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Saturday serve: Canberra United the losers in FFA decision to move W-League kick-off

The FFA heat policy says if it’s above 31 degrees then there should be drinks breaks. Photo: Brook MitchellHow did the the most successful club in W-League history get shunted to an ugly 8pm timeslot for their semi-final clash against Melbourne City on Sunday?

At a time when women’s sport is enjoying an unprecedented boom and just hours before the new AFL Women’s season started, the FFA brought down the sledgehammer on the W-League.

Officials decided ti implement a heat policy, forcing Canberra United to move their kick-off to 8pm rather than 2pm while an A-League fixture at Canberra Stadium will remain at 5pm.

The winners are the W-League players, who will not be forced to play in scorching conditions at Canberra Stadium.

But they are also the biggest losers after the FFA opted to move the women’s game instead of the men’s in an A-League and W-League double-header.

The decision to prioritise the men’s regular season schedule above of the women’s semi-final came just hours before the historic AFL women’s game, which was a sellout in Melbourne.

The debacle started last weekend when the FFA ruled that Canberra United needed to play at Canberra Stadium instead of at McKellar Park.

The reasoning was to allow broadcaster Fox Sports to set up at one venue on one day rather than having to move their television equipment less than seven kilometres down the road.

It also forced Canberra United fans to pay a higher ticket price to watch the A-League fixture, even if they weren’t interested in the Central Coast Mariners’ clash against Adelaide United.

Canberra officials were concerned that it would cost the club a $15,000 bonus after losing an almost certain sell-out crowd at McKellar Park. It might not seem like much, but it’s a pretty big hit on a shoestring budget.

The next curveball was the weather, with temperatures expected to reach 37 degrees on Sunday and the Canberra-Melbourne fixture scheduled to start in peak heat at 2pm.

Instead of shifting the A-League game back and allowing Canberra United to start two or three hours later, the club’s fans must now wait until 8pm. On a Sunday.

Some fans have already asked if they can get a refund because the kick-off is too late for their children. Others asked if they had to pay the full price of admission even if they only wanted to watch the W-League.

Whatever way it’s twisted, the main question being asked was why did the A-League take priority?

If Canberra United wins and secures a grand final berth, the championship match will also be played at Canberra Stadium at 7.30pm next Sunday.

Why at 7.30pm next Sunday? Because the broadcasters have to accommodate the men’s A-League game on Sunday afternoon and they want the game at Canberra Stadium for ease of television access.

Canberra Stadium has a 25,000 capacity. So instead of playing in front of a passionate, packed crowd at McKellar, the players will be able to hear echoes around the venue.

The saddest element of all this is that it seems like the women were forgotten and pushed to the back of the line. Again. Even at a time when female athletes are banging down doors everywhere else.

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