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FINA or Footy?

The swimming finals of next year's FINA World Championships in Melbourne will clash with the start of the AFL home-and-away season according to competition schedule released this week. The program confirms morning swimming heats will be held at Rod Laver Arena from 10am (AEST) with semi-finals and finals to be held from 7pm (AEST) from March 25 to April 1.

This means potentially the last four days of the swimming finals will clash with the opening round of the 2007 AFL season, which is against expected to begin on the last Thursday in March (next year it falls on March 29). With the evening session finishing at 9pm, it will compete for attendance and corporate dollars with AFL's biggest games at the nearby MCG.

The timing clash will also pitting host broadcaster Channel Nine against network rivals Seven and Ten. As swimming has always been a ratings winner when shown on primetime, Nine (whose AFL rights expire in early September) will hope its telecast will keep viewers away from footy on both Seven and Ten.

It has been feared that the swimming finals would have to be rescheduled to the morning to align itself with primetime audience in the northern hemisphere. Recently NBC has been pressuring the International Olympic Committee to reschedule the swimming finals for the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the morning, especially after the broadcaster's parent company GE paid billions of dollars to become a worldwide Olympic partner. A decision on the program will be made next month.

However Melbourne 2007 CEO Michael Scott said FINA and event organisers never considered changing its schedule.

The 12th FINA World Swimming Championships will be held from March 17 to April 1, with competition across five disciplines – swimming, open water swimming, diving, water polo and synchronised swimming. Tickets are expected to go on sale to the public in October.

Story sources: AAP,, author notes

Report by Johnson Leung, AFANA journalist, Melbourne.

Article last changed on Friday, July 14, 2006 - 12:47 AM EDT

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