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Column: Short-sighted; yet another shot in the foot by the APL

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Today the APL has made the announcement that football's showpiece events will be heading to NSW regardless of the teams playing for the next three years. In a move that can only be described as short-sighted, the A-Leagues Grand Finals have lost their meaning.

Admittedly this is all coming from someone who has always rated the Premiers Plate as the higher achievement, but now with a Grand Final plopped into another state regardless of how dominant one may have been throughout the year, it somehow has lost even more value. The Plate should now become the undisputed key achievement that every team should be striving for. A Grand Final played thousands of kilometres from the homes of their fans means nothing for all the clubs based outside of NSW.

I know the retort will be "other major codes in Australia use this model" and that is true, they do. Does this mean that it's correct on the whole? No. Those competitions also have never allowed teams to host as a right of being the highest-placed qualifier. Football is a different game and needs to be treated differently. Forcing Australian traditions or perceptions onto it is not beneficial for the game. The other codes are in a much different position to our game and therefore the demand is completely different which allows for this model to happen. Even with years of history behind those sports, there are routine calls for the highest-ranked team to host the showpiece events.

There are comments from the APL about recreating what happens in the UK with games at Wembley, a stadium that has been the home of the game forever in a country that is small enough to allow fans to travel to it. This is also a country where teams have hundreds of years of history and established fans that already routinely travel week in and week out.

The worst case scenario is a Perth vs Wellington final as the distance and costs associated with traveling is prohibitive at the best of times, let alone when the airlines see a chance to make a quick buck as they have shown in the past with astronomical amounts being charged for tickets when a WA side makes the AFL Grand Final in Melbourne. Even those of us here in Melbourne, where travel to Sydney is possible relatively easily via road, will have to pause and evaluate. All of a sudden supporting our team in what is supposed to be the biggest game of the year becomes a very costly affair. Factoring in accommodation, tickets, travel costs, food, and beverages - and in a time where people are needing to stretch each dollar as far as they can - this is potentially a bridge too far for the majority of fans.

The World Cup had given football a well-needed shot in the arm and brought a lot of people together in looking positively at the future of the sport, but decisions like this are hurting our game. The immediate reaction from fans online should be enough to show that a mistake has been made. Again, I can already hear the retort: "NSW has stumped up a large amount of money to host these events for the next 3 years". Let's see where the money goes. Is it going to actually be invested back into the A-Leagues? Will it be invested into the grassroots level and stop the ridiculous fees that clubs are charging? Or will it simply be another bonus for the APL board and key staff to enjoy?

What do you think of this move? Can you see a benefit to it?

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