30 June 2020

The ACT Government is right to walk away from the Women's World Cup

| Tim Gavel
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Asian Cup 2015 at Canberra Stadium. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Canberra can attract large crowds to international football events as shown by the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. Photo: Tim Gavel.

The Canberra Football community has had an interesting relationship with sports decisionmakers at both a national and international level.

You only have to go back to the frustrations associated with the two bids for an A-League team in Canberra.

In 2009 the FFA told us that if a crowd of at least 20,000 turned out at Canberra Stadium for the Socceroos game against Kuwait, the bid for an A-League side would be looked upon favourably.

A total of 20,032 turned out that night.

Apparently it meant little as the goalposts had shifted. A poor turnout for a subsequent A-League game held in Canberra six months later was deemed fatal to the bid.

Instead, the licence was offered to the Sydney Rovers in September 2009. But the Rovers, based in western Sydney, were eventually declined entry to the A-League by the FFA for the 2011-12 season and their conditional licence was withdrawn.

This made way for the Western Sydney Wanderers, which made its debut in the 2012-2013 season.

The latest bid to have an A-League side in Canberra also fell short despite reassuring tones from the decisionmakers throughout the process.

The latest revelations about the demands put to the ACT Government from the organisers of the 2023 Women’s Football World Cup to host matches at Canberra Stadium should then come as no surprise.

If the reported figure of $1 million per game for six matches, or $2 million a game if we hosted three matches are close to the mark, it’s no wonder the ACT Government rejected the deal.

To make the proposal even more unpalatable, the revenue from ticket sales was to go to the organisers. And, by the way, there would be no guarantee that the Matildas would be playing here.

If that wasn’t enough of a deterrent, the organisers wanted exclusive use of Canberra Stadium for three months, effectively shutting out all activity at the ground apart from the World Cup, including the Raiders and the Brumbies!

In the end, it came down to the ACT Government considering the benefits to the city’s ratepayers of hosting games.

I believe the ACT Government had no choice but to reject the demands.

The hope now is that Canberra can be added to the list of venues without this deal, but it’s unlikely.

Despite agreeing with the ACT Government’s decision, I still consider the Women’s World Cup to be a once in a lifetime event. It also has the potential to inspire a generation, and clearly Canberra should be part of the event given the city’s track record in women’s sport.

I would even go as far as to say that the ACT is Australia’s top region when it comes to the promotion and support of women’s sport. That support, though, shouldn’t be taken for granted, and the asking price for the World Cup is simply way beyond reach.

There is still hope, however. There exists the possibility of Canberra hosting the Matilda’s in a warm-up game or being named as a base for visiting teams.

The ACT has, in the past, come across as somewhat desperate to get major sporting events to Canberra. As a result, we could be considered an easy target for the demands of event organisers.

Surely we have had enough of outside sporting teams and organisers of events prophesying about enhancing the brand of their code, emphasising how important Canberra is to their particular sport, and how their sport or event would benefit the community etcetera. You get the picture. And then there’s always the sucker punch: hand over a truckload of money and the event can be delivered to your city.

In making this latest decision, perhaps the ACT Government has shown a considerable level of maturity. The decision suggests that if sports organisations are serious about playing in Canberra, they should be doing it for reasons other than just drawing money from our community.

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Garry Inglebert Humperdink Galli8:35 am 02 Jul 20

The reality is there isn’t enough interest in women’s soccer to justify the money, let’s be real.

Capital Retro5:39 pm 03 Jul 20

To be fair, soccer played by women is more bearable to watch than that being played by men. Having said that, the game itself is totally boring with the acknowledged athleticism of some of the players being cancelled totally by others who are prone to taking a dive and the referees that condone it.

Gerald Crawford3:47 am 02 Jul 20

…..and exactly how much does the ACT government pay towards an Australian Rules football club playing any games in the ACT, every year?

Capital Retro10:36 am 02 Jul 20

About $2.1 million a year for the benefit of the few people who follow AFL.

I have little interest in soccer. Having said that, I appreciate it is disappointing for local supporters that they don’t get a ‘local’ game. So change the plan, put in your best effort to get a team to use Canberra as their home base, get the region to support the team (Matildas are still first :-)) Try and book a stand and get on a bus from a local bus company and go to Sydney and watch a game. Take food from a local company with you on the bus and have a picnic…somewhere. The WWC is in Australia, use that to your advantage.
Oh and ‘Expand the A-League’, the author of the article is Tim Gavel, never would he ever suggest any person ‘that they’re not worth it’. I would suggest you educate yourself about Mr Gavel.

HiddenDragon5:43 pm 01 Jul 20

Interesting details about the strings attached by the WFWC organisers – helps to explain why an opportunity which would otherwise be absolute catnip to this government was declined.

Capital Retro11:25 am 01 Jul 20

I wish they would also walk away from all sport sponsorships. Sporting teams these days are run as businesses; very little to do with sport.

Stephen Saunders10:27 am 01 Jul 20

You’re right Tim. But nationally speaking, it’s bad news Canberra gets nothing, and Brisbane takes what should be Melbourne’s semi.

Whereas, in France, having the last three games in Lyon was great.

The good news? The $6m saving should just about get the light rail to London Circuit. No worries, happy to help.

It’s not often I have the opportunity to say this, but good on the ACT Government for telling the money-grubbers of professional sport to stick it.

It was a good decision by the ACT government. We couldn’t afford it financially and on a results criterion. We would have payed many millions of dollars for what result? Nothing would have been achieved. There would be a few games and then what? No buildings, no monuments, no new schools and nothing else to benefit the community after they packed up and left. What’s the point?

And then there was the detrimental effect on the local sporting community. GIO Stadium would have been tied up for months. In fact we couldn’t even call it GIO Stadium anymore. The Brumbies and Raiders would have had nowhere to play and thousands of sports fans would have been disenfranchised. A foreign consortium would have marched in and taken over.

All in all we all benefit by this decision. The budget deficit is already too high without this sort of profligate spending on bread and circuses ballooning it out even further.

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