A-League grand final move faces backlash from fans

Western United won the last A-League men grand final, but got to play at home.

Western United won the last A-League men grand final, but got to play at home. Photo: Getty

The A-League is facing backlash from fans and industry figures alike after striking a deal to play the next three men’s and women’s grand finals in Sydney.

In a break from A-League tradition, the highest-ranked team will no longer earn the right to host the season decider.

The NSW government has reportedly forked out an eight-figure sum to secure hosting rights from 2023.

In a statement on Monday, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) said the move was “designed to develop an engaging grand final experience” for fans.

“Football fans now get the best of both worlds,” APL chief executive Danny Townsend said in the statement.

“They can now look forward to a showpiece grand final event in a set location, as well as watching A-Leagues and national team stars week-in, week-out at their local A-Leagues team.

APL boss Danny Townsend has come under fire for the decision.

“This is a unique opportunity to build a tradition for football fans.

“When you think about a cup final in England, you think about the trip to Wembley, and we want fans in Australia to look forward to the A-Leagues finals in the same way.”

But criticism of the decision has come thick and fast.

Melbourne Victory forward Maja Markovski called the move a “Big L (loss)” on Instagram, before the club released a statement confirming its preference remained “to play any Grand Final (that we earn the right to host) in front of our fans” at AAMI Park.

Socceroos forward Craig Goodwin appeared in a video promoting the announcement that the grand finals would be moved but on Instagram said he “never said anything about liking it being in Sydney”.

A statement from The Red & Black Bloc said the ardent group of Western Sydney Wanderers fans were “completely against” the decision.

“This once again demonstrates the lack of fan consultation,” the statement read.

“A home grand final is the reward for the effort throughout the season. Earning the right to host the final was our tradition.

“We urge APL to reverse this decision ASAP.”

No ALW grand final has ever been moved outside of the home city of the team that won hosting rights but since the inaugural ALM grand final, the decider has been held away from the host team’s regular home stadium on three occasions.

In the first of those instances, Central Coast and Newcastle played before the lowest grand final crowd of the competition’s first nine seasons at Sydney Football Stadium.

The Mariners and Western Sydney drew a respectable crowd of 42,102 to the same ground when they faced off in 2013.

On the most recent occasion, Sydney FC only attracted 7051 fans to CommBank Stadium after a COVID-ravaged 2020 season.

Next year’s ALW grand final is set for April 30, with the ALM decider on June 3.


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