In the world of the National Football League bigger is always better. The stage to host these events requires a cauldron, anything less and you are selling the sport short. To put the figures into perspective, the worst average attendance of the NFL for the 2013 season was the Minnesota Vikings. Their standard home gate saw 52,238 people sitting in the stands, a statistic that belies what any other league in any other sport is capable of.
With the organisation branching out to the United Kingdom during their “International Series,” taking the Miami Dolphins home game against the New York Jets to London’s iconic Wembley Stadium, it would not be beyond Australia to do likewise. Talk is already hotting up about the sport bringing matches down under, mooting the possibility of an All-Stars exhibition taking place.
Logistically there are a multitude of hurdles that would need to be addressed to make the dream a reality. The greatest of which is the time zone difference. Americans love their Thursday, Sunday and Monday night football, but even a late 10pm kick off AEST would force New Yorkers to get up at 7am to see their team play. Consequently, a 1pm lunchtime start would allow the city that never sleeps to go at it again at 10pm.
This sounds suitable enough if the heat factor of the Australian spring and summer wasn’t calculated into the equation. This is the downside of overlapping a northern hemisphere winter sport with a southern hemisphere time zone. The Aussie sun is unbearable as it is without including pads and helmet into the mix, but if Qatar can host the 2022 FIFA World Cup then anything is possible.
For Australia to do its bit, we need to tick the same boxes that saw Wembley earn annual hosting rights. It needs the appropriate capacity to hit the minimum 52,000 mark, be a multi-purpose venue that allows the NFL to seamlessly move their posts and markings in, and be situated in a populous city where thousands of tourists and locals can access the ground with little fuss. Here are the top 5 stadiums down under that fit the bill.
5. Melbourne Cricket Ground (100,000)
The ultimate test for the self proclaimed “sporting capital of the world” is to invite the NFL into the fold. The best and biggest ground in the country has history hosting sports that require rectangular parameters, most notably for the sold out exhibition football match between Real Madrid and Manchester City. Situated in the heart of Melbourne, the MCG could smash the National Football League attendance record and further put the venue on the map as one of the greatest multi-purpose grounds on the planet.
4. Adelaide Oval (53,500)
Three to four years ago the concept of the Adelaide Oval hosting anything other than a cricket match seemed inconceivable, yet here we are. The transformation of the picturesque ground a couple of years ago has coincided with both AFL franchises the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide transferring across from the old AAMI Park precinct, and the verdict for football at the ground is universal praise. Both clubs operate at capacity on a bi-weekly basis and the transition from oval to rectangular has been achieved with Adelaide United in the A-League taking some high profile games to the venue. Only walking distance from the city’s CBD, the Adelaide Oval could easily accommodate the NFL.
3. Etihad Stadium Melbourne (53,359)
Slightly on the fringes of the Melbourne CBD compared to it’s bigger brother the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Etihad Stadium in Docklands is a venue suitable to host sports of all different shapes on sizes. However, as any AFL fan will tell you, it has the added benefit of a retractable roof in case the natural elements have their way on the day. The surface has come under scrutiny in recent seasons and would require an upgrade, but as a complete package the facilities at the ground are arguably the most advanced in the country.
2. Suncorp Stadium Brisbane (52,500)
If Australia has a cauldron for football then the old “Lang Park” aka Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane is exactly that. Best known for hosting State of Origin blockbusters with thousands of Queenslanders juiced up on XXXX beers from the Caxton Street pub across the road, Suncorp is a ground that puts the fans on top of the playing field and provides the best atmosphere possible.
- ANZ Stadium Sydney (83,500)
In the search for a stadium close to the qualities of Wembley, ANZ Stadium in Homebush looks the best fit just from an aesthetic point of view. A touch over 80,000 capacity the ground was built for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and when the venue is full to the brim with sports mad supporters then it is worthy of being a grade A location for the NFL. Close to public transport and accustomed to switching from rugby league to the AFL, A-League and even Twenty20 cricket, a game of gridiron would be a piece of cake. Without doubt the hot favourite to win hosting rights if Australia gets the green light.