Western United drop Lakeside plan

South Melbourne’s bid to keep Western United out of Lakeside Stadium has succeeded, with the A-League Men club dropping plans to play games at the venue in the upcoming season.

Last Thursday, United announced plans to play seven home games at Lakeside in 2021-2022 – including two in the first six rounds.

Hours later, long-term tenants and former NSL powerhouse South Melbourne, who now play in Victoria’s NPL, vowed to exercise “all rights” to prevent that from happening.

On Friday, the A-Leagues confirmed United – who plan to turn soil on their stadium site in Tarneit later this month – will instead play those games at AAMI Park.

“The two Western United games originally scheduled at Melbourne’s Lakeside Stadium will now be played at AAMI Park,” A-Leagues commissioner Greg O’Rourke said.

“Matches that were originally intended to be scheduled at Lakeside for the remainder of the 2021/22 season will also now be played at AAMI Park.

“This decision has been made following a continued consultation process between the A-Leagues, State government, Western United FC and South Melbourne FC.

“With a small number of rectangular stadiums available in Melbourne that meet the standards for an A-Leagues broadcast, and the delayed start to the season as a result of COVID-restrictions further limiting the available options, this is the most suitable interim solution as Western United work towards delivering their home stadium in Melbourne’s West.”

South Melbourne, who have previously missed out on an A-League licence – including when United received theirs in 2018 – had insisted Lakeside Stadium had no signed agreement in place with United or the Australian Professional Leagues (A-Leagues).

“We welcome the outcome in this matter and acknowledge the consultative approach to bring this issue to a suitable conclusion”, South Melbourne president Nicholas Maikousis said.

AAMI Park will be United’s fourth home venue this season along with GMHBA Stadium, Mars Stadium and UTAS Stadium.

“Following the A-Leagues’ due diligence process, we had agreed dates and entered into the contract process with the State Sports Centres Trust to play the games published in last week’s fixture announcements for the 2021-22 season,” United chief executive Chris Pehlivanis said.

“Having undertaken further consultation and collaboration with State Sports Centres Trust, South Melbourne FC, and the A-Leagues, the decision has been made to replace Lakeside Stadium with AAMI Park on our home stadium schedule for the 2021/22 season.”