The field of dreams – and the story behind it
Few major soccer grounds are as central in Australia as Perth Rectangular Stadium, HBF Park to supporters of A-League’s Perth Glory and Super Rugby Pacific team Western Force, who share it. This is where the then mayor, Sir William Thorley Loton, had acquired a paddock through his mercantile activities, selling it on as a recreation ground to the City of Perth in 1904.
His residence, Dilhorn House, stands on the corner of Bulwer and Lord Streets, currently the elegant offices of Aurora Environmental, with the stadium floodlights in full view.
Five years later, the park became Perth Oval and staged several sports from the early 1900s onwards, soccer included. While rugby and Aussie rules ruled the roost, touring European soccer sides would take on inexperienced Western Australia XIs and beat them hollow. The distances involved – it’s 4,000km from Sydney – meant that local soccer players would rarely face their counterparts from Victoria or New South Wales.
By contrast, for Aussie rules, organisers could always count on bumper crowds to cover costs. It was the 18-a-side game that attracted the record attendance for a sports event here of 27,473, set nearly a century ago.
Even after 1996, when the newly founded Perth Glory moved in as a member of the National Soccer League, the 20,500 capacity was rarely challenged. What did change, however, was Perth Oval itself, just as the failing National Soccer League was abandoned for the franchise-based A-League in 2005.
The Glory already had a fiery following in The Shed, the fans who had roared the purples on to four Grand Finals in the early 2000s. Three were played in Perth, not on Lord Street but at the Subiaco Oval, an arena more than twice the size of Perth Oval, in the leafy western suburb of the same name.
In order to cater better to its key tenants, and following a nationwide trend, local authority the City of Vincent invested in Perth Oval’s complete reconfiguration as a rectangular stadium.
The Shed End, behind the north goal accessed through Gate 1, carried the passion over from the NSL days, while sponsors were happy with the suites lining the West Stand and boxes the twin-tiered, roofed East Stand. Away supporters – generally not particularly numerous given Perth’s location – are allocated Bay S123, in the south-east corner of the ground, accessed through Gate 4.
Despite its relatively modest capacity – Perth Glory had to use the far bigger Perth, aka Optus, Stadium for yet another unsuccessful A-League Grand Final in 2019 – HBF Park managed to woo back Socceroos to Perth in 2015 after a long absence. The 19,495 who saw the easy demolition of Bangladesh that day set the stadium record for a soccer game. The Matildas welcomed Thailand here for a friendly in 2018.
While size counted against it when it came to scheduling fixtures for the Women’s World Cup, with no sudden-death fixtures, the five group games taking place here will bring fans of Ireland, China, Denmark and Jamaica, among others, to Western Australia.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
The local transport network of buses, ferries and local trains, including the Airport Line, is run by
On match days for the Women’s World Cup, transport is included in your match ticket – the stadium is pretty much walkable from the city centre in any case.
The stadium is otherwise 300 metres from Claisebrook station on the Airport Line and three others – take the Claisebrook Suspension Bridge over the Freeway and you’ll see the stadium ahead of you to the left.