Australia's World Cup - the bid venues

Last week, Football Federation Australia submitted its "bid book" - a 750 page document on how Australia would host the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup. Among the details contained in it were the Australian sporting world had been waiting for.. the 12 proposed venues that would be used.

Here is the list, and my review of each one (I won't replicate all the images which are available on the official website.)

Just a note about capacities - for those who haven't been following the bid closely (as I have)

  • All venues have a "saleable" capacity - which is total capacity minus space for corporates VIPs. Generally stadiums are all seated, so generally "standing" areas are not available. This is why many venues are listed as several thousand below their expected capacity.
  • The minimum "salable" capacity is 40k, for semi finals it is 60k, and for the final, 3rd place match and opening match it is 80k.
  • Many of the venues will be downsized after the World Cup. 

Now, onto the list ...

Stadium Australia – Homebush, NSW - 83,000
In December, the NSW Government suggested that the ground would be modified into a permanent rectangular configuration, and the venue would get a retractable glass roof as a result of our bid! The image supplied doesn't match that, so it seems it may not happen - disappointing, would have been the 'jewel in the crown', but a great venue anyway. I suggest Homebush may be the location of the International Broadcast Centre and so on – facilities may be available from the Olympics?

Sydney Football Stadium – Sydney, NSW - 41,000
A great "minor" venue for Sydney, a shame there isn't much happening to it, but I guess there isn't that much to do.

Blacktown Stadium - Sydney, NSW - 41,000
A new venue in Western Sydney. The design looks nice! It will be built to Good post-WC capacity for Rovers (26k).

MCG – Melbourne, Vic - 88,000
It would be nice to see some sort of redevelopment to improve the venue for rectangular sports in the long term. Fellow blogger Matt Winter's plan would be ideal.

Brisbane Stadium (Lang Park) – Brisbane, Qld - 50,000
It would be nice to see it reach the 60k capacity for a semi-final, maybe they have more work to do!

Perth Stadium (Stadium WA) – Perth, WA - 60,000
A proposal for a multipurpose stadium with adjustable stands has been on the cards in Perth for a few years. It is good to see the general plan making a re-appearance here - common sense won out! Will be a great venue for all sports in WA. Both AFL and cricket can use the venue in it's oval mode, and big Socceroos and Wallabies matches will again return to Perth.

Adelaide Oval – Adelaide, SA - 50,000
Are those stands adjustable, or just majorly redeveloped? I guess since the AFL uses Football Park at the moment, they don't have any existing contract over Adelaide Oval, so if it takes longer before and after the cup to reconfigure the stands that shouldn't be a problem. Adjustable stands would leave Adelaide with a great legacy - without them, Adelaide United is stuck playing in the little 18k Hindmarsh Stadium still.

Gold Coast Stadium (Carrara) – Gold Coast, Qld - 40,000
We'd all prefer Robina Stadium, but it was only built a few years ago to its present side (27k) and I guess with Brisbane an hour away they didn't think it would need upgrading! Carrara won't benefit football but it will be reduced to 27k after the Cup to be a potential venue for AFL, cricket and even a Commonwealth Games bid. 

Newcastle Stadium – Newcastle, NSW - 42,000
Looks very nice - and 34k will be a good post-WC capacity for A-League and NRL use.

Canberra Stadium – Canberra, ACT - 40,000
It's good to see the fearmongering about the ACT not wanting to be involved didn't eventuate. This one will be a new venue built right next to the current Bruce Stadium - which itself will be redeveloped as an oval venue to use instead of Manuka Oval.

Geelong Stadium (Kardinia Park) – Geelong, Vic - 44,000
Looks better than I expected in rectangular mode. Not happy about the way it came about (Andrew Demetriou being pig headed) but it will be good for the city. I found a CGI animation of the "conversion" on Youtube. It will be reduced to 37,000 after the World Cup.

Townsville Stadium (Willows Sports Complex) – Townsville, Qld - 40,000
Is this an upgrade? It looks like a complete rebuild! The roof will be great for the Fury during summer. An appropriate post-WC capacity too (30k) for A-League and NRL use.

So which two will be eliminated?

We need twelve venues for our bid book, but as few as ten of them will be selected by FIFA.  So which will go?

Maybe Gold Coast – which, even though it's an oval, would be disappointing because it's like a second venue to Brisbane and the city is big enough warrant it.
Maybe Townsville – just because of the cities' size and distance.
Maybe Blacktown – because it's a 3rd venue in Sydney.
Maybe Geelong – would be a shame for the same reason as Gold Coast, being Melbourne's #2 venue.

On the talk of "displacing" the AFL and NRL...

Stadium WA and Adelaide Oval are not currently AFL venues. How does this work? The AFL can't claim to have rights to venues which they don't play in?

WA is a tricky one, to build Stadium WA to completion they have to partially demolish Subiaco. But they would have to do this anyway, whether or not we hosted the WC. If Stadium WA was just built as a matter of course, the AFL would have the exact same issue, but they would put up with it, knowing that after it was completed they could sell another 17k seats per game – no compensation expected.

If Gold Coast and Geelong happen to be the two eliminated venues, we could be in the situation where the ONLY venue requiring compensation to be paid to the AFL would be the MCG – and that may only be used for eight matches! This "compensation formula" could be the best deal the federal government ever made :)

Again with Canberra – new venue – no pre-existing rights to the NRL – what will happen to the old Bruce Stadium next door? Keep it rectangular (for NRL/ARU use) until after the WC?

So where is Tasmania?

Why, missing of course!

