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AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup

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There has been growing disquiet amongst Australia's AFL clubs as details trickle out regarding the country's bid for the 2018 or 2022 soccer World Cups. Because soccer generates little revenue in Australia, few large stadia are built for the round ball code - this means it needs the venues of other sports to stage the Cup. The major sporting codes have generally backed the plan, in principle, because the real politik of the situation is that the Federal Government wants the tournament as do many Australians. Despite Association Football being the major long term threat to Australian football Down Under, to run interference would be to alienate many Aussies and lose a strong supporter in the national Government. Potential stadia upgrades are another spinoff that could be lost.

However, details of exactly what the AFL will have to give up seem to be becoming more and more dramatic by the week. Soccer's governing body in Australia, the FFA, has made it clear that they want the MCG and major stadia in the other capitals. FIFA rules also apparently prevent other codes playing their matches in the same cities for the duration of the tournament. It seemed the AFL was prepared to accept all that to be seen to be playing nice, provided adequate compensation was provided. But now there are reports the whole AFL season could be in jeopardy.

Rumours emerged that the MCG, the key to the profitability of many Victorian clubs, would be unavailable some time before and after the World Cup. The Herald Sun has now revealed that the timeframe may in fact be 16 weeks, right through the middle of the AFL season, with massive stands errected to suit a rectangular configuration. One also has to question whether the field would recover that year - surely the entire surface would need to be dug up, levelled and re-laid. The AFL's only other ground with reasonable capacity in Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, has also been earmarked, but being privately owned and presumably eyeing off an AFL windfall, is reportedly resisting FFA overtures to host World Cup matches. In a bizarre suggestion sounding more like a Communist state, it has been said that "the FFA believes it has the option of seeking government intervention to seize temporary control of the privately owned stadium".

Responding on radio to the report AFL fuming over soccer World Cup demands to shut down MCG, AFL boss Andrew Demetriou conceded that an entire season could be under threat, and it is the lack of information from the FFA and FIFA that perturbs the AFL most. The lost revenue would threaten the survival of several clubs. While this can be seen as jockeying for compensation, the reality is that the AFL turns over 100s of millions of dollars per year, and without its main venue for a whole season, and its second choice for part of the year, and some of its other major venues in other states in use, the League faces the real prospect of running a very short season or cancelling it. The lost sponsorship and membership would likely set the League back irreparably and is not an option. Most corporate deals require minimum numbers of games and therefore TV and crowd exposure. Members sign up year in and year out - to lose them for a year almost guarantees that not all will return.

Demetriou has also been interviewed on ABC radio, and stated that "The various options and scenarios obviously revolve around either a suspension of the season and then to resume, or it could even mean not having a season. That is something that we just couldn't entertain".

The only reasonable outcome would seem to be for FIFA to make concessions, something they aren't likely to contemplate when there are so many other countries bidding. Consider that AFL clubs turn over around $30 million each per year. The only alternative that would repair the severe damage to Australia's number one football code would be compensation of the order of $200 million (more if a whole season was lost). Of course soccer fans' attempts to "woo" the AFL largely involve abusive posts on forums suggesting the AFL get out of the way of "real football". It looks like the battle lines are being drawn and only buckets of money will keep this on track.

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AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup | 22 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Van_Dieman on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 06:31 pm ACDT

I'm increasingly of the opinion that shy of $500 million (in today's terms) compensation, the AFL should tell the FFA to take a hike. A lot more Aussie Rules fan's money (either directly through ticket purchases, club ground rentals or via the VFL/AFL) have gone into the 'G' and other stadiums than Federal Government money, which lest they forget, is our money not the polly's.

