WA gets left behind as Australian football prospers

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Perth based football fan Blayne Treadgold gives his thoughts on the continued lack of support for the hosting of major games in Western Australia.

I write in the wake of the Asian Cup quarter-final between Australia and China and think what could have been if a match like this was played in Perth, Western Australia.

In the years and months leading up to the Asian Cup, there was much disappointment and disbelief as WA football fans found out that they would once again be ignored and there wouldn’t be any Asian Cup 2015 games played in the state. In reality though, was it ever going to eventuate? Most WA based football cynics would say we never had a chance.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has long been seen as ignoring Western Australia in the eyes of a lot of fans and various stakeholders, both in WA and in the eastern states. For many that hold the opinion it has been justified with the FFA making some incredibly short-sighted and baffling decisions at both club (A-league and FFA Cup) and national level.

It’s also no secret that football in WA is treated with utter disrespect and disdain by Premier, Colin Barnett, and his State Government, and they showed this in their unwillingness to part-fund a desperately needed WA State Football Centre and also their narrow and short-minded “no-bid” stance in regards to hosting matches for the 2015 Asian Cup.

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To put it into perspective, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and ACT governments all placed bids for matches with the Northern Territory bidding to offer its services as a training base for some of the international teams.

New South Wales was handsomely rewarded with several matches over two stadiums (Newcastle and Sydney Olympic Park) including a quarter-final, semi-final and the final. The ACT, Victoria and Queensland were also rewarded with a quarter-final, with Brisbane (QLD) hosting the massive quarter-final game between Australia and China tonight.

Like most level headed people, I realise that it was going to be a challenge to hold games in WA due to several different factors including geographical proximity to the east coast, time difference and logistics, which all cost money.

However, I fear the main reason for not holding matches here is more of a mind-set or a possible ignorance issue, could it also be that the State Government have no real clue of the enormous potential that football has in Australia? Or Asia or WA for that matter?

Hypothetically, if we had held Asian Cup matches, WA could look at pleasing the football powers that be in the east, while also being marketed to look more aesthetically pleasing to our neighbours to the north. If it was done right, the rewards for the state and the game could have been quite phenomenal.

The quarter-final match in Brisbane between the Socceroos and China was one of the most watched sporting events in Chinese history, peaking at 76 million viewers, with the total reach, including regional broadcasters, of 95 million. What a great advertisement that could have been for Western Australia had it put itself in the running.

It has been widely predicted by tourism and economic experts that the host nation’s local economy could potentially receive more $23m in tourism alone with the event to be reaching one fifth of the world’s population. It has also been reported that Australia is the top tourism destination for some 7/10 Asian countries and with Perth just a five hour flight from Asia’s central hub of Singapore, it is the most accessible major city for Asian tourists to visit.

Perth is the closest major Australian capital city to Asia and is on the same exact time to Beijing. It is also China that Western Australia does a large majority of its business with, exporting hundreds of tonnes a day of our biggest and most important resource, iron-ore.

Imagine the priceless publicity as China’s biggest businessman and government officials head out to WA and are seen publicly enjoying business and pleasure in the world’s most isolated capital city or the thousands of tourists enjoying Perth’s entertainment precincts such as Fremantle, Hillarys or in Perth city. What an amazing piece of public relations on a global scale it could have been for Western Australia.

FFA have flagged their interest in having a Socceroos game in Perth to open up the new 60,000 seater stadium which is currently being constructed at its Burswood site. It would be the first time that our national football team has played in Perth since a Tsunami appeal charity-match against Indonesia in 2005. In this writer’s opinion this should be embraced and pencilled in quick-smart, but on their current standings I would suggest it is an event that the State Government, other relevant sporting codes, and some sections of the media will strongly oppose.

For a Socceroos game in Perth to be a worthwhile exercise it would have include some of the following basic criteria; the Socceroos to play a top-class/workable opposition, have a convenient weekend time-slot with the appropriate marketing and promotion, and the ultimate backing from the FFA and State Governments where Perth would be the primary focus for the event, the same as Sydney and Melbourne would be if they were hosting a match.

Perth has the ability to host World Class international events as we have seen in the past with the likes of Hopman Cup Tennis, Red Bull Air-Race, World Rally Championship events as well as cricket and rugby internationals.

However, regular international football matches could well take things to a whole new scale, something rarely seen in WA. It’s time for the powers that be to realise footballs potential and if things are done correctly, the rewards will come.

Blayne is a member of Glory Fans United and an active Socceroos supporter. You can follow him on Twitter.

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