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Rival Codes Highlight Negative Impact of World Cup Bid

Rival Codes Highlight Negative Impact of World Cup Bid
December 9, 2009

With officials of the Football Federation Australia (FFA) set to guarantee that Australia will be able to satisfy the technical requirements for hosting a future FIFA World Cup, rival football codes have highlighted major concerns about how the event would impact their sports.

Rugby League officials have suggested that if the FFA were to be successful in winning the right to host FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022, then the State of Origin series would have to be rescheduled for two consecutive years to a three-week period in March. A successful World Cup bid would also see the NRL season starting in early February.

Official fear that any reduction in the NRL season, coupled with loss of attendance and income, would threaten the future of several NRL clubs.

Meanwhile AFL Chief Executive Andrew Demetriou (pictured) raised the ante by claiming that AFL could be forced to cancel its season and clubs could go under if the MCG was shut down for any more than 10 weeks before and during the World Cup.

The core of the AFL and rugby league's concern is based on world football governing body FIFA's requirements that stadiums be available on an exclusive-basis for the month-long event, and for up to four weeks before in order to prepare the grounds. FIFA also demands that no other big sporting event occur at the same time as the World Cup, or seven days before in any of the World Cup host cities.

Demetriou claimed this week the potential losses to AFL from rearranging their season would be "a monumental cost and I'm talking hundreds of millions of dollars", adding "it would probably mean that some clubs who rely on the $7.5 to $8 million (annual) distribution from the AFL."

The NRL's Chief Operations Manager, Graham Annesley, told a recent conference of Leagues Clubs Australia that the future of several clubs was in danger if the Federal Government forced it to suspend or move matches from their supporter heartland even for a few matches.

However, the Federal Government is believed to be considering legislation to force compliance with FIFA world cup regulations if the rival codes are not supportive.

FFA Chief Executive Ben Buckley has rejected the claims that hosting the World Cup could wipe out an entire AFL season, saying they were plain wrong. Buckley also insisted that FFA was not interested in turning the MCG into a rectangular stadium to host big games (potentially including the World Cup final) should Australia win the rights to host the 2018 or 2022 tournament.

Buckley was also adamant that the AFL and the National Rugby League had been kept in the loop over the bidding plans for more than a year, and his organisation had never suggested a season-long lockdown.

"We have never asked the AFL to shut down their season ... we have only outlined to them the various requirements under the FIFA regulations to host the World Cup. We have certainly never said to the AFL that they need to shut their whole season down.

"The requirements are that we need to get access to the venues four weeks prior to the competition for the preparation for the pitches, some of the stadia overlays that are required by FIFA, and of course we need the venues for the duration of the tournament.

"In our estimation that's somewhere between six to eight weeks, depending on where the finals are played, and depending on what venues we use."

"We have been speaking to the AFL over the last 12 months - we only received the FIFA bidding guidelines in May of 2009. We met with them as recently as October this year where we went through a very detailed presentation on what the issues are."





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