The expected sell-out event will stay in the Hunter. Picture: Simone De Peak●Editorial: Asian Cup dream on doorstep
A potential Asian Cup semi-final involving Australia appears certain to remain in Newcastle instead of Sydney despite Hunter Stadium’s already limited capacity being reduced by nearly a third for the tournament.
The Asian Football Confederationhas an exclusive tenancy deal with Stadium Australia for the duration of the tournament and would be free to move a high-profile semi-final involving the host nation to the 83,000 capacity venue.
The local organising committee in conjunction with the AFChave not looked into the possibility of moving a semi-final involving the Socceroos to Stadium Australia to accommodate up to 60,000 more fans in what would likely be a sell-out fixture.
After finishing second in their group to South Korea, Australia will play China in the quarter-final where they will have a chance to play either Japan, Iran or the UAE in a semi-final held at Newcastle, where capacity restrictions are in place.
In accordance with FIFA World Cup regulations, the AFC have so far prevented the local organising committeefrom selling tickets to the two non-seated hills behind the goals at Hunter Stadium, which reduces the capacity of the venue from 33,000 to approximately 23,000.
Should the two organising committees of the tournament move a potential Australia semi-final to ANZ Stadium, it would likely provide the local organising committeeabout $500,000 in additional gate takings as well as the opportunity to allow more fans to watch a historic match.
“Questions have been raised as to why the Hunter Stadium – the smallest stadium by capacity for the tournament – will host potentially the most high-profile match of the Asian Cup”: Picture: Marina Neil
However, the short turnaround of just five days between the quarter-final and the semi-final are proving a deterrent to moving what could be the biggest match of the competition, a potential clash between Australia and Japan, or Australia and Iran.
The local organising committeeclaims it would be a logistical nightmare to rearrange issues of ticket exchanges, broadcasting, travel arrangements, accommodation, staff and other requirements in just five days.
Questions have been raised as to why the Hunter Stadium – the smallest stadium by capacity for the tournament – will host potentially the most high-profile match of the Asian Cup. The state governments were invited to bid for games in packages, with NSW purchasing the rights for all semi-finals, the third v fourth play-off and the Asian Cup final. The Victorian government did not bid for anything further than a quarter-final due to hosting the Australian Open, which clashes with the latter stages of the Asian Cup. The Queensland government did not battle NSW for the rights to host the final four games of the tournament.
“We had an agreement with governments that we would have a rotating draw so teams travelled, that was fundamental to the funding agreement. We made a decision to take 4 games to Newcastle, and we had 11 at [NSW], as NSW paid the most money to have the games at this tournament,” Asian Cup 2015 chief executive, Michael Brown, said.
It was decided not to host more than seven games at ANZ Stadium due to venue congestion and the organisers confirmed they did not plan for Australia to finish second in their group and face playing a semi-final in Newcastle. However, if Australia does reach that stage, the local organising committeemight construct temporary seating on the hills behind both goals to increase the capacity for a match where demand will exceed supply.
“We’re looking at every option for the two grass areas at Newcastle we can put temporary seating on. We’re working with a couple of companies to work out costs, food, toilets, disabled seating, sight restrictions, and we have to work out if it’s going to be beneficial. We’ll be working through that, I’m not sure if we would have needed them if Australia doesn’t beat China,” Brown said.