The ultimate World Cup stadium solution
121 Have your say
Everyone has seen the articles coming out at the moment regarding the use of the MCG, and more particularly, Docklands Stadium as World Cup venues and the impact it will have on the AFL season.
So there is no need for me to recount this tale in this article.
On the one hand, the claim of the MCG being out of action for 16 weeks from AFL circles was cynical creativity at its best. On the other, there is some merit in allowing the AFL the use of Docklands to enable their season to continue to help ensure minimal disruption and greater harmony.
This brings our attention to why Docklands has had to be mooted in the first place.
Originally the new Swan Street Stadium was mooted as the second venue, but despite being “future proofed” with foundations to allow for 40,000-plus, the unique construction of the roof meant a price tag in the region of an estimated $150 million was required to upgrade it. This is not far off the $130 million that was required for the temporary MCG adjustment into rectangular configuration.
Melbourne loves its sport, it is the sporting capital of the country. Therefore, the Victorian and Melburnian public would not stand for losing World Cup games interstate or to other venues during the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Especially when you consider Melbourne’s pulic transport system and centrality of the CBD is better suited to a World Cup tournament (cue the pictures of Australians celebrating during the 2006 world cup all being of fans at Federation Square).
The Melbourne public will want to host the final. This stoush by sections of the Melbourne establishment, including figures like Barrassi holding a deflated football on the front cover of a major newspaper, undermines that.
The solution therefore, is in the fact that Swan Street is a Government funded stadium (unlike privately owned Docklands who don’t want World Cup games due to lack of profitability).
The State Government should be pressured by the Victorian sporting fraternity (AFL and football/soccer fans and personalities alike) to foot the bill of Swan Street redevelopment.
This can be justified as firstly it was their lack of foresight in allowing an expensively prohibitive roof in the first place, more importantly it is very much in the public (more World Cup games) and state interest (local unity for an iconic hosting of the Final). Federal Government money can be used in part but also towards any modifications to the MCG (for about 8 weeks of course).
There is a strong case that the money is in the public interest. Both the AFL community and the football community win. The AFL community can continue to have their competition played out of Etihad and can continue to have the season play during any World Cup (Baseball was allowed to continue during USA 1994, apparently).
The football fraternity wins because its rectangular stadium gets modified to the point where it is no longer a boutique stadium, but big enough for A-League blockbusters and Socceroos games. Docklands will no longer need to be used which will make local football fans very happy given their intense dislike for the venue.
Also, to use Eddie McGuire’s term, “AFL won’t be giving a free kick to their biggest rival”.
Rugby league and rugby union would be smart in supporting this as well. For the disruption of one season, they get a generational-long adjustment to a major piece of infrastructure suitable to their sport.
This will allow both State of Origin and Union internationals to be played out of a large enough rectangular world-class stadium without having to go through a stadium set to be owned by the AFL (Docklands).
Not to mention the more World Cup games that it will allow to be played in Melbourne, meaning more hosting and training venues built.
This in turn means development of rectangular facilities which can be used by their teams (Wallabies, NSW and QLD) as well as visiting football teams (Socceroos and overseas opponents during World Cup Qualifiers and Asian Cup Qualifiers amongst others like women’s and youth teams).
This way, the infrastructure built won’t become either “white elephants” or only temporary.
Everyone gains from this solution in some way.
All forces, including the fan bases as well as the sporting organisations, should unite and pressure the Victorian Government to spend what would normally be an unjustifiable amount of money on upgrading Swan Street, while ensuring unity behind a bid for the biggest sporting event on the planet.
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