It was great news back in February when the state government announced, with the Football Federation of Australia, that the Socceroos would be returning to play a game in Perth for the first time in ten years.
As was to be expected there were a number of parties clamouring for centre stage and claiming credit for this actually happening. No doubt all had some part to play, but the truth of the matter is the people who put up the money were Eventscorp the Events arm of Tourism WA.
This same body has been criticised for not backing appeals to bring big name European sides to Perth as part of a pre-season tour. Capacity crowds over East may say that they have been misguided, yet with NIB Stadium only having a capacity of close to 20,000 and Subiaco Oval an absolute no-no for such a game, there was no way that they were ever going to get a return on their investment.
Sure there are those who claim that hosting such a game generates “x” millions of tourism dollars, but as has been documented by far more well versed analysts than this writer, is that really the case? Most will tell you that it is not.
It is extremely hard to find the exact amount of money that the Government has stumped up for this game as at the announcement of the game the Premier Colin Barnett said “I don’t know the details of the negotiation and the contract but obviously the state government is supporting this through Tourism WA as we supported the Giants and other events.”
In the past the FFA has requested a bond to host a Socceroos game, usually around the $1million mark. However being a game in Australia and also with a state Government underwriting the event we expect this to have been waived. With each player in the Socceroos squad on an agreed fee of $20,000 a game whether they play or not, top that up with the cost of the hire of the ground, – although who is paying for that is not clear and even though that is now run by Government owned Venues West, – there would be little change from $200,000; this is for the record the same fee the Government pays to bring the Wallabies to town.
It is therefore vital that NIB stadium is full when the Socceroos face Bangladesh. It is most likely that it will be; even though the opposition are far from an attractive proposition. There are some who are waiting on the announcement of Ange Postecoglou’s squad for the match before buying tickets as if his squad is made up of purely A-League players they feel the match will have little appeal. It will be interesting to see if he includes a Perth Glory player in the hope of pulling a few more through the turnstiles.
No doubt the state Government also has one eye on attracting the Socceroos to their new state-of-the-art stadium when it is completed, so a capacity crowd at this match is essential in helping build their case.
It will be very interesting to see how the retractable seating in this stadium actually works and whether the seating will be steep enough that when the extra seats are put in everyone still feels close to the action. If they don’t, many fans will stay away, as the whole experience and atmosphere will be dramatically altered. That however is all for the future.
What is interesting to hear is that the State Government is now investing in a marketing campaign to try and ensure not only a full stadium, but that the whole of Perth gets excited about a game the Socceroos should win at a canter against a team ranked 110 places below Australia. (Australia 59 Bangladesh 169).
The word is that they plan to invest around a further $50k in a campaign to be entitled “Turn Perth Gold.” They are going to encourage office buildings to be bathed in gold leading up to the match, and no doubt encourage people to come to work dressed in gold on the day of the match on September 03.
Credit to the Government for putting up this money to try and ensure that their investment pays dividends. There are bound to be many who feel the money could have been better spent; in fact investment in grounds in the state would have been one better area. However the underlying question is why is the Government having to spend this money on promotion? Surely the FFA should be marketing the game? After all as they frequently tell us the Socceroos are their brand. Football West we know are strapped for cash in that they do not even promote the competitions they run, but they were quick to say that they had worked hard to make this game happen. That being the case surely they allocated some funds to promote the game so that their task in bringing the Socceroos back to Perth would be a lot easier in the future?
It appears that football has gone cup in hand to the Government to make this happen, and once they have received that backing have left the Government to do everything. That is not a good foundation for the future. If the game wants to command the respect of those sports fans who do not follow the code then it must learn to stand on its own two feet. We have already witnessed millions of Federal Government dollars squandered on a World Cup bid, it now appears as if it is the state governments who are bankrolling the games.
At the time of announcement The State Government did not know who the opponents would be in Perth, but now they must be concerned as to how much exposure a game such as this will give the state, and how many tourists from overseas and interstate it really will attract, and whether there has been a genuine return on investment. As for the extra money spent on marketing, only the Government itself can explain how money that one would think could be better spent on attracting overseas visitors is being spent to try and drum up interest in a game of football in WA.