In an unforeseen and surprising development, Western United have announced that seven home fixtures for the upcoming 2021/22 campaign will be played at South Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium alongside Ballarat, Geelong and Launceston.
South Melbourne in the afternoon released a statement themselves, rejecting the plan for Western United to stage home fixtures at Lakeside Stadium.
In Western United’s release it states that the ground was chosen after a ‘rigorous search for the best solution’.
Stadiums within Australia and more broadly Melbourne that are fit for footballing or rectangular purposes are incredibly limited, with requirements having to meet the minimum A-League venue standards.
Other venues were investigated including Melbourne Knights’ stadium, Knights Stadium which required significant infrastructure investment to meet the standards of the A-League.
Western United state that they were also keen on hosting their home fixtures at AAMI Park, and it had been presumed they would host their fixtures at Swan St for this season however they state both Melbourne Victory and City were opposed to the fixture despite it meeting all requirements to host an A-League fixture.
“It is also a purpose-built football stadium that can be adapted to meet to A-League standards, which was a critical factor in the decision-making process” the release states.
“The move has the added benefit of supporting grassroots football, with Lakeside the home of South Melbourne FC – one of Australia’s most successful football clubs.”
Western United CEO Chris Pehlivanis spoke on the decision making behind choosing the ground fit for A-League home matches.
“We’ve been working hard to find the best home ground for us, which is not a simple process in a complex sporting environment topped with a global pandemic.
“Unfortunately, what we want and what our members tell us they want – a rectangular pitch to A-League standard located in the west of Melbourne – doesn’t exist. That’s why we are building Wyndham City Stadium.
“For this season, we wanted to build a home ground advantage that would not only benefit us on the pitch but provide the best solution for a great fan experience for our loyal members and fans that have been with us from the beginning.
“We’re really lucky as a club, we have tough, relentless and dedicated fans that I know will stick on this journey with us through the tough times as we build towards being a great club for the west for generations to come.
“Lakeside is home to South Melbourne FC, a club that United has utmost respect for and wants to work with to grow the game of football in Victoria.”
South Melbourne’s statement released in the afternoon notes Western United’s announcement, while maintaining that “Lakeside Stadium and Albert Park is the home of South Melbourne FC and has been for over sixty years. Our licencing arrangements with Lakeside Stadium and the State Government ensures it will remain this way for decades to come.”
“Executives at Lakeside Stadium and Melbourne Sports Centres have advised South Melbourne FC that contrary to the announcement made by Western United FC, there is no written or signed agreement in place with Western United FC or the Australian Professional Leagues to allow Western United FC access to Lakeside Stadium for the 2021/22 A-League Season.
“South Melbourne considers Western United to be a direct competitor in the Melbourne, Victorian and Australian football market. Their acceptance to the A-League was based largely on the commitment to having a purpose-built football stadium constructed in Melbourne’s west. It is approaching three years since the A-League expansion clubs were announced and construction works have still not commenced. Western United’s use of Lakeside Stadium is not acceptable and South Melbourne FC will vigorously oppose any such plans.”
To close off their statement, South re-affirmed their commitment to ensure that the expansion club do not stage any home fixtures at the venue
“South Melbourne can confirm that it will be exercising all rights to prevent Western United FC from playing A-League matches at Lakeside Stadium.”
Fairfax journalist Vince Rugari provided an update on the current situation, citing that it is Western United’s full intention to play seven games at Lakeside.
Freelance journalist Joey Lynch has also weighed in on the situation, citing that the APL’s home broadcast, Viacom/CBS Australia have also been involved in the current talks surrounding the usage of Lakeside Stadium.
Football historian Paul Mavroudis deciphered South Melbourne’s position on the matter.
MORE TO COME