Adele vs AFL

'Gabba stadium controversy highlights the importance of asset management decision making

Asset management issues have been prominent in the Australian media this week, after a controversial decision to move the AFL Women's Grand Final match to an alternate stadium, because the playing surface at the 'Gabba was unfit for play.

Controversial decision

Nobody disputes that player safety is paramount, and that any match let alone a grand final, should not be played on an unfit surface. The game, between the Brisbane Lions and the Adelaide Crows has been moved to Metricon stadium on the Gold Coast, meaning that the Brisbane team loses its home ground advantage, earned by finishing the season at the top of the table. 

The decision has AFL fans and the game's administration questioning why the venue was not properly prepared in anticipation of this historic match, which is the culmination of the inaugural AFL Women's season. The timing of the game follows the sell-out concerts of singer Adele, and a week of stormy weather and heavy downpours across Brisbane.

This was the first time a music event had been held at the 'Gabba since 1973. Unprecedented logistical efforts to accommodate these record crowds were controversial in themselves and had lead many, including the Brisbane Lord Mayor, to criticise the decision to allow Adele to perform at this venue. However, by most accounts these concerts were a huge success, with the logistical challenges well managed. Adele herself denounced the Council's criticism of the venue choice.

Balancing competing priorities

Stadiums Queensland manages the facilities at the Brisbane Cricket Ground on behalf of the Queensland Government. Like any asset manager, the statutory authority must balance competing priorities in making asset management decisions.

While the 'Gabba is primarily a sporting venue, the strategic objectives of Stadiums Queensland include its use for non-sporting events. This is one way that the venue manager can increase the utilisation of the facility. As a State owned asset,

the use of the 'Gabba must also support the overall objectives of the Queensland Government

which include attracting major international events for the benefit of the Queensland community.

While the controversial decision this week has been painted by some as a stoush between cricket and AFL, it could perhaps be seen more broadly as a struggle between sport and the arts.

  • Should AFL have taken priority over a music concert?
  • Should the Adele concert have been staged elsewhere?
  • Should every AFL Women's team have pre-booked their home venue in anticipation of hosting the grand final?
  • Should different methods, such as a drop-in pitch, be employed at the 'Gabba to improve flexibility in the use of the venue?

Learning from the 'Gabba experience

Asset management involves the balancing of competing priorities with consideration for risks, costs and how the asset contributes to the performance of the organisation.

There may be no easy answer to whether Adele fans or AFL fans are more important as stakeholders in the Brisbane Cricket Ground, or in Queensland more broadly.

Ultimately decisions need to be made that take these factors into account and also consider the long-term requirements of the stadium with respect to how it contributes to meeting the overall strategic objectives of the Queensland Government, as the asset owner.

It is the same for any organisation that owns or operates complex assets. The ultimate driver for decision making, is the value that the asset creates for its stakeholders, whether these be the asset owner, customers, employees or the community.

Having a documented asset management policy, developed in consultation with stakeholders and approved by the board, helps define how decisions are prioritised.

Whether the 'Gabba will be ready for play in the opening round of the AFL men's season on March 1st is still unclear. In the meantime, fans eagerly await what is sure to be a capacity stadium at the Gold Coast for the AFL Women's grand final. Go Lions!