Here’s one big problem the US and England don’t face with their World Cup bids: conflict with planned use of stadia by Aussie Rules Football and rugby league teams. The issue has caused a huge stir in Australia this week, with Football Federation Australia under fire for failing to consult with the governing bodies of the other football codes that share most of Australia’s largest stadiums about potential scheduling conflicts (Melbourne’s “rectangular” stadium currently under construction is so-named for its rarity as a non-oval shaped stadium suited specifically for soccer, though a rugby league team will also play there).
“They certainly have to improve their communication, not just with us but other people involved in and being affected by a World Cup,” Australian Football League (which runs Aussie football) boss Andrew Demetrio said of the FFA to the Roar. “I think a World Cup is a great thing for this country (but) it’s time to get this stuff organised. They really need to be proactive and come up with solutions and start listening to the other codes and other people affected by this, particularly the venues, and not do all the talking.”
Similarly, the National Rugby League’s CEO David Gallop said that “Some of the proposals are not going to be palatable to us and would be very costly to us. We’re not trying to stop the World Cup bid but we are certainly concerned about the impact that it will have on our season, our fans and the financial position of our clubs.”
However, one suspects that the FFA and NRL’s timing of this — just after the recent bidding presentations to FIFA and the 2010 World Cup draw — were designed to maximise publicity and hit the FFA up for compensation for rescheduling, as well as a reflection of concern that a successful World Cup could give soccer the boost it needs to become a leading football code in the country alongside the more popular Aussie Rules and Rugby League.
Consider the rest of Gallop’s comments regarding the possibility of compensation: “It’s not something that’s been discussed thus far but if that was part of the discussions then we’d be interested to hear what they’ve got to say. It’s obviously a big shot in the arm for a competitor and we’re running a business and we have to be mindful of that. Clearly a soccer World Cup is going to be a big shot in the arm for their game, not only in the period that it’s on but in the years that follow.”
In the U.S., the NFL is obviously confident enough that a soccer World Cup using many of its own teams’ venues would merely mean a little more summer revenue for them — no scheduling conflicts there — and isn’t worried about soccer as a competing code. In Australia, it looks like the other footballing codes are concerned enough to risk damaging their country’s World Cup bid.