"Football" blocks Australia's World Cup bid

There’s a real danger that ‘football’ could destroy the fabic of Australian society.

If we don’t act now, this alien sport could tear the country apart!

Don’t laugh – that’s the sentiment dredged up by a frenzied Melbourne press on the back of some carefully timed comments from AFL (Aussie Rules) chief Andrew Demetriou.

Less than 48 hours after the Socceroos were drawn with Germany, Ghana and Serbia in a challenging World Cup group, Demetriou dropped a verbal bombshell designed to inflict maximum damage.

Any bid to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals could see the AFL season postponed – possibly for an entire season – if you believe the artful stirrer.

The loss of revenue would subsequently bankrupt some of the country’s most iconic teams, banishing them forever from the Australian sporting landscape.

Never mind that Demetriou is talking rubbish: his comments gathered flapping like moths to a flame, with the talkback switchboards soon flooded by angry callers denouncing the world game.

The debate centres on which stadia would be used during a World Cup finals – and when.

Any finals staged in Australia would take place in the middle of domestic AFL and rugby league seasons, and there are only so many grounds to go around.

The AFL have demanded further details from Football Federation Australia regarding schedules, even though the bidding process is in its infancy, and the 2018 tournament is nine years down the track.

Temporarily rescheduling Australian Rules fixtures to regional centres would prove a ready-made solution to the impasse, but the AFL has made it clear they don’t appreciate football encroaching on hallowed turf.

Any World Cup bid is likely to propose the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground as a venue for the final, but the MCG is also home to several AFL blockbusters.

Silly games at the WCG (pint not to scale)

Since FIFA requires exclusive use of stadia for between six to eight weeks, the AFL has resorted to overblown hyperbole to demonstrate the threat that football poses.

While it’s not surprising to see the Melbourne media promote their sport of choice, what has been disheartening is the largely xenophobic response their comments have generated from the public.

For a country that prides itself on being ‘multicultural’, there has been an inordinate amount of vicious name-calling on both sides of the debate.

The irony of the AFL’s stance is that the sport is not especially popular outside the state of Victoria, with rugby league generally the game of choice further up the coast in both New South Wales and Queensland.

Rugby League’s governing body, the NRL, has proffered a lukewarm response to a potential World Cup – with the prospect of improved stadia a potential sweetener.

However, the Sydney media has jumped at the chance to ridicule their southern cousins, with the city’s daily rags talking up the opportunity to host a World Cup final – at Melbourne’s expense.

That support is largely cosmetic, with many Sydneysiders feeling there’s as much chance of hosting a World Cup as there is of Dwight Yorke becoming a prominent teetotaler. 

But with Australia already at long odds to host a World Cup, convincing the locals is the last thing the FFA needs, as they set out on the long journey of trying to win over FIFA.

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