Melbourne Victory FC, Re-Negotiate the Etihad Stadium Deal
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While football is a new code in the Australian sporting landscape, the past decade-and-a-half has seen a meteoric rise in both interest in the sport, and active fan participation with the code. We, the fans, have made ourselves the custodians of our chosen clubs, who will be there long after any manager, owner or player. We are the lifeblood of our teams, the ones who fund the entire operation through our patronage, dedication and the energy that we give to the team.
For the past few years, the Melbourne Victory Football Club have played a portion of their matches in Docklands/Etihad Stadium, an ovular arena designed for Australian Rules Football and Cricket matches. This is almost universally viewed by the fan base as a poor stadium for both football matches and for active support, given it was not designed with either of these aspects in mind, and has even been considered by Australian Rules fans to be far inferior for crowd atmosphere and accessibility to the iconic MCG. Fans of the Victory will always consider AAMI Park (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium) to be our home, as it's capacity suits our needs and the layout and stunning architecture contribute greatly to the atmosphere and dynamics a crowd can bring, epitomized by the huge terraces at either end that are filled with active supporters.
Whilst a few games a season at Etihad Stadium is tolerable to avoid any clash with cultural events or the original occupants of AAMI Park, the Rugby League team Melbourne Storm, this season has seen the deal to play a portion of our matches at Etihad Stadium go to ridiculous new levels. The Melbourne Victory will not play any "Home" matches at our home stadium until the end of December. In fact, our first outing at AAMI Park will be away against our local rivals, Melbourne City FC, who are a newer and far fewer-supported club.
While financially the club receives payments and pays less in rent for agreeing to play the entire first half of the season at Etihad stadium, we believe that a club with by far and away the biggest supporter base in the league should be financially well-off enough to fight for the stadium venue that the fans prefer. Fans who, and especially membership holders who are often terrace members, are forced to sit in the third-tier of Etihad stadium, despite the first level remaining at most half-full match after match. We also believe that there should be questions asked about where the money from this deal is going and why the club didn't canvas supporter opinion. We pride ourselves on being able to provide the best atmosphere possible, which not only spurs the team on, but is a huge factor in welcoming new players from foreign cultures, something we as a country pride ourselves on, and attracting and keeping foreign talent is a gigantic part of keeping our football identity growing. It reflects poorly on football in Australia to have the showcase team of a league that's fought for domestic relevance among the other sporting codes moving the majority of it's paying members to the third-tier of a stadium and leaving the bottom tier empty, especially when the attraction of the sport here is active support which none of the other codes have.
This deal is anti-fan, anti-consumer, and most importantly means that somebody has sold the soul of our club, effectively removing us from our home and sullying our connection to it, all for the sake of lining somebody's pockets. We have been powerless as supporters to do or say anything meaningful about the situation, with our club shafted and our home ground given over to our rivals. This deal sets a precedent for Australian Football that no fan of the game, regardless of their allegiances, can allow to ruin the matchday experience for the fans of any other club in the country. Yes, contract deals like this are hard to re-negotiate, but the situation that the club and supporters have been forced into is one that needs to be answered for, and we can at the very least set a marker that we will not consider Etihad Stadium as a viable venue for the club in the future.
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