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Jan 20, 2008

Jets upset over grand final decision

Newcastle have lashed out at the FFA's decision to deny the club a chance to host the A-League grand final, with coach Gary van Egmond declaring the move was not in the spirit of the game.

The Jets are set to appeal Football Federation Australia's ruling that next month's decider be played in Sydney after the governing body decided neither Central Coast or Newcastle had adequate stadia to host the grand final.

Under A-League rules, the winner of the major semi-final earns the right of home advantage for the championship game.

But this season that will almost certainly not be the case with minor premiers Central Coast or the second-placed Jets set to "host" the grand final at either the Sydney Football Stadium or ANZ Stadium.

"We think it's in the best interest of the game, growing the game, and taking the game to the biggest possible audience that we play in a stadium that has the capacity to host 40,000 plus people," said FFA chief executive Ben Buckley.

"Clearly Newcastle doesn't have that available to them and neither does Bluetongue Stadium on the Central Coast.

"We've talked about that with the chief executives before Christmas and whilst no one wants to give up the rights to host a grand final, I think there's general agreement that it's in the best interest of the game."

Newcastle's EnergyAustralia Stadium holds 26,000 people, while Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford has a capacity of 20,059.

The Mariners, while disappointed, are understanding of the situation with coach Lawrie McKinna saying: "We can play at Plume Park in Gosford for all they want as long as we get there and have a chance to win it."

The Jets, though, are far less accommodating to the idea, with not just the championship but a place in the Asian Champions League at stake.

"That hasn't been confirmed to me yet, but it would be disappointing, and I don't think it's in the spirit of the game," said van Egmond.

"I think that if it's good enough for the FFA to have the Novacastrian people come out week in week out for the national competition, and their team does well enough over the whole of the year to earn the right to get into the grand final first than they should host it.

"We're in a situation where we're playing for a spot in Asia, and that's worth a lot of money for our club.

"For us to be given the best opportunity of qualifying is to play at home if we win that right to host the grand final, but I don't know if we can move the goalposts at this point of time."

Any appeal, though, is likely to have little impact, with Buckley adding: "They can make a submission to us, but it's pretty clear in the rules we're the final decision makers when it comes to where the grand final is hosted."

In terms of scheduling, the final round of the competition could not have ended up any worse for the FFA.

There would have been no such dramas over the grand final if both Queensland Roar and Sydney had maintained their spots in the top two.

A concert from Sting's group The Police at Suncorp Stadium on Tuesday night would also likely have had a far less impact had the Roar not finished fourth.

Because of the concert, Sydney was denied their request to play the first leg of the minor semi-final away.

The Roar, instead, will have the advantage of playing the all-important return match at home with Sydney to host the opener on Friday.

"The Police are a pretty popular band, they've probably got 40-50,000 people there and you've got a stage that weighs hundreds of tonnes near the penalty box and we don't think that it's in the best interest of the game to host a final match so soon after an event like that," Buckley said.