"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?