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Michael Brown with AFC Asian Cup Organising Committee Chairman HRH Prince Abdullah Shah and Minister Victor Dominello. Michael Brown with AFC Asian Cup Organising Committee Chairman HRH Prince Abdullah Shah and Minister Victor Dominello. Featured
22 April 2013 Posted by 

Road to Homebush was paved by Wanderers

By Roger Sleeman

ON January 31, 2015, after a multitude of qualifying matches throughout Asia and the Middle East, and 32 matches during the final series in Australia, ANZ Stadium at Homebush will host the final of one of the biggest sporting extravaganzas ever to come to our shores.

Michael Brown, as CEO of the Local Organising Committee for the Asian Football Cup, to be held in January, 2015, is a man on a mission. 

He is charged with ensuring the tournament is successful and creates a legacy for the round ball game for many years to come. 

Brown carries a heavy weight on his shoulders as there are many stakeholders; including the federal and state governments, trade commissions,  local businesses  and  football’s controlling bodies who are relying on his extensive  expertise and experience in Asian sport during a 10 year stint in executive positions at Cricket Australia.

Brown  is also conscious  of Australia’s  proud tradition in staging major sporting events  like the  Rugby World Cup in 2003,the 2006  Commonwealth Games and the 2000  Sydney Olympics which was generally  recognised as one of the most successful sporting events ever staged worldwide.

“This tournament is massive with qualifying rounds involving 46 teams and next to the Football  World Cup and the Olympic Games is one of the leading events now in world sport”, says Brown.

In March 2015, the Cricket World Cup will also be a major focus of attention in the Australian sporting calendar and it is no coincidence when Brown was headhunted from Cricket Australia in December, 2011: he was the interim CEO for the Cricket World Cup also to be played Downunder in March, 2015. 

Notwithstanding, football will host its biggest challenge yet when it  hosts the Asian Cup Finals and  the question remains whether Brown and his team  can muster the support of the Australian sporting community to support the event. 

Fortunately, history is on their side because the game received blanket coverage and incredible public support in 1981 and 1993 when the World Youth Championships (u/20) were played in Australia. 

However, the obvious attraction in these events was the high quality of emerging stars from Europe and South America who participated. 

Apart from the Japanese and South Korean  squads who have a number of players participating  in various European  leagues, many  of the  players are unknown to the Australian football community so Brown and his team  face a large challenge in presenting the teams to the target market.

“From this standpoint we’ve spoken to Socceroo captain, Lucas Neill who has offered assistance in  educating the public about  the Middle East stars and Shinji Ono has also been approached to provide information on the Japanese squad,”says Brown.

“Also, by the time the tournament arrives the star players in each team will be well profiled for the benefit of the community."

" I also believe sport is something everyone can share in and transcends all boundaries so you don’t just have to be a football supporter”.

“There will be a crossing of codes and for a sport to hold a world class event like this will embrace the community”, says Brown.

Significantly, seven matches will be played at ANZ Stadium in Homebush which occupies the heartland of West Sydney Wanderers. 

With the unprecedented success of the Wanderers, despite their grand final defeat, Brown’s team may have just discovered the piece in the puzzle which will provide an impetus for the acceptance of the tournament.

At the start of the recent A-League season last September, the game faced many challenges but with the emergence of the Western Sydney Wanderers the game received a major boost. 

Western Sydney had been starved of elite football representation since the demise of the National Soccer League in 2004.  

Therefore, it may have been timely the Wanderers have achieved such success before the Asian Cup because the region represents vast numbers of populations from South and East Asia and the Middle East who will be engaged through the medium of the Asian Cup 2015 Communities Program.

As Brown says, “we have been liaising with Lyall Gorman, the Executive Chairman, and the Wanderers board, who recently had an Indian day which celebrated the Festival of Colors where the people mingled with the players and the young ones had shots at goal with them”.

“At the Australia v Oman World Cup qualifier we hosted one hundred and sixty leaders from the multi-cultural communities."

“Our community program is aimed at working with them and understanding their needs to get them involved with the game and subsequently the Asian Cup”.

From a business standpoint, hotels and businesses in the west will welcome the tournament with the estimated 45,000 visitors, 510, 000 in ticket sales and 2.3 billion dollar boost to the local economy. 

Financially, the tournament started on a great footing with an injection of 61 million dollars from the Federal, NSW, Victorian, Queensland and ACT governments and to breakeven, only 14 million dollars must be obtained from ticket and corporate sales and sponsorship.

“The Federal government has been clearly definitive in its attitude towards embracing Asia through sport and football and in this event we are clearly part of Asia as seven of our top ten trading partners are attempting to qualify. For example Chinese tourism to Australia has increased by 30%”.

It would be a big advantage for the Asian Cup if Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and China qualified because they have large populations, particularly in western Sydney and in Melbourne.

“In Melbourne alone there are 300,000 people of Chinese extraction which clearly demonstrates the potential size of the market,” says Brown.

The Middle East communities will have a large representation in the tournament with six teams appearing.

“However, we just aren’t targeting the possible participant countries but also European and South American communities, because we want to include them all “.

“We want to leave a legacy of improved local stadiums, education programs and a data base of fans which can be used indefinitely for the benefit of the game”.

Michael Brown and his team have a great opportunity to cement the growth of football in this country and also to create everlasting ties with Asia and the Middle East. The opportunity may never be repeated.

Nicole Baines

Nicole Baines runs All My Admin, a business that provides support services to Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) for its online activities. Call (02) 9894 8682 for assistance.



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