AAMI Park. A place of our own.

OK.  I always have to preface posts like the one I am going to write now with this.  I like Australian Rules Football.  I went to almost every Carlton match between 1978 and 1989.  Life changes have precluded me to attend both Association Football and Australian Football matches.  But when the situation allows me again I will renew my Carlton FC membership and go to aussie rules matches again.

Melbourne and Australian Rules Football are interwoven.  The game began here and is an intrinsic part of Melbourne culture.  However it reminds me of someone (I can’t locate who) who said something like “Wagner music is great, but why did he had to write so much of it?”.  We love footy, but sometimes it is so overpowering over everything else that we need a break and some space.  We hear it on the radio, we see it on the front pages of our newspapers and media websites, in the discussions amongst friends and colleagues that even if our team is in them,  by the finals some of us do look forward to a few of (relatively) footy free months.  So another week of football is stretching it a bit, and I can feel there isn’t the same buzz around town that there was last week.

This is especially true for those who are also interested in other sports.  An example is the UCI Road World Championship which is being held in Geelong, which was most likely scheduled on the weekend after the Grand Final to have some free air, but alas the draw means that there is a clash, not that many will be bothered .  Australians may have a cultural cringe when it comes to things like the arts or fashion, but when it comes to sport Australians believe that no foreigner can hold a candle to what we have here.  So while Steve Bracks, the chairman of the organising committee, for the UCI Road World Championship  is right in saying: ‘‘Four hundred million minimum will be watching it worldwide, watching Melbourne and Geelong showcasing a major world championships of world cycling. There’s hardly anyone in Europe who would know the AFL grand final’s on,” (and I can confirm that when I hear the news from Italy by satellite the cycling in Geelong does feature, but not a mention of Clint Jones’ broken foot, or the psychological situation of Dale Thomas) many Melbournians couldn’t give a hoot.  Footy is the main game.

Of course this is especially true for other football codes that have to fight for recognition in the AFL obsessed media.  And there has been plenty of debate about the FFA postponing the first ever Melbourne Derby between Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory from Saturday night to Friday the 8th of October.  Was this kowtowing to the ever powerful AFL?  Could have Association Football stood its ground?  But to add ‘insult to injury’ not only the match is to be postponed, but AFL  fans without a ticket to the AFL Grand Final replay will be able to watch the match on giant screens at a special free live site at AAMI Park.  Some Association Fans were outraged.  However not everyone thinks that way.  Association Football journalist Micheal Lynch gently scolds those who are angry about these turn of events.

THE blogosphere – that chaotic galaxy where conspiracy theorists, zealots, the one eyed, the merely partisan and the odd even-handed contributor exist in uneasy collusion – was rife with opinion on the FFA’s move to shift the Melbourne A-League derby.

It became especially virulent when it emerged that the state government was making AAMI Park available as a live site for those AFL supporters who couldn’t get a ticket to the grand-final replay across the road at the MCG.

A sell-out, screamed some. The real reason the game was moved, opined others. The FFA should have stood firm and taken on the AFL and played the game as originally scheduled, argued a few.

The more paranoid might have pointed to FFA supremo Ben Buckley’s AFL background and concluded that this was the reason the first derby had been moved – to deny soccer its place in the sun.

It’s entertaining, as it goes, but please, get a grip. Soccer is the world game, by far the most popular sport on the planet. But Australia is not yet in tune with the rest of the planet.

Like it or lump it, AFL is the No. 1 sporting code in this country.

It is richer, better administered, and it has deeply embedded powerful social, cultural and political roots.

That doesn’t make it a better game, but it gives it a massive market presence, particularly in Victoria, where the replayed grand final will dominate all else for the next six days.

(Click on the link to read the whole article)

I do agree with Lynch.  The AFL is the main code in Australia and stomping and dummy spitting won’t help anyone.  However there is an important factor that should be taken in consideration, why some fans aren’t happy.  The fact is that Association Football has always to play second fiddle to the AFL.  We either had to play in grounds that were glorified municipal parks, or go to AFL grounds like Etihad (which was originally sold to us as a ‘multi-code stadium…ha!) where the configuration was wrong and it re-enforced to Association Football fans that we didn’t have a place of our own.

But lo and behold Premier Bracks decides to build a purpose rectangular stadium for Association Football and Rugby.  At last a place where the omnipresent influence of the AFL couldn’t penetrate.  The ground would be rectangular, not an oval to be seen (except Rugby balls of course).  Again I have nothing against Australian Rules Football, quite the contrary, but it was nice to have a place of our own AFL free somewhere in town.   But even a relatively small rectangle of grass which wasn”t beholden to Australian Rules upset some AFL people. Collingwood president Eddie McGuire wrote in the Herald Sun:

Its one remaining premiership trophy can be put into a cabinet at its purpose-built stadium, referred to alternately as the “Rectangular stadium”, “the Bubble” or “AAMI stadium”, but more than likely “the White Elephant”……

It’s a lesson again that in this town the economic, cultural and strategic infrastructure, investment should be focused on the sport that makes this city tick – AFL football and, in particular, its clubs. Is it too late to lengthen the ground and smooth off the edges?

So it is true as a Victory fan wrote in the fan’s forum earlier this week that “It’s a government owned stadium built with government money, it will be used by whoever pays for it.” but it is understandable that some Association Football fans are pissed off that ‘their’ ground that they thought was to be free from the clutches of the AFL will be used for Saints and Magpies fans next Saturday.

Childish and irrational?  Perhaps.  But then following men kicking a leather ball is anyway.

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2 Comments

Filed under Football

2 responses to “AAMI Park. A place of our own.

  1. Sports fans should be grateful there’s a semi-covered venue in the sports precinct that can accomodate 30,000 (with seating I may add) so they can soak up a bit of atmosphere and enjoy the game. As an aside, AAMI Park has 4 tenants, not 1 and caters to three codes not just soccer. Without Melbourne Storm or the Melbourne Rebels paying some of the rent, Victory and Heart would be negotiating with the AFL for the use of Docklands. So why don’t we just all share nicely?

  2. Alex

    4 codes, 5 tenants if you count Melbourne Demons (who have their training facilities there).

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