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Dec 9, 2009

Etihad boss open to World Cup games

Etihad Stadium boss Ian Collins is keeping an open mind about his venue possibly hosting soccer World Cup matches.

A day after AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou declared the stadium would be off-limits to a successful Australian World Cup bid in either 2018 or 2022, Collins was confident a deal could be brokered.

"We're a venue for hire, we're always interested in whatever is going on," Collins said.

"We support maximising the use of our stadium and we need to do that.

"The two major football bodies should probably sit down behind closed doors and sort out what's going to happen.

"It's a long way away, 2022, and the bid has to go in next year, but I think sanity will prevail."

Stadium management has had discussions with the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) about the World Cup.

"There's no certainty on what they require at this point in time and we haven't seen the framework on that," Collins said.

"We're not certain on how restrictive their conditions are, that's something that will probably come out if and when Australia wins a bid for the World Cup."

But asked if he had spoken to the AFL about the issue, Collins replied: "No, at this point in time, we're talking about hearsay, innuendo and supposition.

"At this point in time, it's business as usual with us."

Collins also scoffed at concerns that FIFA might insist on a 500m exclusion zone around each World Cup venue.

That clearly could not work at Etihad Stadium, which is based in Melbourne's Docklands area and is surrounded by apartments and businesses.

Collins also noted that the AFL is based at Etihad Stadium and joked they might be the primary target of the exclusion zone idea.

"Some of the initial criteria were probably erroneous and very difficult to be able to fulfil at a stadium like ours, because we have a stadium that is butted on by businesses or private ownership of flats," he said.

"For the initial rulings in regards to that, where there's got to be a 500m seclusion area, that wouldn't work."

Collins is also confident an AFL season and a World Cup can run side-by-side.

"You can do anything if you want to - perhaps the AFL might become mid-week and World Cup (games) become weekend, who knows?," he said

"I don't know what the definition is of a major sporting competition ... they probably haven't heard of Australian Rules so they probably reckon it's a minor sport.

"It's a bit of chest-beating at the moment, it's interesting, Fitzy (AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick) also has some involvement in the ANZ Stadium."

Asked if Demetriou had been over-emotional in his public comments about the World Cup issue this week, Collins replied: "You don't expect me to answer that, do you? You'd like me to, but I won't."

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