The AFL and the World Cup Bid

On December 2nd, 2010, Football Federation Australia submitted a bid to host the 2022 World Cup to FIFA. It had also lodged a bid for the 2018 World Cup which it withdrew from in June 2010 to focus solely on the 2022 bid.

The bid was officially launched on June 14th, 2009, about 6 months after the bidding procedure began in January.

On December 5, the Heraldsun wrote that the AFL was preparing for the bid demands with a number of options being considered.

  •  Close down the AFL for a full season.
  • Suspend fixtures mid-year to accommodate World Cup matches across the nation.
  • Run a shorter season in a World Cup year

On December 6, 2009, the Heraldsun reported that the AFL was reportedly upset with the lack of detail in the bid, including what constitutes major sporting events and whether matches could be played in Melbourne during the world cup. The FFA was reportedly seeking urgent clarification.

The AFL and MCC also claim to not have been advised of the modifications to the MCG that would potentially close it down for 4 months to other sports.

On December 7, 2009 the Heraldsun reported that the AFL was fuming over FFA demands pertaining to the world cup bid. These included the surprise when FFA told the MCG it would need a $140 million dollar refurbishment to suit soccer. This would put the ground out of action for the AFL for 4 months.

The AFL believed that the 4 week mandatory quarantine before and after World Cup stadium usage means it may not have access to some stadiums for vast lengths of the season.

Andrew Demetriou told ABC Radio’s AM program that the disruption caused by modifying the MCG would affect millions of regular football fans.

“It is an interruption of our broadcast rights. It is an interruption to contracts that we have with our corporate partners. I mean we are talking about a major disruption, not to mention how it would disaffect, I’m talking millions of people who actually go along to the games”

On December 8, NRL executives told the Daily Telegraph that they had concerns over the bid and were determined that the NRL wouldnt just disappear with concerns over Origin.

“We don’t want to try to block the bid but we do have concerns that we think are legitimate,”

– NRL CEO David Gallop

On December 9, 2009, The Age and Heraldsun reported that Docklands had officially declined to host World Cup matches, while the AFL accused the FFA of showing a lack of respect and saying it could not possibly run a season without at least one of Melbournes major stadiums available to it.

FFA believes that it has the option of seeking government intervention to sieze the privately owned Docklands. Being barred from the stadium almost certainly meant less games for Melbourne.

The Age says that the FFA initially didnt need Docklands preferring to use the new rectangular stadium, but when it didnt meet capacity evidently just added in Docklands without letting anybody in on their change of plan. The AFL says the first it knew of the issue was when they saw it in the paper. Demetriou told The Age

”It’s for them to go away and work out solutions. It’s not for us to come up  with a solution of what to do about Etihad. We’ve got Etihad and we’ve got the MCG. People forget there are things  called agreements in place”

On December 10, 2009, the Heraldsun reported that the FFA, Federal Government and State Governments were prepared to go even without the AFL’s co-operation, and believe that the AFL were the only remaining obstacle.

On February 10, 2010, Etihad CEO Ian Collins made the following statement in the Heraldsun.

“It’s pretty simple to us. Our major tenant is the AFL and they have pre-emptive rights on scheduling. And if the AFL decides that they want to schedule 100 footy matches here between February and September then they are entitled to do it.

“They have those rights. If it was in summer time it would be a different kettle of fish. But the real issue is the World Cup is going to be held during winter.

“The other issue is that there are a lot of contractual arrangements afoot here, whether that be naming rights or the commercial business with car parking. You can’t just close those businesses down or jettison somebody out of the area when they have strong contractual rights,” Collins said.”

On the issue of compulsory acquisition he added

“I didn’t know that we were at war … and that’s the only time I see where governments can seize control of private property. This is all private investors, who have put money into a venture to make it happen. Basically, they are entitled to their return on that investment and it would be pretty hard for the Government to seize something without some substantial compensation. I don’t think it has been thought through”

On March 2, The Age reported that the Victorian Government had nominated Kardinia Park to be used for the World Cup bid.

On March 15th, 2010, The  Geelong Advertiser reported that the AFL was backing Kardinia Park to be the second stadium ahead, in order to free up Docklands for the AFL.

On March 17th, The Courier Mail reported that the NRL would seek compensation for having to move State of Origin.

On March 31, Frank Lowy told the Financial Review that FFA could do it without the AFl and Etihad Stadium.

“We’ll do it without them and we’ll succeed without them”

On May 1st, 2010, The Heraldsun reported that the AFL would seek up to $100 million in compensation for the larger stadiums it had given up for the world cup bid. Senior FFA officials are quoted as saying the AFL was holding the FFA to ransom. For its part, the AFL said no figure had been reached.

On May 10, afl.com.au claimed that the AFL would support the world cup after it had recieved assurances that its season would be able to continue uninterrupted, and that retaining Docklands stadium was integral to that plan.

The article states that the AFL had agreed to give up playing at the MCG, Subiaco, Kardinia Park, Carrara and Adelaide Oval – which would cause about 90 matches to be relocated.

On May 15th, 2010, The Australian reported that due to the AFL not releasing the Docklands stadium for the bid, the number of games available to Melbourne would be reduced.

On June 15, 2010, the SMH reported that the AFL was missing out on a golden opportunity to showcase its game before the international community due to its intransigence.

On July 12, 2010, David Duavutovic wrote an opinion piece in News LTd papers that accused the AFL of being a bully, including forcing radio stations to downgrade Aleagfue broadcast and leaking stories designed to take attention away from soccer in its moment of glory.

In October 2010, just weeks before the bid was officially lodged, Frank Lowy told Fairfax media that the bid was almost cancelled and blamed the AFL for being stubborn over the use of the MCG.

”They [the AFL] had certain demands, which were excessive, but we agreed in the  end, and we have both moved on. The MCG got sorted out at the last minute. We  didn’t have the MCG two days before the bid [was due to be finalised], and had  we not got the MCG, we could not have fulfilled the requirements of the bid. We  needed 12 grounds, and we only had 11 on the Sunday [May 9], and on the Tuesday  [May 11] the bid book had to be submitted”

In the same interview he expresses confidence in Australias ability to win the rights to the 2022 world cup.

On October 15th, 2010 the Heraldsun reported that the MCG was still not a given unless the AFL cleared it due to a long term contract the AFL has with the ground. News reported that the ground would only be released if FFA could provide an assurance that the AFL season could go ahead.

On November 21, 2010, The ABC and The Age reported that the FIFA Evaluation report had said that the NRL and AFL seasons as well as the Queens Birthday holiday could interfere with the success of the World Cup.

On September 16, 2011, the Heraldsun reported that compensation agreed to in the last minute secret deal between the FFA and the AFL, NRL would be around $100 million. The AFL would move up to 90 games and matches during the Cup finals would be halted at the leagues discretion.

In March 16, 2012, former FFA CEO Archie Fraser told The Advertiser that soccers inability to stand up for itself led directly to a planned AFL stadium improvement boom.

“As a direct result of the World Cup bid the AFL has five stadia upgrades while our game will not benefit or hardly benefit from the government money spent because games will be rarely played there”

Timeline

  • Oct 14, 2010 – Lowy tells Fairfax he is confident we can win the 2022 world cup bidding.
  • Dec 2, 2010 – The FFA officially lodges its bid with the FFA for 2022

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