14 Dec 2022

Australian football boss quits, Phoenix unhappy

5:16 am on 14 December 2022

Anthony Di Pietro stepped down as a director of the Australian Professional Leagues after the country's top-flight football competitions sold the hosting rights to their title-deciding 'Grand Finals' to Sydney until 2025.

Phoenix fans during the A-League Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners at SKY Stadium, 2022.

Phoenix fans Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The A-League Men and Women's competitions have traditionally played their championship deciders at the highest-placed teams' home grounds but the agreement struck with the New South Wales state government means Australia's biggest city hosts the next three Grand Finals for both leagues.

The move was met with a backlash from fans, and Di Pietro, who is chairman at A-League club Melbourne Victory, said he could no longer maintain his role as an APL director and be able to freely advocate on behalf of the club.

"While I know first-hand the decision by APL was made with a view to growing the game and creating financial sustainability for the league, the fan and member sentiment has been overwhelming," he said in a statement.

"I cannot support maintaining a decision which is not in the best interests of the loyal Melbourne Victory faithful and football."

Di Pietro said his club had urged the APL to pause the plan and consider an alternative that will support the growth and stability of the league.

The Wellington Phoenix also sent out the following statement:

Ever since the Wellington Phoenix was founded in 2007, we, like all of you, have dreamed of hosting a grand final in Wellington. For the next three years it will not be possible.

We as a club understand the commercial benefits for the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) for signing this deal with Destination NSW, even if this is contradictory to the interests of our fans.

To be clear, the agreement was reached by the APL board, which includes representatives from A-League clubs. The Wellington Phoenix were not involved in the decision making.

We have always tried to represent our fans as best as we can. Without you there is no match day, no passion and ultimately no club.

Our preference is that both the men's and women's A-League grand finals are played in the city of the highest ranked qualifier, as has been the case up until now.

However, the Wellington Phoenix understands the financial pressures of professional sport and the A-League. In the short term this funding model works for the league.

Under this model we will do our very best to make sure our fans who want to attend a grand final are given every opportunity to.