- February 07, 2015
AN ambitious plan is being hatched for the Socceroos to open WA’s $1 billion stadium with a blockbuster match against England.
It is hoped the game would kickstart regular fixtures against the Poms, breathing life into a soccer Ashes series.
Football West, which oversees the code in WA, has discussed the importance of the Socceroos being part of the new stadium launch in 2018 with Australian soccer supremos Frank Lowy and David Gallop.
FW chairman Liam Twigger emphasised to Football Federation Australia that the Socceroos’ opponents had to be a world power such as England, Brazil or Germany.
“The prize opponent would be England,” he said.
The two countries last clashed 12 years ago when Australia put a star-studded England to the sword 3-1 on February 14, 2003. On that amazing night at Upton Park in London, David Beckham led out the ‘Three Lions’ and a 17-year-old Wayne Rooney made his international debut.
But they were no match for an Aussie hit squad that included Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Stan Lazaridis.
While a soccer match against our traditional sporting rivals – and then an annual or biennial Ashes clash – is a mouth-watering prospect, it also faces significant hurdles.
But adding clout to the proposal are revelations from Mr Gallop that an England fixture, and a potential Ashes series, has long been a secret ambition of FFA’s.
“Australia has had a desire to play England in Australia for a number of years,” he said.
“When we were in Brazil for the FIFA World Cup, chairman Frank Lowy and I spoke to the English FA and reiterated our desire to see the English team play in Australia.
“They have a number of long standing commitments but certainly took it on board.”
Mr Gallop said there were many benefits in opening WA’s stadium with a major Socceroos fixture.
“It would be a real coup for a world-class football event to be the opening match at the stadium in Perth,” he said.
“We have seen the power of football politically, economically and socially over the past month in the eastern seaboard. And there is no better national team than the Socceroos to highlight the diversity and multiculturalism of the country.
“For a match like that we would endeavour to bring a huge international team such as Brazil, Germany, Spain, England, South Korea or Japan.”
Football West believes a Socceroos match will also attract a worldwide audience providing business and economic benefits, especially with our Asian trading partners.
“If we were to pull off a game against someone like England in February/March 2018 it would provide a massive profile for the stadium and state,” Mr Twigger said.
“We saw the crowds that turned up to see China, Japan and South Korea play in the Asian Cup. With Perth so well positioned in relation to Asia the stadium could become the preferred destination for sporting competitions and maybe we have a round robin against our business partners like China, Japan and South Korea.
“At the moment none of them are aware we will have a stadium of such quality.
“It’s brilliant. We’ve never had this opportunity before where we’ve had a stadium that can seat 65,000 people for a rectangular sport. It opens doors for us.”
Premier Colin Barnett is believed to be receptive to the Socceroos opening the stadium but, according to Mr Twigger, only if it is “a major match, a signature event that means something”.
When asked this week about a potential Australia v England fixture, Mr Barnett said: “I’m pleased to see strong interest in what will be a world-class destination for sporting and entertainment events. It’s particularly encouraging to see sporting codes coming up with ideas. We’re open to all suggestions.”
The opening of the stadium in early 2018 is a timely lead-in to the FIFA World Cup in Russia to be held from June 14 to July 15 that year.
“The draw ceremony for the World Cup will be in December 2017,” Football West chief executive Peter Hugg said. “Assuming Australia qualifies, Ange Postecoglou and coaches from other countries will be looking for lead-up games for Russia in early 2018.
“But planning those matches needs to be done well in advance – especially for the big teams. They think ahead in four-year budget cycles.”
Insiders believe it would cost between $3 million and $5 million to lure England here. The NSW, Victorian, Queensland, ACT and federal governments contributed $61 million to co-host the recent Asian Cup. The final between Australia and South Korea was watched by 2.47 million viewers, the biggest television audience this year.
On the back of the Asian Cup success, Mr Gallop revealed the FFA is factoring in WA to host a World Cup qualifier at nib Stadium in June.
WA Football Commission CEO Gary Walton recently said an Eagles v Dockers AFL Derby should open the stadium in 2018. An Ashes cricket Test has also been floated.