Australian Major Events Update

By Ericc Winton, Associate Director, MEI Australia

As I write in late May, the East coast of Australia is experiencing balmy late summer type conditions with spring blossoms already showing. Good for taking the mind off the recent Federal budget which has churned much apprehension and concern. Suffice to say the fiscal conditions at national and state level are very tight. Not the scenario to stimulate new spending on sports, sporting events, related projects or venues. Yet, popularity stakes and vital business and tourism interests will keep the wheels turning.

There are important one-time sporting events taking place soon. The AFC Asian Football Cup Australia 2015, with 16 competing teams, kicks off on 9 January at Melbourne’s Rectangular Stadium with the final to be played in Sydney at ANZ Stadium. 32 matches will be played in 23 days in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle. Over 500,000 spectators are expected to attend the games with an additional potential reach of 2.5 billion television viewers. This is a milestone moment for Australian football to confirm its global status. Some 45,000 visitors from overseas are expected and the opportunity to link with the enormous popular interest in Asia is seen as an important business prospect. The Cup has attracted sponsorship from Emirates, Toshiba, Samsung, Toyota and Minolta.

The ICC 2015 World Cricket Cup takes off in Australia and New Zealand in February 2015 with the semi-finals to be held in Auckland and the final in Melbourne at the MCG. 49 matches, 26 in Australia and 23 in New Zealand, will be played in 14 venues.  14 teams will compete. Some 4,000 volunteers will be inducted. The International Cricket Council has sold the rights for broadcasting of the 2015 Cricket World Cup for US$2 billion to ESPN Star Sports and Star Cricket. Official ICC partners include, LG Electronics, Emirates, Reebok and PepsiCo, Reliance Communications, Castrol and Hyundai.

Tickets for each of these events are already on sale.

The 2015 Pacific Games, likely to morph into the new Oceania Games later, are set to run in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in July. 3000 athletes, 500 team officials and 1000 technical officials and dignitaries from 21 neighbouring Pacific nations are expected. New venues are being constructed, including the Taurima Aquatic (a stainless steel pool) and Indoor Sports Centre and the redevelopment of Sir John Guise Stadium. The Games Village will be at the University of PNG. Bank South Pacific is the Official Sponsor of 2015 Pacific Games.

In August 2015 the World Netball Championships will be held in Sydney. 16 teams will compete with all matches will be played at Allphones Arena (Sydney Olympic Park). Tickets are just now going on sale.

Once the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games end, focus will shift to Gold Coast, Queensland, for 2018. Much is afoot with planning and venues well in hand; the latest major decisions relate to a new Games Village. Meantime, later this year Gold Coast hosts the Pan Pacific Masters Games and the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre ready for the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in August.

States’ sports venues related spending is still large. Earlier this year the Victorian Government announced plans for the Rod Laver Arena upgrade and new access to Melbourne Park, with spending of some $298 million for stage two of the redevelopment, while the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust will provide $40 million. The $366 million first stage included the construction of a roof over Margaret Court Arena, the new National Tennis Centre training facility, and other infrastructure. Meantime, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre still hungers for a go-ahead to expand.

New South Wales’ main venues and facilities ‘play’ has been the new $1 billion-plus Sydney International Exhibition and Conference Centre, the temporary Glebe Island facility and the RAS Showgrounds. There is a growing demand for upgraded facilities in Sydney with a face-off probable for funds towards a ‘new’ Western Sydney stadium, and proposals for new roofs and major upgrades at ANZ Stadium and Allianz Stadium. New sports minister Stuart Ayres has let it be known there ain’t much in the kitty…and it looks like decisions will not be taken during the current term of government.

Queensland and the Gold Coast are focused on the 2018 Commonwealth Games. South Australia has seen the Oval renewed and the $350 million Adelaide Convention Centre Redevelopment is part of a $3 billion investment in the Adelaide CBD north west fringe, with other projects including SAHMRI, a new hospital, sports stadium, and biomedical health precinct. Western Australia will see through its new Perth stadium development and some minor upgrades to existing venues. 

Back to the Budget … The Australian Institute of Sport will possibly see a 20% cut in staff. There will be big cuts to arts and culture with flow through to some new venues projects. The Budget includes $130 million in base funding for Tourism Australia and $13.5 million towards the Asia Marketing Fund. This is geared to capitalise on emerging opportunities in Asia. And the States’ have their own programs to capture much greater tourism and business tourism commitment, including major growth from China. Could this be a source of inspiration and creativity for new events?

In Australia, sponsorship of sport is a big business and we are probably not dissimilar to the US where some 70% of sponsorship is sports-related. And in keeping with European and US experience, the majority of sponsorship comes from banks and insurers, airlines – with Emirates and Etihad prominent, car companies, brewers, and beverage companies – even coffee company Cape York, now sponsors the Aussie Orica-Green Edge cycling team. Broadcast revenues for the big sports have taken off in recent years, with substantial competition between the major TV networks for rights. Their interest has been in just a few of the major sports, three football codes, soccer, cricket, car racing and horse racing. Beyond those sports, the revenues from broadcast are scant and with Channel Ten now in severe financial strife, it seems the hump of major renewals may be over. It will be interesting to see the outcome of soon-to-be-announced terms of the Australian Tennis Open contract, most likely remaining in the hands of the Seven Network, and of the lack-lustre ‘battle’ for the next round of rights for the Olympic and Paralympic Games…where there may be just one contender. Sadly, most of our sports organisations ‘do it tough’, with limited access to sponsors and broadcast opportunities, they rely on a little State, local Council and members funding.

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