Matildas dudded at hands of Taylor Swift as MCC boss reveals key reason for snub

The Matildas won't get their wish to play their Olympic qualifier against Uzbekistan at the MCG.

Matildas players, pictured here alongside Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift's concerts at the MCG mean the Matildas will have to play at Marvel Stadium. Image: Getty

Melbourne Cricket Club CEO Stuart Fox has gone some way to explaining why the Matildas didn't get their wish to play their Olympic qualifier at the MCG in February, revealing their desire to have the turf ready for the AFL season. Football Australia announced on Monday that the Matildas will take on Uzbekistan at Marvel Stadium on February 28 (four days after the first leg in Uzbekistan) with the winner to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

After the incredible support and fanfare the Matildas created with their run to the Women's World Cup semi-finals earlier this year, there had been calls for the game in Melbourne to be played at the MCG. Matildas leader Steph Catley was among the many to make the call, predicting fans would sell out the 100,000-seat stadium.

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But a twist emerged in the form of Taylor Swift, who will play shows at the MCG on February 16, 17 and 18 - leaving organisers just 10 days to have the turf ready for a potential Matildas game. On Tuesday, Fox made comments that suggest a Matildas game at the MCG was never an option.

Fox said the priority was to have the MCG ready for the start of the AFL season on March 14 after criticism that the surface wasn't up to scratch earlier this year. The MCG played host to an Ed Sheeran concert on March 3 of this year, and the field wasn't at its best when the AFL season began just days later.

"There was a bit of fuss made about the turf by one AFL club coach (last season), but we got through Ed Sheeran last year fine,” Fox said on SEN radio. “We were racing the clock to get the turf down. This year we haven’t scheduled anything after Swift, so we have actually got a two-week bigger window than Sheeran.

“We’ve budged to basically replace half the turf. That’ll be down and laid 14 or 15 days out from the AFL season and it’s never been a problem. The tech now and the standard of the turf now is phenomenal. We’ve got a responsibility to offer the MCG for everyone, not only for sport, but also entertainment.”

Taylor Swift, pictured here performing on-stage in Seattle.

Matildas miss out on MCG as fans left disappointed

Fox said he'd never seen anything like the frenzy for Swift tickets. “It’s crazy. I’ve not experienced anything like it," he said. "And I’ve never had so many friends in my life – people that haven’t been in touch for 20 years – asking for tickets.

“It’s been incredible – she’s here three nights in a row – we’ll probably get 90,000 each night. I thought Ed Sheeran was big, but this is huge.”

The Matildas, pictured here at the Women's World Cup.
The Matildas captivated Australia on their run to the semi-finals at the Women's World Cup. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said last month that the prospect of playing the Matildas' home leg at the MCG was "exciting … and we'd fancy our chances to sell it out". But Monday's confirmation that it won't be happening left fans very disappointed.

Adding to the controversy is the fact Marvel Stadium will host a Pink concert just four days before the game on February 24. Nevertheless, a sell-out crowd of more than 50,000 is expected for the Matildas' first game in Melbourne since they thrashed reigning Olympic champions Canada 4-0 in the World Cup.

with AAP

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