WESTERN Bulldogs are in the loop to bring AFL home and away matches to Ballarat.
The Bulldogs have engaged in preliminary discussions with the AFL about the possibility of playing for premiership points at Eureka Stadium.
Low crowd-pulling fixtures at Etihad Stadium put financial strain on the Bulldogs – prompting them to initiate talks regarding alternative venues.
Media reports yesterday suggested the Dogs could use Eureka Stadium and Geelong’s Simonds Stadium to host home matches expected to attract small attendances.
Bulldogs chief executive Simon Garlick told News Limited that Etihad Stadium remained the club’s top priority and they hoped to play up to 11 games a season at the ground.
However, he said that crowds of fewer than 25,000 had a financial effect on the club. North Ballarat Football Club chief executive Mark Patterson said the Roosters had not been involved in talks with either the AFL or Western Bulldogs about the possibility of Dogs home matches at Eureka Stadium, but admitted the speculation was exciting for the city.
“I think it’s a very positive sign that the issue of AFL footy is in the same sentence as Ballarat,” Patterson told The Courier.
“This just shows there is still interest so I think that’s a positive message.”
The Bulldogs have played North Melbourne in Ballarat twice in the past two pre-seasons – a pre-season game in 2011 and NAB Cup match in 2012.
Ballarat City Council has been leading a push to get AFL home and away matches for more than four years, spearheaded by a memorandum of understanding with North Melbourne.
This has seen North Melbourne develop close ties with the city, including activities such as annual community camps, pre-season practice matches, community outreach and for the first time last year a NAB Cup match.
The Kangaroos have expressed interest right through the relationship in ultimately playing home and away matches at Eureka Stadium – backing the campaign for the construction of a grandstand as part of major expansion for the precinct.
Ballarat’s agreements and sponsorship deal with North Melbourne will end this year after next month’s community camp and a practice match.