Optus Stadium leave bad taste in fans’ mouths


Long queues at Optus stadium Image: Karl Hunt @F18Aviator (Twitter)

Optus Stadium (Australia) boss Mike McKenna admitted that September 3rd night’s semi-final held between Geelong Cats and the GWS Giants as part of the 2021 Toyota Australian Football League (AFL) Finals Series was the “most difficult night” since the $1.6 billion venue opened as angry Perth footy fans endured a 40-minute wait for food and drink.

The ‘PerthNow’ stated that despite holding a host of marquee events since the stadium’s opening in December 2017, including an AFL Dreamtime clash, a Bledisloe Cup clash, a State of Origin match and finals football, on top of soldout concerts for superstars like the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and the English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, McKenna said the venue “just didn’t deliver” for fans at the Geelong-GWS semi final fixture on the night of September 3rd.

The 65,000-capacity Perth Stadium, also known by naming rights sponsorship as Optus Stadium, is a multipurpose stadium in Perth, Western Australia, located in the suburb of Burswood. It was completed in late 2017 and officially opened on January 21st, 2018.

The Geelong Football Club, nicknamed the ‘Cats’, is a professional Australian Rules football club based in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. The club competes in the Australian Football League, the sport’s premier competition.

The Greater Western Sydney Football Club, nicknamed the ‘Giants’, and commonly referred to as the GWS Giants, is a professional Australian Rules football club based in Sydney Olympic Park, which represents the Greater Western Sydney region of New South Wales and Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

The 2021 Australian Football League (AFL) season is the 125th season of the elite Australian Rules football competition and the 32nd under the name ‘Australian Football League’, having changed from the ‘Victorian Football League’ after the 1989 season. There are 18 teams competing in the league, the same as the previous nine seasons.

The ‘PerthNow’ further quoted Mike McKenna as stating, “It was not a great performance last night. We had lots of people working very hard, but we didn’t have enough of them. We didn’t provide the experience that we normally do. We had people queuing for far longer than they should have… we weren’t cooking fast enough, not getting it out to people fast enough. (It was) probably the most difficult night we’ve had since the very first event at the stadium.”

The “disappointed” McKenna stopped short of saying sorry to fans that missed large parts of the game due to waiting in lines, and blamed an “extreme labor shortage” in the hospitality industry for the poor performance.

He added, “We just don’t have enough people anymore. We lost the backpackers, the overseas students who put in so many hours in these types of jobs. Last night it really came to a head for us.”

The venue has a staff pool of around 3,500 casual workers, with approximately 2,000 needed for games.

McKenna said the Friday night timeslot was “difficult” to attract staff while the game’s short notice contributed to the lengthy wait times.

But he expects a much better performance for the remainder of the AFL Finals series, with around 2,500 staff to be employed for the Grand Final.

He continued, “I really feel for the casuals who did turn up and work last night… they were absolutely whacked by the end of the night. Even our Media Manager was pulling beers… IT people were working in corporate suites, (we were) just getting all hands on deck. We’ll probably be short on our ideal roster next week but it won’t affect the customer service that we deliver.”

The Optus Stadium staff will have to pull up their socks for the AFL Grand Final on September 25th.

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