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Perth Stadium could host Australia v England in 2018

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AN Australia v England soccer international to open Perth’s new stadium is a step closer to reality if the WA Government wants it to happen.

The Sunday Times can reveal Football Federation Australia chairman Steven Lowy and chief executive David Gallop met with Football Association representatives in Mexico last week about bringing the England team Down Under.

To do so they would need a State Government to host and help finance the event. And with our $1.2 billion stadium due to open in early 2018, Mr Gallop believes WA could be a perfect fit.

“FFA is ready to make a case (to the FA for a Socceroos v England match in Perth) if the WA Government and its agencies are committed to having a world-class football event to open the new Perth Stadium,” he said. “That’s the best way to send a message to the world that Perth is a truly international city. No other sport can deliver that.”

What also gives an “Ashes” match in Australia momentum is the FIFA window from March 19-27, 2018, which is left open for international friendlies. This is a rare timeslot on the soccer calendar where both countries will be available to play who they want in the lead-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Serendipitously, March is also when the new Perth Stadium is due to open.

Premier Colin Barnett last night said he would “love to see the Socceroos take on England at our new stadium”.

“It is just the sort of sporting event that would attract thousands of interstate and international visitors and something Perth has missed out on in the past due to the lack of a world-class stadium,” he said.

“Tourism WA is working with Football Federation Australia to secure future games involving the Socceroos at the new Perth Stadium when it opens from 2018.

“As part of those negotiations, I am aware the FFA is talking to a number of major international football federations about potential matches in Australia.”

While a mouth-watering prospect, such a curtain-raiser faces significant hurdles as powerful English Premier League and European clubs may not want their English players travelling all the way to Australia.

But it’s an event FFA has long desired. As well as discussions in Mexico last week, Mr Gallop also broached the subject with the FA in February, and at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

 The Socceroos take on England this Saturday (2.45am WAT) in Sunderland. The last time the two countries played in Australia was at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1991.

The Sunday Times understands that if England do head south, a women’s match between the two countries would be part of the proposal.

Mr Gallop believes the England hierarchy can see the benefits of an “Ashes” rivalry in soccer. “We’ve made the case in several discussions … I think the English FA shares our view,” he said.

“Of course, the constraints of the FIFA calendar, travel distances and the priority of World Cup and continental championship qualifiers makes this a very complicated exercise.”

t’s understood the WA Government will have to work hard to make it happen.

What makes the March 19-27 window in 2018 such a relevant timeslot is that Federations have priority over powerful EPL and European clubs for those nine days.

In last week’s State Budget an additional $19 million was allocated for events at the new Perth Stadium.

Insiders estimate about $5m would be needed to bring a team like England to Australia but the tourism, publicity and brand benefits would far outweigh the cost.While an “Ashes” clash is at the top of FFA’s wish list, countries such as Brazil and Argentina are also potential ­rivals that could play in Perth,“If, for whatever reason, Perth can’t land a match against England to open the new stadium, there are many attractive options among the world’s top nations in the March 2018 FIFA window,” Mr Gallop said.

* FFA have committed to FootballWest they will bring a top international team to WA when the new stadium is ready
* WA needs a big international event to be part of Perth Stadium opening
* FIFA window of March 19-27, 2018 means players are clear of EPL and European club commitments to represent their country
* Travel time from England to Perth is shorter than from England to the eastern states
* Huge UK expat population in Perth will spice up occasion.
* WA needs an iconic sporting event and an ‘Ashes’ soccer match would be the envy of every other Australian states
* An England v Australia match would attract European Asian and interstate visitors and showcase WA to the world
* England team management may believe travelling back and forth to Australia is not in the team’s best interest in a World Cup year
* England may want two games during that March 19-27, 2018 window. So instead of playing one game in the southern hemisphere they stay in Europe to play European teams
* The last time England played in Australia was 25 years ago
* Even though March 19-27 is a FIFA window, powerful EPL and European clubs may not want their English players travelling all the way to Australia
* Another Australian state may offer FFA/England more money to host the match
* WA Government/Tourism WA may feel there are better investments than a Socceroos v England match

© 2016 Perth Now| This article was written by BILLY RULE and first appeared in Perth Now on May 22 2016.

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