Suburban grounds in vogue

It could be back to the future for the AFL, with league boss Andrew Demetriou confirming two suburban grounds from a bygone era, Carlton's Visy Park and Richmond's Punt Road, could re-emerge as boutique venues.

Whether this is a ploy to put pressure on Etihad Stadium to sell the venue to the AFL earlier than the scheduled date – March8, 2025 – thereby improving the financial distributions to struggling clubs, remains to be seen, but Demetriou said the league had conducted a feasibility study on Carlton's home ground.

''Visy Park can work. But we've got a couple of other options. I think Punt Road has got some legs,'' he said.

It's understood a redevelopment of either ground could cost up to $150 million.

AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said last week the league had been unable to agree to a price with Melbourne Stadiums Ltd, acting on behalf of the five superannuation stakeholders in Etihad.

He said time was running out for a deal to make financial sense to the AFL, for the league will automatically take ownership of the stadium for $1 in 2025.

Melbourne has also investigated whether its training venue at Casey Fields could host home-and-away matches.

The last match for premiership points at Visy Park was in 2005. The Blues have indicated strong interest in again playing games there, although its transformation into a training venue could prove a hindrance. Public transport has always been an issue.

The Blues also want to ditch Etihad Stadium as their home ground from 2015 and shift eight home games to the MCG, where a better financial deal awaits.

But the economics of playing there could also help smaller clubs such as the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne when hosting interstate teams. The break-even attendance would be far lower than required at Etihad Stadium.

Geelong can pocket between $600,000 to $700,000 from a crowd of 20,000 at its home ground, Simonds Stadium.

The AFL will stage 40 matches at Etihad Stadium next season, six less than this year, with the possibility those matches eventually could be held at a smaller venue.

''We have got a number of games that would be attractive in an 18,000- to 20,000-seat venue,'' Demetriou said. ''If you've got a full house in a ground you can create a great atmosphere, so I don't think we should close our minds to a boutique stadium.''

The Tigers believe rebuilding Punt Rd is the ideal move, while North Melbourne's Arden Street venue is also an outside option.

The AFL also said it wanted to lift club memberships from 700,000 to 1 million by 2016.

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