Off the Wall

It has taken some time to see the light of day, but the "conditions" soccer's governing body, FIFA, would impose on any successful bid by Australia to host the World Cup, present serious challenges for the NRL and the AFL.

There is some confusion, or uncertainty, about the exact conditions, but what is known has rightly given the CEO's of NRL clubs real cause for concern, and have resulted in David Gallop and his AFL counterpart, Andrew Demetrio, having some serious discussions about something the two codes now have in common - the threat of a serious disruption to the seasons of both codes in 2018 or 2022.

What is absolutely clear about FIFA's requirement is that it must have told control for the venues matches would be played at for the four weeks of the World Cup, and four weeks before it even starts!

There is also a somewhat vague condition about FIFA essentially locking out other major sports from being played in the host cities for the four weeks of the event.

It has not taken long to dawn on the AFL and the NRL just how difficult the second condition would be to meet - and how disastrous it could be for both codes.

Locking away major stadiums, such as Lang Park and the SFS, the MCG and Docklands, and probably Olympic Park, for eight weeks in June and July would not only cause massive disruption to the schedules of both codes it would cause enormous revenue problems.

But it would be quite something else if the locking away from the NRL and the AFL of major stadiums for a month smack bang in the middle of the football season was accompanied by an edict that for four weeks no games be played in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, and probably Canberra and Newcastle and maybe even the Gold Coast and Townsville.

The impact on the NRL would be severe. For the AFL it would be horrendous. If the AFL was not allowed to play games in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth for a month, where would it play them?

FIFA is probably more used to dealing with African, South American and European dictatorships and one-party regimes than it is with robust freedom loving democracies like Australia. But that is no excuse for what amounts to a demand that the AFL and the NRL shut down in their major cities, and at their major venues, for up to two months.

The statement by the CEO of Soccer Australia that the NRL and the AFL would gain enormous benefit from the World Cup thanks to the upgrading of stadiums is as shallow as an upturned saucer.

What he did not say was that the massive revenues Soccer Australia would gain from hosting the World Cup would be used to take on the NRL and the AFL post the event! Just as the ARU used - and wasted - its massive World Cup windfall to raid the ranks of rugby league!

The administrators of the NRL need to work with the AFL so the nation's two major winter sports have a united approach to what is a serious challenge.

Both codes are going to come under enormous pressure from the Federal Government - which is tipping a lazy $40 million or so of your money into the bid - to reach an agreement with Soccer Australia in the run up to FIFA's decision on the 2018 and 2022 host nations.

There will doubtless be compromise all round - but shutting down the NRL premiership - (not to mention the rescheduling of a State of Origin series) - for a month or more ought not be countenanced.

So far the only comments have come from NRL clubs, and David Gallop.

You might well ask where is the ARL which runs the State of Origin series? Surprise, surprise, the hierarchy of the ARL are on a game funded junket to watch the Kangaroos in action in England and France!

The sooner our great game speaks with one united, independent and competent voice the better!

The AFL speaks for the whole of the game - the NRL can only speak for 16 premiership clubs. That nonsense cannot be allowed to continue!