclamations of “major tenant” status from Wanderers reps, and some unwarranted words on their social media, the group was united on many design features. There was little point in being divided when it was essentially a common cause.
Fast forward to the construction process, and the positive news and media reporting has commenced. Given the dramas regarding the NSW Government Stadia policy and funding models, such positivity is understandable. The city of Parramatta and its surrounds will benefit from having a true 21st century stadium.
Yet I still do have some concerns.
Now, there is an undeniable fact. This magnificent stadium would not be under construction were it not a multi-purpose venue. Without question, the two principal users will be the Eels and the Wanderers, and it will also be used for other rectangular field sports and special events. Yet, to feature promotions focusing on only one stakeholder creates the illusion of the Stadium catering specifically for that group.
As an example, this Wanderers badged video is currently receiving a major media push:
The government has produced videos which feature the two major codes which will be using the venue. Though this accompanying video doesn’t feature the timeline, surely non-affiliated media content like this is preferable?
However, the mainstream media providers are instead pushing the Wanderers badged video. This may seem innocuous, but does it allude to favouritism?
The promotion of one group through the media only serves to create a divide between the two major tenants of the new stadium. It’s unnecessary, especially with the fan crossover that exists between the two clubs.
Ultimately, there may also be concerns with the naming of the new Stadium. Lets hope that outside of any sponsorship branding, we end up with a neutral name rather than one which simply appears to be named in honour of one club.
Ideally, I’d hope that the NSW Government would take the lead in the promotion/marketing of the new stadium. After all, its being built by them and more than one organisation will be the beneficiary.