The Australian Professional Leagues (APL), which organises top-tier club football in the country, has agreed a three-year deal for Sydney to host its grand finals from 2023.
The decision is designed to develop an engaging grand final experience for fans, and marks a move away from the A-Leagues’ traditional hosting strategy for the event, which sees the highest-placed team stage the match.
The APL has agreed the deal with Destination NSW, the lead government agency for the New South Wales Tourism and Major Events sectors. As well as the men’s and women’s grand finals, the deal covers the E-League grand final and a host of other football-related events.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed but the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper has reported that the deal will be worth more than A$15m (£8.3m/€9.6m/$10.2m). The move has been met with opposition from fans, with Melbourne Victory supporters group Original Style Melbourne urging a stadium walkout during this weekend’s derby match against Melbourne City.
Victory later released a statement expressing its preference to play any grand final that it earns the right to host at its own stadium, but did not explicitly oppose the decision to take the event to Sydney.
The agreement brings the A-Leagues in line with other leagues in Australia, with the AFL staging its annual grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the NRL hosting its season-ending event at Accor Stadium in Sydney.
The APL previously worked with Destination NSW for the return of the A-Leagues All Stars, who took on FC Barcelona at Accor Stadium in front of 70,000 fans. The host venue for the 2023 A-Leagues grand finals has not been confirmed.
Danny Townsend, chief executive of the APL, said: “Football fans now get the best of both worlds – they can now look forward to a showpiece grand final event in a set location, as well as watching A-Leagues and national team stars week in week out at their local A-Leagues team.
“This is a unique opportunity to build a tradition for football fans. When you think about a cup final in England, you think about the trip to Wembley, and we want fans in Australia to look forward to the A-Leagues finals in the same way.
“We have already broken the previous record for attendance this season in the Liberty A-League Women and have set an objective to make history again with grand final attendance in the year that we host the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”
Ben Franklin, Minister for Tourism in New South Wales, added: “Sydney is renowned for hosting world-class sporting events and we are going to create a new tradition for Australian football fans, making the Grand Finals a week-long extravaganza that showcases football and the best of the Harbour City.
“Tens of thousands of football fans are expected to flock to Sydney for the A-Leagues Grand Finals and are forecast to inject A$26m of visitor expenditure into NSW.”
The APL will work with transport and accommodation providers to develop packages for travelling fans, with its hotel partner IHG to offer a special discounted rate for supporters.