SYDNEY (Reuters) — Michael Brown knows the success or otherwise of January’s Asian Cup rests on one thing. Getting Australian backsides on stadium seats.
Selling tickets for Uzbekistan-Saudi Arabia and Qatar-Bahrain soccer matches to Australian sports fans during the country’s long, hot summer – long the preserve of cricket and tennis – is not a task many would envy.
Local organising committee chief Brown, though, is the sort of career sports administrator that has given Australia a worldwide reputation for impeccable organisation of major sporting events that goes back to the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Throw him a potential problem and he’ll chuck back another two before easing the conversation round to his vision for what the tournament can achieve for the world game in a country where it has often struggled for attention.
Brown knows he cannot rely solely on what he calls the “football family” to populate the stadiums so needs to get the word out well beyond the six per cent of the population who were aware of the tournament when he took on the job.
“We need to get the average Aussie sports supporter to understand what the event is beyond the involvement of the Socceroos,” Brown told Reuters in an interview in his office in Sydney.
“We want the event understood and embraced by the broader sports and business community and that is going to be shown mainly by bums on seats.
“Even today, in a sports mad environment, you’re fighting for space.
“We’ve got some challenging games, we’ve got 10 Arabic countries coming and obviously not a lot of those are well-known here.
“But if I can see people coming to games – it’s one of many, many measures – that will be the most gratifying thing to me.”
Brown’s “budget” target for ticket sales is 355,000 over five venues in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle, which would bring in A$14.5 million (13.31 million US dollar).
With more than a third of that target already achieved by mid-August, however, he is hoping they can sell up to half a million tickets and net A$20 million.
There was a spike in ticket sales when Australia, despite losing all three of their matches, emerged with credit from the World Cup and Brown knows the success of the Socceroos, runners up to Japan three years ago in Qatar, is also crucial.
“You look at any sporting event and the home team doing well is really, really important,” Brown said.
“But we’re taking a view that we’re putting on a competition for 16 teams. We’d love the Socceroos to do well because that will help us.
“It’s critically important to ticket sales, I’d be silly to think otherwise, but you also want someone from outside.