BALLARAT’S weather may have been at its worst on Sunday, but the Western Bulldogs say they are committed to Mars Stadium as a home away from home.
Despite criticism from AFL great Wayne Carey, and others, about playing games at country venues when a stadium with a roof was available just up the road, Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains said the club would remain in Ballarat.
The club is in the second year of a five-year commitment to play AFL games in Ballarat and it says it remains in discussions with the state government, the City of Ballarat and the AFL to extend and re-shape that commitment.
Mr Bains told the club’s website that it was encouraged by the fact that more than 8500 tickets were sold prior to the game, despite a crowd of just over 6000 actually braving the weather.
“On behalf of the Club, I would like to thank our members and fans and Ballarat supporters who turned up to the game and who continue to support our efforts in the region,” Mr Bains said.
“We are wholeheartedly committed to embracing our presence in Ballarat and continuing to build an enduring relationship with the region by growing our western region fan base, playing AFL games at Mars Stadium and having an impact on the community with our schools, youth leadership and men’s and women’s health programs.
“The many benefits to the club as a result of the Ballarat deal include a significant uplift in our annual revenues and the strength of our balance sheet rising by millions of dollars as a result of an overall strategy in which Ballarat played a key role.”
Mr Bains said he had raised concerns about the lack of lighting and timing of the game with the AFL and the council.
“We want the best possible spectacle at Mars Stadium for our members and fans, and the Ballarat community,” he said.
“Unfortunately, despite the AFL significantly investing in extra lighting in anticipation of the game’s finishing time, the particularly inclement weather made for difficult viewing for the players and spectators late in the match.
“We welcome the AFL’s view that it will review the fixturing at Mars Stadium based on these issues and we are in discussions with the AFL about fixturing, the City of Ballarat about the match-day experience and the state government about the best possible deal for Bulldog fans and the people of Ballarat.”
Mayor Samantha McIntosh said council was also investigating the malfunction of the big screen, a City of Ballarat asset, which failed to show vision at the ground on Sunday.
She said while the city made every effort to rectify the issue, and got scores up without vision, it was a disappointing result – particularly after the screen had been operational in the days leading into the game.