Why the FFA Cup road trip is good for football's soul

The decision to play Melbourne City’s first FFA Cup match in Ballarat was a controversial one.

The rebranded club’s first competitive hit-out, on a Tuesday night in the midst of winter in one of the coldest places in the state had some fans asking questions.

Despite the conditions, I was thrilled that the match was being staged in my former hometown. The new facilities at Morshead Park would have the chance to be showcased and the club would have the opportunity to engage with a new market.

Regional Victoria is often left behind in many ways, including representation in elite sport.

Melbourne City should continue to engage with and play the occasional competitive match in the regions. It heightens the club’s brand, builds upon the fan base and gives local football fans the opportunity to see a match in their own city.

Attending the Cup tie presented a different match-day experience. From accidently walking through a muddied and puddle-riddled paddock in the dark on the way to the ground, to the sight of vans selling dim sims and doughnuts, there was a real sense of uniqueness.

While the result was clearly not ideal from a fan’s perspective it was great to be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder along the fence line, close enough to hear the sound of bodies colliding and of the ball sliding across the slick surface.

Regular A-League venues are less accessible and in the off-season clubs should take the opportunity to bring the FFA Cup to a range of different communities.

Some fans were barred from attending due to the travel factor on a weeknight. This could be easily resolved if the match was scheduled for a weekend.

Perhaps I’m biased due to growing up in Ballarat and holding memories of Morshead Park as a modest training ground with a muddy surface and no floodlights. However, if football is to truly grow in this country and become the number one sport then it can’t leave the regions behind.