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Joel Adin Porretta on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 06:47 pm ACDT

One thing that that keeps annoying me is that Australian Soccer is calling itself Football. I've seen a magazine called Australian Football but is about Soccer. Soccer can't just come here and call itself Football when there is already a sport called Football established here. Ok I know that in NSW and QLD Football generally refers to Rugby but that's in just those two states. With Soccer the term Football is used in the whole of Australia. I doubt that Soccer will grow further here because of that and becasue of the fact that Brits are coming here critisising Aussie Rules and saying that "Soccer is the only true Football". If they don't like Aussie Rules then they can go back to England. I know that not all of them do it and I promise I"m not being racist but there are a fair few that do.

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Joel Adin Porretta on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 07:04 pm ACDT

Let the war begin. I'm with the AFL. GO JUMP SOCCER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let's see how you jumped up soccer fans like it. And by the way those Soccer fans are dumb. Cause bagging the Australian FOOTBALL League has caused me to stop following SOCCER. And I don't think that any true Aussie Rules fan would continue to follow it or start following it after what soccer fan are saying. Australian Rules FOOTBALL is our sport, soccer will never be number one here ever and if those soccer fans don't like it they can go to England and follow it. Cause over here Aussie Rules is Football. And just to clear up the confusion I posted that first comment before I read the article!

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Joel Adin Porretta on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 07:49 pm ACDT

I'm sorry for what I posted in my previous comment. I'm sorry if I offended any soccer fan that uses this website. It was purely out of anger and I didn't really mean any of it. I am still following soccer and I still like the sport. Its just that my love for Australian Football surpasses the nearest competitor by miles and when I do here people from other sports bag AFL I do tend to get like that. But really really I didn't mean any of it and once again I'm sorry.

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 09:01 pm ACDT


I think Demetriou's comments have had the desired effect, in that the FFA has now scrambled to the media to explain that they won't want the MCG as long as 16 weeks and that they will ask FIFA to let the AFL season continue. I believe they have to have their initial bid application in over the next few weeks, so more should be revealed soon.

Although FIFA could choose to flex its muscle against the other codes in Australia, I gather they are more likely to be risk adverse and if all the local bodies aren't on board then they may shy away. So presumably the FFA will try to placate the AFL, and of course get the Government to lean on them (speculation).

I'll be honest, personally I'd be pleased if it fell through and the World Cup didn't come to Australia for 40 years. There is a huge propaganda campaign saying how great it would be for the country, but I wonder, a year or so ago it hadn't been mentioned and we were all pretty pleased with the place already - will it be so much better post-WC? Will the Federal Government spending $2 billion bring a return in economic activity worth much more than that? If that $2 billion was targeted at other projects, couldn't they generate the same return or better? That's not an argument against staging the Cup, just an argument that it wouldn't be the end of the world if we did not.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 09:08 pm ACDT

Last week, Jeff Kennett (previously involved in Soccer Australia) stated on 3AW that he believed the current cost to be around $6-8 billion, let alone what it'd amount to come 2018 or 2022. He's a personal believer in going for it but has cooled very much on it now.

That meant a lot - he's been a vocal supporter previously.

And he feels in his role as AFL club president that there is no way he could support it.


AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 09:26 pm ACDT

The things that seems to have come out of today:
- The AFL DOES NOT intend shutting down for any more than 4 weeks,
- the AFL seems to prefer a negotiated outcome NOT excluding them from host cities (Melb in particular)
- with a 25 yr exclusivity deal at Docklands and a similar deal until 2037 at the MCG - the FFA, having stated it want's those venues MUST negotiate directly with the AFL and NOT the venues
- if push comes to shove, and the AFL dig in their heels - the ulitmate irony would be if the State Govt got involved via legislation to 'evict' the AFL from the MCG, because, back in 1984(ish), the then Cain Govt threatened legislation to dictate that the VFL GF must remain at the MCG. And used the back door route of denying approval for the VFL to expand VFL Park to 104,000 where the VFL/AFL would happily still be conducting their major business now and thus leaving the MCG for anyone else.....of course, we know that the current MCG configuration, entirely rebuilt since 1990, and costing about $576 million, only includes $77 mill of (state) Govt funds. The rest is MCC funds and incurred debt. And that is only possible because it hosts the AFL and therefore seeks to lock the AFL in for as long as possible.

