News, views and abuse from Australia
There’s a real danger that ‘football’ could destroy the fabic of Australian society.
If we don’t act now, this alien sport could tear the country apart!
Don’t laugh – that’s the sentiment dredged up by a frenzied Melbourne press on the back of some carefully timed comments from AFL (Aussie Rules) chief Andrew Demetriou.
Less than 48 hours after the Socceroos were drawn with Germany, Ghana and Serbia in a challenging World Cup group, Demetriou dropped a verbal bombshell designed to inflict maximum damage.
Any bid to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals could see the AFL season postponed – possibly for an entire season – if you believe the artful stirrer.
The loss of revenue would subsequently bankrupt some of the country’s most iconic teams, banishing them forever from the Australian sporting landscape.
Never mind that Demetriou is talking rubbish: his comments gathered flapping like moths to a flame, with the talkback switchboards soon flooded by angry callers denouncing the world game.
The debate centres on which stadia would be used during a World Cup finals – and when.
Any finals staged in Australia would take place in the middle of domestic AFL and rugby league seasons, and there are only so many grounds to go around.
The AFL have demanded further details from Football Federation Australia regarding schedules, even though the bidding process is in its infancy, and the 2018 tournament is nine years down the track.
Temporarily rescheduling Australian Rules fixtures to regional centres would prove a ready-made solution to the impasse, but the AFL has made it clear they don’t appreciate football encroaching on hallowed turf.
Any World Cup bid is likely to propose the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground as a venue for the final, but the MCG is also home to several AFL blockbusters.
Since FIFA requires exclusive use of stadia for between six to eight weeks, the AFL has resorted to overblown hyperbole to demonstrate the threat that football poses.
While it’s not surprising to see the Melbourne media promote their sport of choice, what has been disheartening is the largely xenophobic response their comments have generated from the public.
For a country that prides itself on being ‘multicultural’, there has been an inordinate amount of vicious name-calling on both sides of the debate.
The irony of the AFL’s stance is that the sport is not especially popular outside the state of Victoria, with rugby league generally the game of choice further up the coast in both New South Wales and Queensland.
Rugby League’s governing body, the NRL, has proffered a lukewarm response to a potential World Cup – with the prospect of improved stadia a potential sweetener.
However, the Sydney media has jumped at the chance to ridicule their southern cousins, with the city’s daily rags talking up the opportunity to host a World Cup final – at Melbourne’s expense.
That support is largely cosmetic, with many Sydneysiders feeling there’s as much chance of hosting a World Cup as there is of Dwight Yorke becoming a prominent teetotaler.
But with Australia already at long odds to host a World Cup, convincing the locals is the last thing the FFA needs, as they set out on the long journey of trying to win over FIFA.
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I don't think I have ever seen the situation described so well. The foreign press needs to here about this, and the AFL and NRL lose all credibility...
I would have thought that the view for spectators for football at the MCG would be dreadful given that it's a huge bowl primarily designed for cricket meaning a massive difference between the stands and the pitch for any football match.
AdamCule - I've sat in the press box at the MCG and the view is not as bad as one would think. I've sat in the press box at Yokohama International Stadium too, and the view was remarkably similar. But you're right in saying that the MCG is hardly the best place to watch football, particularly from the lowest tier.
Yorugua - I inadvertently deleted your comment (was trying to get rid of some of those pingbacks. Won't do that again!).
I think everyone understands that the AFL has a duty to protect its own interests. The problem is that they're using fear (in this case the fear that the AFL season could be postponed) to start another nasty anti-football campaign.
I wouldn't be too quick assume that football is a 'new' sport in Australia though - it's been played in this country since the 1880's.
And then I commented twice...
Ha ha, so I've been labeled a "Pingback-ster?"
I'm didn't mean to dispute the introduction of football/soccer in Australia. But considering the long-time historical adversion to the Sport, even Mark Schwarzer made a reference to "Wog-Ball" as football was labeled in Australia in an interview on this website, don't you feel that Australia's acceptance of the sport has been problematic at best?
The same thing happened in the United States, and that was my point (going back to your entry) that Soccer in the U.S. took a subserviant role, realizing that they needed the Stadiums in order to get the product out there. Soccer is growing in this country but not at the rate the MLS would like it to be at.
I get your point about the "fear" factor, that's really unfortunate, but Australian Rules Football is a staple of Australian sporting culture... the easiest way out would be to construct Soccer specific stadiums.
There are plenty of 'soccer specific' stadia Down Under.
Trouble is, there are usually rugby league teams running out on them first!
Mike ommits to mention that the AFL have offered support in principle. That in late October, when Fairfax media (soccer friendly in Australia) suggested that AFL/NRL seasons might be in threat or need to vacate host cities - that it was the NRL at the time who suggested it as unworkable - Demetriou still played his straight bat.
It was not until the FFA started promoting and showing off Docklands (Etihad) stadium that Demetriou and the AFL got agitated. Up until then - the qualified support of the AFL was on the basis that it retain Docklands stadium. Buckley - FFA boss and Demetriou's former number 2 at the AFL, had allowed this impression to be maintained (the AFL having Docklands).
The FFA renegging on this and opting to write off the prospect of expanding the new dedicated soccer stadium in Melb to FIFA compliance is at the heart of the problem.
