A-Leagues abandons NSW Grand Final plan after just one season

Julian Miller
By:
Julian Miller
19/10/2023
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A-Leagues cancels controversial NSW Grand Final hosting plan and announces a new “Unite Round”

This week, the A-Leagues backtracked on their plans to host the next two finals in NSW and announced a new “Unite Round.” 

News Insights

  • A-Leagues have announced changes to its deal with Destination NSW.
  • The 2023-24 and 2024-25 Grand Finals will be hosted by the team with the best record.
  • A new “Unite Round” will be held in NSW in January 2024.
  • All 24 A-League Men and A-League Women teams will play over a three-period in the Unite Round.

The A-Leagues have officially abandoned its controversial plan to host the next two Grand Finals at neutral venues in New South Wales. This plan was a part of a partnership with Destination NSW. The parties have now agreed to host a new “Unite Round” in January featuring all 24 A-Leagues.  

A-Leagues scrap controversial Grand Final format after one season

When the A-Leagues announced its deal with Destination NSW in 2022 to host the next three Grand Finals in Sydney, fans of Australian soccer all around the world condemned the decision.  
 
Fan protests about the league’s decision to “sell the Grand Finals to Sydney” for between $10m-20m even turned violent at times. The Melbourne Derby between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory in December 2022 was abandoned following a pitch invasion protesting the A-Leagues-NSW deal. City goalie Tom Glover was struck in the face by a metal bucket and left bloodied during this incident.  
 
Despite the fan backlash at the time, the A-Leagues stuck to their plans. The 2022-23 A-League Men’s Grand Final between Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City was played at CommBank Stadium in Parramatta in front of 26,523 rabid soccer fans.  
 
With the A-Leagues’ most recent decision, the 2022-23 Grand Final will be the last one hosted at a neutral venue for at least the next two seasons. The 2023-24 and 2024-25 Grand Finals’ locations will be decided using the traditional method of awarding hosting rights to the club with the best regular season record.

Mutual renegotiation behind new plans

As we wrote about a little over a month ago, Destination NSW and the A-Leagues both wanted out of the controversial Grand Finals deal. Reports at the time claimed this was due to a dispute over whether NSW could host an all-star game featuring the best A-Leauges players against international sides, such as Bayern Munich.  
 
The A-Leagues wanted an all-star game, while Destination NSW was reluctant to host such an event. With neither party willing to completely walk away from their new partnership, both parties started considering renegotiating their deal.  
 
As we now know, these renegotiations would involve abandoning the Grand Finals format that they previously agreed to. However, NSW will still be hosting neutral-venue A-Leagues matches. 

“Unite Round” also announced

In addition to backtracking on its Grand Finals plans, the A-Leagues also announced a new “Unite Round” of fixtures to be played between January 12-14 next year.  
 
The “Unite Round” mimics the AFL’s “Gather  Round” and the NRL’s “Magic Round” where every club comes together to play a full round of fixtures at one location.  
 
“During ‘Unite Round’, double-header matches will be hosted at Allianz Stadium, CommBank Stadium and Leichhardt Oval, and grassroots tournaments for junior boys and girls will take place at venues across Sydney,” explained the A-Leagues in its statement announcing the Unite Round.  
 
Match times and other specifics have yet to be announced by the A-Leagues, but the fixtures to be played during the Unite Round have been announced. These fixtures include Melbourne City FC v Western Sydney Wanderers on 12 January at Commbank Stadium and Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory at Leichhardt Oval on 14 January. Head to the official A-Leagues site for a full list of fixtures. 

The upcoming A-League Men season kicks off on Friday, October 20, 2023. We look forward to not only seeing great soccer, but also how Aussie soccer fans will react to the A-Leagues’ latest changes. Be sure to read our soccer betting guides and betting sites reviews before the start of the season.