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Why going to the football at the Sydney Olympic stadium is better than going to the football at Stamford Bridge

The state of New South Wales, Australia (which contains the city of Sydney) is in some ways irritating. If anything, the state government is even worse than the government of the United Kingdom in attempting to over-regulate every aspect of its citizens lives. Carrying weapons of any kind is completely illegal. (I like to carry a Swiss Army Knife, and technically doing even that is contrary to the law). If you want to go into a supermarket and buy a bottle of wine, or a newspaper, or anything but the mildest of medicines, there are laws preventing you from doing so. (Liquor stores, newsagents, and pharmacies are all granted local monopolies). And heaven forbid if you want to go to a quite cozy bar for a drink. But there are some compensations, as fellow Samizdatista Scott Wickstein and I discovered yesterday evening.

Scott and I ventured to what is now named “Telstra Stadium”, which was the main stadium for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which is now sponsored by a telephone company. (More than 50% of the shares of said telephone company belong to the Australian federal government, but I digress….). It was a beautiful evening, and after a beer or two in a nearby bar, we headed for the stadium.


The game was an Australian rules football game between the Sydney Swans and the Melbourne Demons. The atmosphere inside the ground was extraordinarily pleasant. Unlike in certain sports I could mention, the home and away supporters were not segregated from each other, and the atmosphere was enormously pleasant, however fanatical were the Melbourne supporters. (And boy, are the Melburnians fanatical). With 18 players on each side, seven umpires, and certain strange figures called “runners”, who carry messages from the coaches to the players while the game is going on there are as many as 45 people on the field at once.


The game is lightning fast, and completely incomprehensible to foreigners. While many Australians think that Aussie rules football is a matter of life and death, in global terms the game is incredibly insignificant. Both teams could probably be bought for what Roman Abramovich spent to bring Damien Duff to the Chelsea Football Club in London.

As it happened my team, the Swans, ended up losing. But there are some compensations. Sydney people are enormously proud of their lifestyle, which involves going to the beach a lot, eating fine food, relaxing, and simply enjoying what life has to offer. And that applies at football matches as much as anywhere else.

And however many millions Mr Abramovich has spent, I seriously doubt that there is a bar where Chelsea supporters can enjoy oysters together after the game, as there is in Sydney. And even if there is (ha), they are certainly not this reasonably priced. And even if they are that, I am sure they are not freshly shucked.

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5 comments to Why going to the football at the Sydney Olympic stadium is better than going to the football at Stamford Bridge

  • DSpears

    I love Australian Rules football! As an American addicted to College and Pro football I have a great appreciation of the game, Rugby as well. I certainly don’t find it “incomprehensible”, after playing and watching American football all my life I have no problem understanding it just by watching.

  • Some of your examples are a little off the mark, but on the whole, you’re right. The extent of the nanny state here in NSW is appalling.

  • Off the mark how? Some of them might have been liberalised a little in the couple of years since I have lived in Sydney, but all at least were true two years ago. (And I suppose they are examples of regulations limiting competition rather than “nannying” itself. They are two sides of the same coing though I think.

  • A Blue

    Im not sure if mixing up both sets of supporters is a good idea. Part of the fun of football is the sheer competitiveness among players and fans (violence aside). We simply would not get the same atmosphere if fans were mixed together like a rugby match. There would be far too much bonhomie and handshaking and it would, IMO, sacrifice the fun.