Thus - it would be the ultimate insult and irony for a State Govt to seek to force the AFL out. Note that John Cain happens to be on the MCG Trust board still.

Note also - even back in '56 for the Olympics, the new Northern stand cost around 700K quid, and govt only put in 100K.

Seems the MCG, is one of the world most successful non publicly funded stadiums.

For a matter of scale - consider that Wembley Stadium claims to cater to over 1.5 million soccer/rugby fans annually. The MCG caters to around 3million AFL fans annually, before any cricket and other events attendees are factored in. The MCG is one serious stadium, don't let anyone claim it's a back water venue for a nothing code.

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Monday, December 07 2009 @ 10:03 pm ACDT


Interesting stuff Mick - I wasn't aware of the full details regarding VFL Park. I knew it was designed to expand to 100,000+ but didn't know about the politics.

I imagine most likely an agreement will be reached, which will mean the AFL have to vacate for 8 weeks, and the Federal Government will offer a carrot (to bankroll some lost revenue and support some other programs) and a stick (it won't withdraw support for other programs and won't withdraw the likely part funding for stadiums in places like Adelaide and Perth).

The key is whether FIFA would allow concessions like the AFL continuing in Melbourne for a partial overlap, and whether the true downtime for the MCG would be 4 weeks, 8 weeks or 16 weeks. Though I could imagine it being promised as 16 weeks and a very shoddy surface being available for finals.

Some reports have England favourite to host 2018 and some had Australia as a favourite for 2022. I suspect it's way too early to have any real idea.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Jake Anson on Tuesday, December 08 2009 @ 04:56 am ACDT

The thing I find amazing - even more so because it's not being discussed in the media - is that soccer isn't being asked to contribute anything to host the World Cup. Rival codes are being asked to suspend or cancel their seasons and the Federal and State governments are being asked to foot the very hefty infrastructure bill. The Federal government are even underwriting the bid process.

The profit from the World Cup goes to FIFA, so any financial benefit to Australia comes in the form of tourism and exposure, which is difficult to account for and nearly impossible for governments to leverage to finance infrastructure projects (ahead of time) or pay compensation to those affected by the tournament. Why don't the FFA or FIFA have to contribute anything to an event that only they stand to benefit from?

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Joel Adin Porretta on Tuesday, December 08 2009 @ 09:47 am ACDT

That's actually very interesting. Mainly because is makes me laugh at what FFA is expecting from the AFL and maybe even NRL and not giving anything back. And on top of that the're trying (and failing to) get the State and Federal Government to kick Football out of the MCG. It's comletly laughable.

Soccer matches are already played at the G so if FFA keep going about things the way they have been, the AFL should let them know where they stand and ban soccer from the MCG altogether.

Aussie Rules Football is the number one code here in Australia. It was invented here, it was here before soccer started altogether AND it was the first code of Football to be called Football in Australia, so I highly doubt that any Aussie Rules fan that dosn't follow soccer will support the bid especially after the way the FFA is going about it.

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Joel Adin Porretta on Tuesday, December 08 2009 @ 09:55 am ACDT

To be honest I think that FIFA may even be scared of other codes such as Football gaining popularity with international fans. Maybe thats why no other major sporting events are allowed to take place. And here's a word to FIFA: This is our country and AFL is our Game and if you don't like it get lost.

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Tuesday, December 08 2009 @ 10:15 am ACDT

Main thing for AFL - - - if AFL and NRL are able to access host cities during the tournament - then, the AFL wants Docklands.

The FFA wants Docklands and the MCG.

Impasse.

So, given the only %100 govt funded stadium is a dedicated soccer/rugby rectangle venue and is too small (well, the foundations allow it to go to 50K but the roof doesnt), it then is astounding that one of the possibilities that the FFA has tabled includes $130 mill Govt funding for rectangularising the MCG.

Why not spend the money on expanding the new rectangle stadium.