Tasmania would not require a 40k rectangular stadium after the World Cup - even I can admit that.  But don't forget that six of the venues above are going to be reduced in size by over 10,000 seats after the World Cup!

The Qatar bid - as much as the nation has major logistical issues with size, population, climate and alcohol laws - does have one thing right - the plan for all of their 40k capacity stadiums is to split them in half after the event - resulting in twice as many 20k venues.  The FFA could have proposed a 40k rectangular venue in Hobart which, post-WC, became a 20k in Hobart and a 20k in Launceston.  As a bonus, such a venue would be "legacy" free - no prior tenants to pay compensation to!  

At the moment, the best the state can hope for is a couple of training facilities to be built.  In an email from Michelle O'Byrne in January I was told that the state government has proposed two venues in Tasmania for the bid book.  In the media this week it was also announced that York Park and Bellerive Oval would be "reserved" for AFL use during the World Cup - is that a strong hint that the training venues are new venues?

Time will tell.. only 196 days to go!

Who will save the World Cup from Victoria?

"Footy saved from World Cup threat" read the front page of the Herald Sun yesterday.    What an alarming title – you would think FIFA was going to roll their tanks in and destroy the AFL headquarters from a headline like that.

So what has actually happened?  Let’s pick a few key quotes from the article.

The AFL and the “biggest show on earth” will co-exist if Australia hosts the soccer World Cup in 2018 or 2022.  Co-exist is a funny word.  It implies some sort of equality.  For example, the AFL and soccer don't "co-exist" at the moment - for the best part, the AFL totally dominates it in the media.  Does the AFL expect that this will happen during a World Cup hosted in Australia?  It won't even be 50-50 - the World Cup will, dominate.  The AFL's season continuing during the World Cup is not about whether it is legally allowed to - it is whether the AFL wishes to commit financial suicide by attempting to do so.

Skilled Stadium [Kardinia Park in Geelong], Subiaco Oval, Gold Coast Stadium and Adelaide Oval would also be off limits to the AFL during the Cup.  Oh yes, the FFA/Federal Government is taking these venues, modernising them, upgrading their capacity, using them for a couple of months – and then handing the nice shiny new venues back to the AFL to play on year after year.  Not to mention the MCG and Homebush.  Are we supposed to think the AFL is doing it tough?

The government guarantee appears to contravene a FIFA regulation that a major sport can’t run in the host nation during a World Cup.  Actually, the truth is a little simpler than that – the AFL is not a major sport.  The FIFA regulation relates to events such as Wimbledon, or the Ashes series.  Even Major League Baseball continued in the United States in 1994, and MLB is much bigger than AFL.

[Demetriou said] "We’ve always said we would be providing the MCG and Skilled Stadium [Kardinia Park]"  How nice of him to be able to speak for the Victorian State Government and the City of Greater Geelong.  Did the AFL "provide" the MCG for the Commonwealth Games, or was it simply that it isn’t theirs to provide?  

The AFL has also been concerned FIFA would require the MCG for longer, before and after the tournament.  This refers to a proposal to "rectangularise" the MCG temporarily, requiring the ground for longer for conversion, which was announced publicly in December last year.  However, this proposal had already been eliminated by the bid taskforce privately before this time and also again publicly about 6 hours after the news story was published (in the Herald Sun, no surprises there).  For some reason, despite the fact that it is not going to happen, it gets brought up time and time again by the AFL and the Herald Sun, alongside the equally unlikely threat of "cancelling a season and sending clubs broke".

In fine form as usual, the Herald Sun has followed up with another article today, "League compo for cup games".  This is all about the compensation they will receive for ... hang on - what are they being compensated for?  They apparently aren't going to stop their season or reduce the number of games.  They are mathematically perfectly capable of honouring their existing stadium contracts even with some of them being unavailable, so no issues there.  They are going to have to play some games in reduced capacity venues for 10 weeks, certainly - but this is negated by the fact that they are also going to play in increased capacity stadiums for years to come - surely hundreds of millions of dollars worth of government funded infrastructure is enough?  In fact, the United States bid - our closest competitor for the 2022 World Cup - is already taking advantage of the ammo being provided to them to promote their own bid - how much compensation is the AFL going to pay the federal government if it is their antics which causes our bid to fail?

Melbourne's self proclaimed title of the "sports capital of the world" is now a joke - nowhere else would you see the largest newspaper in such a city against the World Cup.

I really feel sorry for the hundreds of thousands of Victorians who support both codes, as well as the hundreds of thousands who have no specific interest in soccer but want the World Cup to come here.  Unfortunately to the rest of the country and the rest of world, their local media is portraying the state as extremely insular and closed minded.

... and to think that if the World Cup comes here, the Herald Sun would be the first to complain when Melbourne only hosted six matches and Sydney hosts twenty!  But why shouldn't Sydney get more?  Not only are they upgrading their largest venue - Stadium Australia - by adding 5000 seats and installing a retractable glass roof, they are also offering their secondary stadium (Sydney Football Stadium) as well as offering to build a new 40,000 capacity venue in Western Sydney!  The New South Wales Government and the people of Sydney obviously want to host World Cup matches, not treat it like some sort of invading threat. 

The AFL can't really be blamed for their actions - their job is to look after their sport - but the Herald Sun is supposed to be a media outlet, not the AFL's PR department.

If I were an international football fan planning the best location to base myself during a World Cup in Australia, I'd be looking at the city with three venues (and within commuting distance to Canberra and Newcastle).  Melbourne wouldn't even be on the radar.  Is the Victorian Government looking after the interests of the state, or the interests of the AFL?

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