Tuesday, December 22, 2009

World Cup 2022 Stadiums, Scheduling, Scaremongering

Melbourne, the world's sporting capital is facing a small scheduling problem. Cricket, Tennis, Soccer, Grand Prix, AFL, NRL, rugby union, and the local leagues all compete for the populations' affection and their ticket money.All of these sports have successfully coexisted for a number of years, but a hectic year-round schedule, and increasing demand for the MCG and Telstra Dome means that they do not see a realistic way to accomodate a world cup bid.

I however, think there is a simple way to accomodate this. Firstly, I must mention the assumptions that I'll take before tabling a reasonable alternative.

1) That all the domestic football leagues will grow, increase in number, and spread out across Australia. By the time 2022 rolls around, the A-league will have more than a dozen sides, the AFL will have at least 20 sides, ( Gold Coast, Western Sydney, Tasmania, Darwin), the NRL and Super leagues will no doubt grow in Melbourne and attract more followers.

2) Hopefully, we'll have a larger number of high capacity stadiums. Whether it be by upgrading current grounds, or building them from scratch, more grounds in and around Melbourne will no doubt help all the codes surviving in the long term.

3) England, could, should and will most probably win the right to the World Cup for 2018. And rightly so, they have the best facilities, great grounds, great transport systems and enough space to host the expected millions of tourists.

On to the plan...

The role of other sports.
Cricket, Tennis, NRL, Super League (union)
By my estimates, the summer of 2021/22 is an Ashes summer, and we should try to schedule the cricket season so that the Test series finishes by Jan 6 and the One-day and Twenty 20 series finish by the end of January.

The Australian Tennis Season usually concludes in January, with the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. So its not too much of a hassle.

I doubt the NRL will be able to expand in Melbourne, and the Storm will no doubt live long and prosper. The Super 15 expansion into Melbourne will quickly establish itself, and attract enough supporters to sustain itself in a rectangular stadium

By the time 2022 rolls around, the AFL will have no doubt expanded to a 20 team competition. The current 16, plus Gold Coast, Western Sydney, Tasmania and a northern territory team I'll loosely call Darwin. Given the increased number of teams in the league, I would think the AFL would look to reshape the landscape, having a "European" football style of home and away league, scraping the "finals", and awarding the "Premiership flag" to the most consistant side over 38 games.

The excitement of the finals series, can be regained by adding significance, prominance and prizemoney to the NAB cup, and turning it from a preseason warm-up tournament to a nationwide, multi level, knock-out tournament that gives non professional sides the chance to take on "the big boys" in one of australia's premier stadiums.

Another facet of AFL that I believe needs changing, is the amount of games AFL players play, and the number of rest days between games. Would it be hard to see AFL players playing more than 1 game per week?? With the size of current AFL squad lists, and the depth of talent in the competition, more games per week would lead to a general improvement in player skill levels as the younger and fringe players gain more experience due to increased squad rotation. A league schedule of 3 games in 14 days wouldn't be hard to cope with, and can be relaxed even futher post world cup to allow for more recovery time. Games on Saturday, the following wednesday, and the sunday after, followed by a 6 day break until saturday, would allow for travel, recovery and training. A smartly designed fixture list would also see clubs touring, playing 2 away games in perth in 1 week, before flying home to melbourne, or a game in darwin and then in adelaide, ect,etc.

Given the Australian WC bid is targeting 2022, 13 years away, we can make a few assumptions about what will probably occur, infrastructure wise. Public transport systems will increase in efficiency and frequency, the urban sprawl will probably see us travel longer distances each day, we'll aim to decrease our carbon pollution emmisions by either buying more environmentaly friendly transport vehicles, which will hopefully become more efficient and cheaper, or paying greater taxes to offset emmisions. Air travel will hopefully become cleaner, cheaper and quicker, ( Boeing 777 Dreamliner !!) and the current concentration of sporting stadia in and around the MCG will decentralize as teams look to get a better deal by playing games at other, more viable grounds. That said, we'd probably have at least 3 more multi-purpose venues around melbourne, one in the eastern suburbs, one in the northern suburbs, and one futher west. Smart planning, and shrwed construction will see these stadia meet FIFA's abitrary capacity requirement of 44000, and will make these available for use by all the sporting codes.

So the big problem is that the World Cup requires the major grounds to "shut down" for reconfiguration and "de-commercialization" for up to 10 weeks. It shouldn't be too big a deal if the AFL adopts the aformentioned changes, as it could play 18 games pre-World Cup, in the 12 weeks between Febuary and April, and then take a "winter break" of may, june and july, before continuing and concluding the league by the end of october, just in time for cricket season.

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