However, that the AFL and NRL don't know yet whether Govts/FIFA will seek to demand that they vacate host cities with the bid book required in May 2010 - - - it's about time the FFA get's these issues sorted, as, 'no worries' might get by for the FFA. The AFL and NRL have their own businesses to run, with mapped programs of expansion etc.
PEople outside of MElb need to recognise, that the MCG and Docklands stadium combined are the result of about $1 billion Aust of private equity and only $77 mill of state govt funds. The private equity is on the basis of the AFL as a locked away exclusive tenant - at Docklands from 2000-2025 when the AFL has the right to assume total ownership. And at the MCG until 2037.
There's a complicated history around state govts, the fully footy owned VFL park, and the result is that the AFL has every right to - - should push come to shove - - to not vacate either Docklands or the MCG. However, the AFL has all along said the MCG could be vacated for up to 10 weeks - any more is not doable.
It's the FFA that had a 'secret' model that included a rectangularisation of the MCG that would take it out of action for at least 16 weeks. The AFL weren't too pleased when they heard of that one - given, the FFA had so very publicly renegged on Docklands. Understandably, the AFL have sought to get something on the record on this issue.
As it's turned out - the Fed Govt has realised that this whole bid can't be run by the FFA alone. They are a mickey mouse organisation reliant of Govt funds to get by and not equipped to go to the AFL or NRL and seek to dictate terms.
People need to undertand - that Soccer hasn't thus far built or contributed to any of the stadia they identified that they require. Oh, there was a lie spread that the MCG benefitted from massive govt funding for the 2000 Olympics tournament. That was a nice FFA porkpie that one. 100% false and actually pretty insulting to AFL folk, given the lack of govt funding at the MCG.
So, we await to see if the FFA actually has the balls to go to FIFA and see if a host city exemption can be got for BOTH the AFL and NRL.
It's not like the USA in '94, when only MLB was effected in the northern summer, they got an exemption (would they have stopped otherwise??) - - and AMerica is huge and soccer doesn't use baseball diamonds anyway!!!!
So - Tuckerman - take your "Demetriou is talking rubbish" statements and leave them in the bin and do some actual journalistic research instead of pushing you pro-soccer biased rot.
Just to put the Melb numbers on the table here.
MCG - current config - Southern STand completed 1992 - $142 million. NO govt funding. MCC (Melb Cricket Club) built and took on debt on the provision that AFL signed on until 2032.
Rest of ground rebuilt in time for 2006 C'wealth games. Cost $434 million. ONly included $77 mill of state funds, no fed funds.
AFL is signed on until 2037.
Docklands(Etihad stadium) - AFL put in $30 million up front. The venue cost $460 million. Zero Govt cash. Private investors own/trade the management rights for the 25 years until the AFL takes over. THe venue was built and is viable ONLY because of the AFL.
As a point of comparison, the New Wembley stadium home page declares about 1.5 million soccer and rugby attendees annually. Docklands does 1.8 million AFL attendees (about 46 matches) and the MCG does about 2.8 million attendees (about 50 ish matches pending number of finals). That's before other events, soccer (Docklands) and Cricket(MCG) are added.
These are serious stadiums here.
The other MElb stadium is the only 100% state govt funded stadium in town. For about $270 million in state funds, soccer and rugby get a dedicated rectangle stadium with foundations to go to 50,000.
This is the crux of it. As recently as May 2009, a State GOvt minister proclaimed this venue as able to be expanded from the initial 31,000 capacity to 50,000 for any future WC bid or the like.
Only problem - the Roof, the glorious bubble dome - takes up probably over half the cost, and to expand the venue apparently is too costly.
Thus - the FFA go back to trying to nab Docklands from the AFL.
The question mark for Melbournians is actually around whether there's a morotorium on stadia over 40,000 capacity within 10K radius of Docklands or not - but, that's for the FFA, state govt and Docklands management to work out.
This whole issue shouldn't have arisen. THe AFL keep Docklands and play on, the FFA/FIFA have MCG for up to 10 weeks and the new rectangle stadium. All's fine.
The AFL no doubt would assume that the FFA don't envisage the AFL/NRL having host city exemptions - - and so, the FFA may as well take Docklands.
I don't believe nor see any reason why both the AFL and NRL should have to A. shut down or B. vacate host cities.
The dilemma for selling this to Australians is that the AFL annual industry is worth about $3.4 billion. Add onto that the NRL, and pretty soon there's a point at which a FIFA WC is more trouble than it's worth, for a once off event.
Given that Sydney and NSW is the worst performed state economy and showed no tourism benefit from the 2000 Olympics - there's those who are quite fairly dubious about the capacity to Australia to cash in the tourism boon of hosting. Especially as world peak oil will have occurred prior to 2022 at least, if not 2018 - - so, given that FIFA uses the WC as it's quadrennial fund raiser (90% of FIFA funds for each 4 year period comes from it) - all the 'easy' money around broadcast rights/ticketing/merchandising/ground advertising is gobbled up.
Australia just isn't a good fit. Not in winter. Not in the AFL and NRL seasons. Not when domestic soccer (A-League) is not impacted, and would benefit far greater than the other codes with minimal outlay. There's going to be big compensation requirements. THe AFL may not be easily bought just on the basis of 'new stadia' development.....as...they don't care for rectangles. And, as my description of the $1 billion in private equity in MElbourne illustrates - the AFL get venues anyway.
Someone will have to wear the risk - and there's no reason it should be either the AFL or NRL. Can Australian soccer afford it??
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