Socceroos star Craig Goodwin has hit out at the A-League for 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 released an eight-figure sum to secure hosting rights from 2023.
The league faced backlash from fans and players alike, with Goodwin, who appears in the promotional video accompanying the announcement, the most prominent figure to speak out.
Western United are celebrating winning last season’s grand final, which was held at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Fans have asked how the new arrangement will go if two non-Sydney teams take part in the biggest game of the year
“I don’t support it [the decision]. I’m a player but I’m also a fan,” he tweeted.
“The fans are the most valuable thing in football and as we have seen from the support across the country for football during the World Cup, they are the ones who create the atmosphere and the culture and what makes the game good.
“Like many fans around the country, and as I said, I too am disappointed by this decision.”
In a statement on Monday, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) said the move is “designed to develop an engaging grand final experience” for fans.
Last season, Melbourne Victory claimed the A-League Women’s title by beating Sydney FC at Jubilee Stadium (pictured). Fans have blasted the decision to change the sport’s finals system
“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 grand final event at a specific venue, as well as watching A-League and national team stars week in, week out at their local A-League team.
– This is a unique opportunity to build a tradition for football fans.
Socceroos star Craig Goodwin has hit out at the decision to hold the grand final in Sydney
Goodwin said the decision was made without regard to the fans’ interests
Some supporters were dismayed that the news would rob the sport of its chance to benefit from the surge in support due to Australia’s stunning World Cup run
“When you think of a cup final in England, you think of 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 remains ‘to play any Grand Final [that we earn the right to host] in front of our fans at AAMI Park.
Fans weren’t the only ones to take to Sydney (pictured) with Socceroos player Craig Goodwin also admitting he doesn’t like the switch
Fans shared their outrage over the switch on social media immediately after the announcement.
“What a way to kill all the momentum gathered by a great World Cup [World Cup]. Any new fans to the A-League will come in alone because this decision will have hurt so many current fans. There are so many reasons why this is a terrible decision, and yet I can’t think of one good reason. Farce,’ wrote Gerald Lynch.
“The A-League final is an event that is already struggling to stand on its own two feet without the involvement of Melbourne Victory, Western Sydney Wanderers or Sydney FC. This is such a poor result for the event. How would Melbourne City v Western United have gone at Allianz?!’ asked Rudi Esdall, referring to the Allianz Stadium, the most likely venue for the six deciders.
“Pretty sure ‘instantly turning off soccer fans across the country’ isn’t what people had in mind when they said the A-League needs to capitalize on the Socceroos $FIFAWorldCup success,” Mark Gottlieb added.
Fans are worried about rows of empty seats in the grand final if no Sydney team takes part (pictured, crowd at last Saturday’s clash between Western Sydney Wanderers and Wellington Phoenix)
No ALW final has ever been moved outside the hometown of the team that won hosting rights, but since the first ALM final, the decider has been held away from the host team’s usual home stadium on three occasions.
In the first of these instances, Central Coast and Newcastle played in front of the lowest grand final crowd in the competition’s first nine seasons at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Mariners and Western Sydney drew a respectable crowd of 42,102 to the same ground when they met in 2013.
On the last occasion, Sydney FC attracted just 7,051 fans to CommBank Stadium after a COVID-ravaged 2020 season.
Next year’s ALW final is set for April 30, with the ALM decision on June 3.