AFL season to open at Etihad, says Demetriou
Richmond have declined the AFL’s offer to move the Tigers-Blues clash from round one in order to keep the early-season blockbuster at the MCG.
AFL chief Andrew Demetriou said the 2013 season will definitely kick off at Etihad Stadium and not the MCG, putting the season-opener in doubt.
Richmond and Carlton officials had been hoping their round-one fixture could be staged at the MCG as normal next year, despite Demetriou’s plan to bring the season forward one week to the second-last weekend of March.
However, this has led to a clash with Cricket Victoria which has a contractual right to stage the Sheffield Shield final at the MCG on that weekend.
The AFL is keen to schedule 22 rounds over 24 weeks, which would allow the league to give all teams two byes as requested by the players.
That meant the MCG would be a football-free zone in round one.
“Make no mistake, we’re going to be opening the season at Etihad Stadium,” said Demetriou.
“If Richmond and Carlton are adamant that they would prefer to wait to have the game here (at the MCG), then we’ll respect that.
“It’s important that we get the season off to a big start with three big games in Melbourne and that’s what we intend to do.”
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale said the Tigers were determined to retain the status quo.
“Richmond and Carlton have almost 100,000 members between them and an enormous supporter base beyond that, and we need to represent their interests,” Gale told AAP in a statement on Friday.
“They have voted with their feet each year. It has become a significant event on the AFL calendar and has attracted very big crowds.
“Our fans want this game as the season-opener in Melbourne and they want it played at the MCG.
“It is the only resolution that is acceptable to us.”
The fixture has attracted an average crowd of almost 75,000 over the past six seasons.
Etihad Stadium has a capacity of around 53,000 which means more than 20,000 fans could miss out if the game was moved there.© AAP 2013