Blockbuster faces axe
Andrew Demetriou has put forward the possibility of scrapping the traditional season opener between Carlton and Richmond. Photo: Getty Images
Fans may have to wait for the annual Richmond-Carlton clash.
AFL boss Andrew Demetriou has put forward the possibility of scrapping the traditional Melbourne season-opener between Richmond and Carlton in the face of the clubs' opposition to moving it to Etihad Stadium in an earlier start to the 2013 season.
Demetriou is working towards starting the 2013 season a week earlier because the regular start falls at Easter, which would mean handing the opener to the Lions given their contract with the Gabba to host the Easter Thursday game. An earlier start would also allow two byes to be accommodated in the fixture, as requested by the players.
The AFL is unable to strike a deal with Cricket Victoria to free the MCG of the Sheffield Shield final before the end of March, with Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland reaffirming that a shield final could not be held at Etihad Stadium.
''We respect agreements and we understand why that agreement [between Cricket Victoria and the MCG] is there, so we will just have to work around it,'' Demetriou said yesterday. ''A very simple solution is just not have it [the Blues and Tigers match] as an opening game. Richmond-Carlton is a better game at the MCG because more people will go, and maybe that game will be a round two or a round three game.
''I think it's a nice thing they open the season with that game. It's got a tradition of its own … but if it has to be, it has to be.''
The Tigers and the Blues rejected the initial offer, saying that thousands of their fans would be locked out, with Etihad Stadium's capacity just over 53,000.
Sutherland said yesterday that cricket was happy to work with the AFL if there was another suitable ground for a Victorian Sheffield Shield final. But he reiterated that Etihad Stadium was not a viable venue for the game or training.
''There is a preparedness to work through issues if there are viable alternatives,'' he said. ''But right now there is no viable alternative in terms of a place to host a Sheffield Shield final if Victoria were to finish on top of the ladder.
''Cricket Victoria is ultimately the body that is the hirer of the ground at the MCG, and if they were the ones to host a Sheffield Shield final would have to deliver a Sheffield Shield final, so that's their call.
''But certainly we are very supportive of Cricket Victoria and their position and we understand the need to develop a facility, a cricket training facility as well as a playing facility that creates more flexibility and more options for them.''
A Cricket Victoria spokesman said the MCG was the only suitable ground in Victoria for first-class cricket.
''We have been working with successive state governments to try to find an alternate venue outside of the MCG that would provide us with that flexibility to stage selected first-class and domestic one-day matches to be held outside the MCG, but at present we are yet to get a solution on that,'' he said.