Will the grass cut it?
That’s the big question hovering over the upcoming A-League
Grand Final this Sunday between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory
at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Nobody wants the A-League’s annual showpiece played on a
surface any less smooth than a billiard table, but the problem
is this. Allianz hosts regular NRL games from March to
September, as well as home matches for the NSW Waratahs in the
Super Rugby competition in autumn. All that footy cuts up the
That’s why Melbourne Victory defender Daniel Georgievski
called the Allianz Stadium surface
“dreadful” as he watched Sydney FC beat Perth Glory 3-0 to
qualify for the grand final last Saturday night. Perth players
also reportedly slammed it in private.
Getty Images Rugby. It’s
grass’s worst enemy.
So whose fault is it that the blend of couch and rye at Allianz
Stadium is not up to scratch? The HuffPost Australia contacted
the SCG Trust, which also manages neighbouring Allianz. The
Trust explained that:
- Five fixtures took place at the Stadium in the seven days
leading up to the A-League semi-final, including four rugby
league matches. None of these could be moved.
- Curtain raisers for super rugby matches at the stadium have
been abolished in a deliberate grass-protecting measure. This
is important as rugby scrums are the number one grass-wrecker.
- Painted-on ads have also been done away with, in favour of
the digital ads you see on TV which look like they’re painted
on. Paint doesn’t necessarily kill grass but it does retard its
growth to a degree.
- After a super wet March it got cool suddenly in Sydney in
the past couple of weeks, which makes it hard to grow grass.
So in other words, the Trust is doing what it can.
Who’s the bad guy, then? Could not, perhaps, the NRL or super
rugby schedule have been amended ahead of the A-League Grand
Final? After all, Sydney FC has been leading the A-League all
season, and has looked extremely likely to host the grand final
for some time now.
The Waratahs sat down with Football Federation this week after
the Trust offered to release them from their contractual
obligation to play this Saturday night at Allianz, but they
refused to budge.
Moving the A-League grand final to ANZ Stadium, aka the former
Olympic Stadium, was another potential option. It has a much
larger capacity (83,500 to Allianz’s 45,500), and right now it
also has a smoother playing surface.
Mark Kolbe via Getty Images
If the Allianz Stadium turf was peanut butter, it would
definitely be crunchy, not smooth.
But despite a push from Melbourne Victory, that was never going
to happen. Allianz is the spiritual home of Sydney FC. They are
unbeaten there this year, in a season in which they lost only
one game. That loss? It was at ANZ. Nuh-uh, no way the grand
final was ever heading there.
“These things are always more complicated than perhaps first
envisaged,” FFA CEO David Gallop said on Tuesday.
“The fact is our grand final deserves a world-class surface and
the traffic on Allianz Stadium makes this a challenge.
“The standard of the pitch last Saturday night had a noticeably
detrimental effect on the play and we implore the Trust to work
hard on minimising the impact of the rugby match to ensure the
Hyundai A-League grand final is played on a surface that befits
Getty Images Might be a bit
of this happening on Saturday night.
What exactly will the Trust do to try to ensure such a surface?
The first thing will be to break out the lawnmowers. Rugby
union, rugby league and soccer all require grass to be cut to
different levels. After the late Saturday night mowing, lines
will be washed out and general repairs done. This will involve
levelling out clumps like the one in the image at the top of
Then hopefully on Sunday, the A-League Grand Final will happen
and everyone will talk about the football, not the pitch. But
don’t bet on it.