Confusion in Melbourne

Etihad Stadium.jpg

It is all getting a little bit confusing over in Melbourne.

Last year, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways paid good money to sponsor the Australian city’s main stadium. The deal makes sense for the carrier, which has just started its first direct Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights and is planning on a major expansion of services to Australia. The operators of Etihad stadium, as it is now called, got a good deal after Australian communications firm Telstra’s sponsorship ended last year.

But the Australian Football League, which has six teams based in the stadium, is furious. It has taken the venue’s operators to court saying that the deal breached contractual agreements with Qantas, Australia’s national carrier and a major AFL sponsor. This is because Qantas and Etihad are major competitors in the global aviation market, the AFL’s lawyers added in court. Sounds fair?

Hang on a minute. Two weeks ago, just as those arguments were being heard in Melbourne courts, senior officials from Qantas and Etihad shook hands over a major code-share agreement.  This partnership will allow the Australian carrier to add four Middle Eastern destinations to its network and allow Etihad to add new destinations in Australia and New Zealand.

Hmmm, so are Etihad and Qantas partners or competitors? Go figure. I suppose, at the end of the day, it is all a matter of whom you talk to – and whose business is at stake.

In the meantime, while everyone scratches their head and tries to figure a way out of the mess, the AFL season has begun and that has plenty of people in Australia excited. For some, the game’s rules are about as clear as the Qantas-Etihad saga. So, to help you along, here is the rather ambitious official promotional video for the AFL’s 2009 season, followed by footage from some actual games. Enjoy!

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