Much has been said about the A-League Grand Final being played at AAMI Park, some positive, some negative. Whether it was an administration error, or another code playing hard ball is up for debate but it does bring up the issue ‘Where is the home of Football in Melbourne?
Personally I say it’s AAMI Park, the purpose built rectangular stadium is one of the finest stadiums I’ve been privileged to visit. The stadium was good enough to host the Socceroos in the recent (and successful) Asia Cup and should be valued high enough to host an A-League Grand Final. The capacity for this particular game hovers around 30k much to the despise of some fans.
Fans with Melbourne Victory memberships have been accommodated and the travelling Sydney FC has been allocated over 3,000 seats. So who misses out? People such as me who are football fans that don’t hold a membership for either club, fair enough I say. As much as I would like to attend the game if people who are more entitled are able to go then I’m ok with that. I will happily watch the spectacle from my couch.
Steps have been taken by the FFA and assurances have been given to ensure the league won’t miss out on its Etihad booking again if Melbourne (Victory or City) should earn the right to host the Grand Final. This is something I’m in disagreement with, the FFA needs to step up to the plate and be prepared to call AAMI Park the home of football in Melbourne. Currently Melbourne Victory has an unbelievable deal financially at Etihad and would be foolish to tear up the current agreement but in 2025 Etihad Stadium becomes solely owned by the AFL.
During the summer months the AFL will want Victory to remain a key tenant, but come February-September the stadium will most likely become a no go zone. Individual clubs are responsible for their own finances and it could be seen as fiscally irresponsible but Victory should look at joining Melbourne City and becoming a full time tenant of AAMI Park at the present time, but essentially filling competing codes pockets after 2025 needs to be seriously looked at.
Finals are a different story as they are run entirely by the FFA. Essentially they are a main income stream for the league and the FFA will do everything in its power to play at the biggest stadiums (As seen by Adelaide and Brisbane playing at Adelaide Oval). The league showed contempt for fans and moved the game to a venue that didn’t suit football, all for an extra 4,000 fans.
The FFA must be very careful when dealing with large organisation such as the AFL. Collingwood President and media identity Eddie ‘Everywhere’ McGuire can be very powerful when he wants and has now felt the need to weigh in on the issue.
One only has to look at the venue that once hosted Melbourne Victory, Olympic Park in its current state. Those of you not from Melbourne may have seen the venue used by the Socceroos in preparation for the Asia Cup. In Melbourne we know the stadium as the Centre of excellence used by McGuire’s number one interest the Collingwood Football Club. Back in the day it played host to Athletics Australia and was the premier Athletic track in Melbourne.
A certain E.McGuire joined the board of Athletics Australia and the sport was able to grab a decent television deal with the nine network, McGuire’s employer. Headquarters were suddenly moved from the sporting precinct and Collingwood became a tenant of the location. I’m sure the statue that depicts John Landy in one of the greatest gestures of sportsmanship enjoys being situated near Collingwood training, instead of looking over the home of Athletics Australia.
Sadly McGuire isn’t a man you want to get offside with when talking sport in this city and it appears the some involved in football feel the need to ‘poke the bear’. AFL has a stronghold in Melbourne and this won’t be broken anytime soon. The sometimes Sydneycentric FFA needs to take this in to account when travelling South and choose their battles wisely.
With football occupying the Melbourne Cricket Ground during peak AFL time with the International Champions Cup this season wasn’t the appropriate year to seek any favours over a venue switch.
The 2015 Grand Final must lead the way for Australian Football. Whether you agree with the finals system this event represents the pinnacle of domestic football in Australia. Sunday showcases Australia’s two biggest cities at the best football stadium in the country. David Gallop should use this occasion to recognise football should be played at football stadiums. Financially the bigger non suited venues make sense when used for one off occasions but if the FFA want to make a substantial effort for our game to become the premiere sport in this country the fan experience at proper football venues cannot be underestimated.
Ideally clubs in Australia would own their own stadiums and we would never be talking about this issue, sadly I don’t see this coming to fruition in my lifetime.
Blog also seen on ‘Fans Unite’ under the same title