As it is, the AFL is still wanting a govt injection for a 3rd Melb venue - the missing link. The 30K boutique venue - - what should have been built instead of the Swan St stadium (as it is today).

There's a bit of media talk about Demetriou 'scare mongering' - but, the reality is that a lot depends on whether FIFA deigns to permit AFL and NRL to play in host cities or not. ANd that the FFA STILL can not answer this indicates that the FFA hasn't actually dared bring up this topic with FIFA. How hard is it to get this clarified??

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Tuesday, December 08 2009 @ 03:36 pm ACDT

Quote from another article:

Collingwood president, and Victoria Major Events Company board member, Eddie McGuire said he was starting to believe Australia's bid to host the event was becoming too problematic.

"Why would the AFL give its major rival not only a free kick, but blow up its own product for an entire year," McGuire said.

"So, the question is - is the World Cup just too big and too long for this country to have in the middle of a football season? I'm beginning to think it might be."

and:

FFA boss Ben Buckley, a former senior AFL executive, said the proposed $130 million reconfiguration was just one option.

"That's a very, very expensive option and it's not necessarily one that we propose to push forward with," he said.

"(But) I think quite correctly we've done the homework to look at what would create the best spectator experience at the MCG."

---
Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Wednesday, December 09 2009 @ 02:57 pm ACDT
And the news today did see Sydney based morning FTA breakfast shows mention about the Docklands stand off. And the odd point that expanding the new Swan St soccer/rugby stadium to 50K is deemed too expensive. It raises the question. If $150 mill to expand it and remove any issues over Docklands is too expensive - - - then just how much or little money is in the kitty for this thing?? Why build a showpiece roof and stadium if it's going to be either vacant - or hosting displaced NRL matches - during the tournament. And - does the FFA know that the AFL need not worry about Docklands because K.Rudd has already assured that AFL and NRL will be shut down no matter what???? Presently - a lot of anti-AFL people are accusing Demetriou of putting the bid in jeopardy. PEople need to understand though - the stadium 'bid book' isn't required to be submitted until May. So, given that Demetriou has just returned from paternity leave to find Docklands being claimed - it's best to raise the issues now before Christmas. THere's a ripping article in the SMH that summarises it nicely , football and friendship in headon collision.
AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Saturday, December 12 2009 @ 08:16 pm ACDT


In reference to some of the comments by "hello"', I think all of us at WFN appreciate the passion and the sentiment, but I'm pleased you apologised for some of the comments. Everybody is perfectly entitled to play whatever sport they like, and it's certainly not just English migrants who bring soccer to Australia, and they can call it football if they wish, they just shouldn't get too strident that it's the ONLY football.

It's a good reason why internationalising Aussie Rules is important. The expectation for the next 50 years is that Australia will continue to have a large migrant intake. Hoping to get them to embrace Aussie Rules will surely be easier if they have at least heard of the sport.

And we have to remember that this site is about promoting Australian football in other countries, so our sport could easily be seen as an interloper, a foreign invasion. What we do expect in both cases is that the "invading" sport be treated fairly and likewise treat the existing sports with respect. No one should be able to demand that a country shut down certain sports whilst only one is played. Clearly that is using government coercion to squeeze out a competitor. If they are not a competitor then why push for it?

Some people are arguing that Australian football should use it as a great chance to promote itself to visitors - that argument collapses if FIFA demand the AFL shut down during the period in the cities where the soccer would be held, i.e. most Australian capitals.

Some say purely in regional venues. With an average crowd of around 35,000 and most regional venues only holding up to 10,000 in a real squeeze, that's 25,000 less per game, so conservatively around 200,000 less per round, so if say 4 rounds were shifted, that would be 800,000 less attending, so over $10 million lost revenue, plus a lot of expense (millions) bringing regional venues up to scratch, and there would be lost membership value as less games are offered. I would however desperately hope that a few games could be shifted to places like New Zealand. Yes there would be a lot of WC focus, but I think still plenty of attention could be obtained. And by 2022 we'd certainly hope there would be quite a few Kiwis in the AFL.

