Sydney to host A-League grand final
The A-League grand final will definitely be in Sydney on February 24. Exactly where, though, will require a delicate juggling act from Football Federation Australia.
Despite impassioned pleas from Newcastle, the FFA confirmed either the Sydney Football Stadium or ANZ Stadium will host the 2007/08 decider.
Under A-League rules, the winner of the major semi-final earns the right of home advantage for the championship game.
But with Central Coast and Newcastle both playing in stadia with capacities well under 30,000, the FFA have used their discretion to shift the venue.
The trouble, though, will come in deciding between the SFS and the Olympic Stadium.
The major semi-final is supposed to determine where the grand final is played, but in a bizarre twist, it appears the minor semi - between Sydney FC and Queensland Roar - may have the most bearing.
While wanting to play the final in Sydney, the FFA does not want to give third-placed Sydney FC "home" advantage at the SFS should they make the decider.
The easier scenario will be if the Roar win the two-legged minor semi, which starts Friday night. The FFA can then schedule the 45,000-seat SFS straight away for Feb 24 and be confident of a sell out.
The difficulties will start if Sydney win and advance to the preliminary final.
The FFA would then likely have two options:
* Delay the announcement of the grand final venue until after the prelim, which would mean just one week to sell tickets; or
* Schedule the decider for ANZ and have a fortnight to sell tickets, but risk struggling to fill half the 83,000 stadium should Sydney fail to qualify.
FFA chief executive Ben Buckley - who made the point the FA Cup final, NFL Superbowl and NRL and AFL grand finals all use neutral venues - said he anticipated both the Mariners and Jets to provide 20,000 supporters for a grand final in Sydney.
"We had sell-out crowds in Sydney and Melbourne at the grand finals in the first two years of the A-League and I do not want the situation where people are locked-out of the game," said Buckley.
"If we were to keep the grand final at either of their home grounds, it would leave little or no capacity for supporters of the opposing team, or the many thousands of A-League fans who just want to be part of the biggest game of the year.
"We believe the A-League grand final, as the most important game of the year in the competition, should be given the status it deserves and that's what we're doing."
Jets coach Gary van Egmond expressed disappointment Central Coast had not done more to try to shift the FFA's grand final thinking this week, but club CEO John Tsatsimas refused to comment on the Mariners stance.
While disappointed, Tsatsimas said the club would now move on with the first leg of the major semi-final at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday.
"They've made the decision, we're not surprised in it, considering what was said during the week, but that's not to say we're not disappointed," he said.
"But despite all that, we're at a time when we should focus on the game now, our primary focus should be on the game at hand, and seeing if we can get there and make it a day to remember for our supporters."