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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

FFA enlists Labor in fight with AFL over Etihad fixture

Football Federation Australia wants Etihad Stadium freed for a potential A-League decider on Sunday, May 17 and held talks as recently as last week with the Labor government to garner support.
But Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon said last night shifting its Round 7 game against Fremantle on that date to Simonds Stadium “has got some formidable problems”.
It means high-flying Melbourne Victory could be forced to play a grand final interstate even if it earns hosting rights.
Victory will go top of the A-League ladder with a win over first-placed Perth on Saturday.
The MCG has been booked for the A-League on Friday, May 15 in case of an all-Melbourne grand final (City is currently sixth).
But FFA is otherwise adamant that if Etihad is not made available to it on its preferred Sunday grand final date it will not play at AAMI Park. It says the 30,000-capacity venue is too small to host its showpiece event.
The Herald Sun understands the AFL has not yet ruled out a rare fixture switch, but is unlikely to budge despite being lobbied by a government that is aware of the economic benefits that come with hosting an A-League decider.
The Bulldogs and Dockers drew a crowd of just 14,913 at Etihad Stadium last June.
Three A-League grand finals at the ground have averaged 51,090.
Gordon said he was hopeful of a crowd closer to 20,000 this year, but that relocation was not a simple matter.
“It’s a hypothetical question in a way because we don’t control the fixture and there are bigger forces at play,” he said.
“It’s easier said than done. There are somewhere between 6000-8000 people who have bought reserved seats for our home games at Etihad Stadium.
“Our home ground for quite some time has been Etihad Stadium; we think we have got the right to priority.
“Never say never, but I think the Kardinia Park option has got some formidable problems.”
FFA has booked marquee venues in Perth (Subiaco), Sydney (ANZ Stadium), Adelaide (Adelaide Oval), Brisbane (Suncorp Stadium) and Wellington (Westpac Stadium) for May 17.
FFA wants to kick-off its grand final at 4pm on the Sunday.
“The obstacles are well known, but FFA does not want Victorian sports fans to miss out on the opportunity to see this great spectacle in their home state,” A-League boss Damien de Bohun said.
“If we can’t proceed with playing a grand final at Etihad Stadium, there’s serious consideration being given to relocating the match interstate to play at a venue that has the capacity to host the pinnacle event for the A-League.
“The Victorian Labor government understands our position and is doing all they can, but it’s now time to find a solution.”