- Jul 2, 2003
- AFL Club
- St Kilda
A-Leagues poised to scrap controversial grand final deal with Destination NSWThe A-Leagues’ controversial grand final sale to Sydney could be reversed in a move that has the potential to mend fractured relationships between the struggling competition and angry fans.
According to sources with knowledge of the discussions, who were not authorised to speak publicly due to the sensitivity of the matter, the NSW government and the Australian Professional Leagues are in talks to scrap the remainder of the $12 million, three-year deal that guaranteed Sydney would host the men’s and women’s grand finals through to 2025.
That contract could instead be spun off into a “Magic Round”, in which a full weekend of fixtures in the men’s and women’s A-League would be played in NSW, with grand final hosting rights to return to the team that earns it – a tradition in domestic football stretching back to the National Soccer League.
While the sources have cautioned that nothing has been finalised yet, if an agreement is reached it will signal the end of one of the most tumultuous chapters in the A-Leagues’ history.
The decision to sell the grand finals to Sydney, via Destination NSW, was announced in the days after the Socceroos’ inspiring run to the round of 16 at last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Instead of harnessing the Socceroos’ momentum, the domestic game was plunged into immediate chaos, with players and clubs speaking out against the APL, former Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro stepping down from the APL board, and active fan groups announcing a boycott of matches.
Some Melbourne Victory supporters were so incensed they invaded the AAMI Park pitch in December’s derby against Melbourne City, with the man who threw a bucket of sand at goalkeeper Tom Glover jailed for three months.
The APL, which was motivated primarily by financial considerations in selling the grand final to Sydney, was taken aback by the ferocity of the backlash from all corners of the football community, with fans broadly rejecting the premise that the deal was the start of a “new tradition” for the game in Australia.
Last season’s A-League Men grand final was held at CommBank Stadium, where the Central Coast Mariners thumped City 6-1. The women’s version, in which Western United lost 4-0 to Sydney FC, was played at the same venue. Both defeated teams would have earned hosting rights under the old mode, and neither match sold out, although the women’s clash attracted a record crowd of 9519.
Destination NSW did not directly address the grand final discussions when this masthead sought comment, but a spokesperson said: “Destination NSW looks forward to working with the APL to maximise all future football events to be held in NSW.”
The sources claimed the NSW government was behind the move to revisit the deal, after choosing not to support a mooted A-Leagues All Stars clash with Bayern Munich earlier this year due to budget restraints, but that the APL also saw it as an opportunity to cut its losses.
The three-year, $12 million agreement to sell the hosting rights for the grand finals to Sydney is being renegotiated.
[EDIT] not sure if paywalled so I've cut and pasted the article in the post moderator giggler99
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