Some people are arguing the likelihood of Australia getting the WC is very slim. As I argued in another post, if a European gets 2018 as is very likely, then being realistic about other bids Australia would be down to virtually a head to head race with the US for 2022. And by the time of the decision it will be too late for the AFL to argue for concessions as the bid will be locked in.

And of course there are many crude arguments that the AFL is insignificant so who cares? Apparently millions of fans and millions of dollars and thousands of long term jobs don't matter.

I suspect all it will really take to make all the cards fall in place is an agreement by FIFA that the MCG will not be out of action for more than 8 weeks, Etihad for not more than 6 weeks or an alternative found, and some modest compensation from the Federal Government for the AFL presumably playing a season that would start a few weeks early and run for a few rounds less.

One thing is for sure, the debate in Melbourne will quickly move from AFL versus soccer (something the AFL could hope to break even on in the case of the WC) to instead the city of Melbourne versus the city of Sydney as major hosts - and that would quickly weaken the AFL's support as Melburnians face their arch rival.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: tinka13 on Friday, December 11 2009 @ 11:06 pm ACDT

There WILL be a Deal Done. There is no way the Government will let the World Cup go!

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Saturday, December 12 2009 @ 06:23 pm ACDT


To Tinka's comment - spot on. In fact the Government has already signed off on this, hence the AFL's worry. It seems the Federal and State governments have agreed, and then they will be the ones forcing the AFL and NRL to do whatever it takes to keep FIFA and the FFA happy.

Given FIFA's recent rules about no region hosting the Cup if that region had held either of the last 2 Cups, it means if England get 2018 which is very likely (or even if it is another European country), then the field for 2022 becomes quite thin - can't be Europe and can't be South America (2014).

Given some of the other competitors have held it recently or may well be deemed not ready yet (e.g. can Indonesia offer large full high ticket cost stadia?), it would seem to then be a two horse race between the US and Australia for 2022. Obviously the US offers the potential for huge revenue. Whether having held it there in 1994 versus never in Australia will count against the US, I'm not sure. But certainly those that say "what is all the fuss, Australia is no chance" are way off the mark.

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Mister Football on Saturday, December 12 2009 @ 08:34 am ACDT

Hi everyone
I'm a long time reader and have just joined up to WFN.

I just wanted to say what a great site, and it's so good to see an AFL perspective on this World Cup business which will need to be handed very, very carefully by the AFL.

A good result is that the AFL secures quite a few oval stadium upgrades (whether the World Cup goes through or not - just locks it in).

A bad result is that the AFL gets screwed over by Government, FIFA and the FFA gets a massive leg up from Government, and the AFL makes losses to its bottom line that is felt for years.

I've written a new blog on this very fact - but I'm having trouble providing a link (I keep getting accused of spamming!)

Can someone advise whether there is a way to provide a link to an article that might be of interest to WFN readers?

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Mister Football

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Saturday, December 12 2009 @ 04:54 pm ACDT


There is automatic anti-spam software that underpins this site, so presumably you are triggering that with your link - normally links are posted without problem.

I'll email you directly to see what the problem is.


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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Saturday, December 12 2009 @ 06:11 pm ACDT
http://barklystend.blogspot.com

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Brett Northey on Saturday, December 12 2009 @ 06:15 pm ACDT


(Having talked via emailed...)

I'm no sure why the full link to your specific blog article is detected as spam, as I said, it is automatic software so would take quite a bit of probing. But since it's the only article you've got on there so far, the link above should at least get people there.

Cheers.


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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN

AFL concedes season could be lost to soccer World Cup
Authored by: Kurt_D on Wednesday, December 16 2009 @ 07:03 am ACDT

Could a potential lock-out of the Melbourne venues give one of the Mebourne clubs, maybe Hawthorn or North, an extra nudge towards relocating to Tassie?