It was hardly a surprise when the Herald Sunsplashed last Friday’s paper with the
story of Melbourne’s new $190 million taxpayer funded stadium. After all,
News Ltd’s 100%-owned NRL franchise Melbourne Storm, along with
fledgling soccer team Melbourne Victory, are the two biggest winners.
No wonder the paper editorialised that “the sporting capital of the world is on another winner”. Don’t be surprised if the quid pro quo is more positive Herald Sun
coverage for the Bracks Government in this election year because Rupert
is the past master of extracting commercial concessions from government
leading into elections.
Having just spent $1.1 billion on the Commonwealth Games, it seems
utterly bizarre for taxpayers to now build a new dedicated soccer and rugby stadium
to replace Olympic Park, which can seat 11,000 for Storm and
Victory games, but squeeze more than 18,000 in thanks to the large standing room area.
Despite winning the 1999 premiership and years of undeserved boosterism in the Herald Sun,
Storm still hasn’t caught the public’s imagination and rarely if ever
fills Olympic Park. Melbourne Victory only managed a sell-out in its
first game and the Sydney clash last year,
but it does have better long term prospects than Rupert’s floundering
franchise which loses up to $5 million a year.
Victory was predictably upbeat about the stadium, as was Melbourne Storm in this press release. This was no surprise given that taxpayers are picking up $150 million of the tab, easily exceeding the
$77 million commitment to the $500 million redevelopment of the MCG, which is now the world largest seated stadium.
Melbourne Football Club will move its administration to the new rubgy
and soccer stadium, which seems even more bizarre given that they
obviously weren’t properly accommodated in the revamped MCG.
Even The Age failed to apply a critical eye to the proposal as
it too put the story on page one. Maybe editor Andrew Jaspan didn’t
want to upset Fairfax chairman Ron Walker or Melbourne Victory, which
adopted The Age as its official newspaper last year, much to the
chagrin of HeraldSun editor Peter Blunden who responded by churlishly clamping down on positive coverage for the team.
However, the Herald Sun’s letters pages on Saturday were
crackling with complaints from citizens who agree with the proposition
that more money should be directed to delivering basic services rather
than propping up privately owned sporting teams. Indeed.