A-League Grand Final saga: Melbourne Victory boss Anthony Di Pietro resigns from APL

Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro has stepped down as a director of the Australian Professional Leagues (APL), citing the A-Leagues' decision to stage all Grand Finals in Sydney over the next three years.

In a break with the longstanding Australian football tradition of awarding Grand Final hosting rights based on sporting merit, the APL announced on Monday that it had struck a deal with the New South Wales government to stage the 2023, 2024, and 2025 men's and women's deciders in the state.

The governing body said the move was "designed to develop an engaging Grand Final experience" but the decision was met with an immediate backlash from supporters across the country as well as several players -- dashing hopes the leagues would be able to take advantage of the halo effect of the Socceroos' run to the round of 16 at the World Cup.

- What the Grand Final move means from a football perspective

Mirroring the fan protests of 2015, supporters of Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City have announced plans to stage a mass walkout at the 20-minute mark of this weekend's Christmas Melbourne Derby, traditionally one of the league's biggest fixtures.

Di Pietro was one of five club representatives who sat on the board of the APL, the chief executive of which, Danny Townsend, said was unanimous in approving the decision. In announcing his resignation, the Victory executive said he could not remain on the APL board in light of Monday's announcement and had resigned that same day with immediate effect.

He also called on the leagues to explore alternative plans to the NSW arrangement.

"It has become clear that in order for me to act in the best interests of Melbourne Victory and football in Victoria, I needed to resign as a board member of APL," Di Pietro said.

"My resignation was ultimately driven by the decision announced yesterday, that sees the next three Grand Finals being hosted in Sydney.

"While I know first-hand the decision by APL was made with a view to growing the game and creating financial sustainability for the league, the fan and member sentiment has been overwhelming and I cannot support maintaining a decision which is not in the best interests of the loyal Melbourne Victory faithful and football."

Victory is the latest club to lash the move to shift the Grand Finals to New South Wales, with their Melbourne neighbours Western United releasing a statement categorically declaring the defending champions "do not support" the decision.

"Our club isn't represented on the APL board, and we weren't consulted on the decision announced yesterday," United's statement read.

"While we are grateful to Destination NSW for wanting to support football financially and the APL's efforts to increase its commercial revenue, the reaction of our fans over the last 24 hours speaks volumes."

Wellington Phoenix also released a statement on Tuesday that likewise distanced the club from the decision reached by the APL board, but stopped short of condemning the move.

"To be clear, the agreement was reached by the APL board, which includes representatives from A-League clubs. The Wellington Phoenix were not involved in the decision-making," the club noted in the statement.

"Our preference is that both the men's and women's A-League Grand Finals are played in the city of the highest-ranked qualifier, as has been the case up until now."

Melbourne City, meanwhile, said that the club would work with its fans to ensure that they would be able to attend a Grand Final in the event that it qualified.

"If the club does make the Grand Final we'll work with the fans," a City spokesperson said.

"The club will support them and the league will support getting the fans up to Sydney for the Grand Final. [The decision to move the Grand Final to Sydney] doesn't mean fans won't be able to travel."

When approached for comment by ESPN, Professional Footballers Australia chief executive Beau Busch called for greater consultation with fans and players in the direction of Australian football.

"Following Monday's announcement we have sought, and continue to seek, the views of our members across the A-Leagues on the decision," said Busch.

"Players have a deep understanding of the commercial needs of the professional game; however, their relationship with the fans is what sits at the heart of their love for the sport.

"Other domestic sporting codes, and overseas leagues, have encountered these challenges and illustrated the need for building a deep cultural commitment to engagement with those most impacted by decisions.

"The opportunity for Australian football is to be the first to build an effective response and embed the voices of fans and players in decisions that impact them going forward.

"This can only lead to better outcomes for Australian football."