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Soccer

Asian Cup organisers confident of 'positive crowds' in Canberra

A week out from the first of seven Asian Cup games in Canberra, tournament organisers remain confident they will have "positive crowds" and will exceed their budget.

Fairfax Media understands while sales have been solid for Canberra Stadium's opening game between South Korea and Oman on January 10, and the quarter-final on January 23, the remaining five group games are lagging behind.

Only 5139 people turned up to watch Perth beat the Mariners 2-1 at Canberra Stadium in the 2009 A-League season.
Only 5139 people turned up to watch Perth beat the Mariners 2-1 at Canberra Stadium in the 2009 A-League season. Photo: ANDREW SHEARGOLD

It is understood fewer than 5000 tickets have been sold to each of the following games - UAE v Qatar (January 11), Kuwait v South Korea (January 13), Bahrain v UAE (January 15), China v North Korea (January 18) and Iraq v Palestine (January 20).

Recent elite soccer games have struggled to attract strong crowds in Canberra, with 5139 and 5437 to two Central Coast Mariners A-League games in 2009 and just over 10,000 to see the Socceroos beat Malaysia 5-0 in 2011.

CEO of the Asian Cup local organising committee, Michael Brown is confident crowds will be good.
CEO of the Asian Cup local organising committee, Michael Brown is confident crowds will be good. 

Asian Cup organisers have ramped up promotion for the tournament in the past month, bringing the trophy to Canberra, having an interactive display in Garema Place and starting an advertising campaign to encourage fans to adopt a country.

Football Federation Australia boss Frank Lowy has expressed his concern at the level of ticket sales and has put pressure on Capital Football chief executive Heather Reid to see that there is a significant improvement.

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Asian Cup Local Organising Committee chief executive Michael Brown said there would be a big push in the next seven days to increase the awareness of the biggest football tournament on the planet this year.

"There are a number of games in every venue that are challenging, but they're a great opportunity for people to come," Brown said.

Mark Bosnich with the AFC Asian Cup in Canberra last month.
Mark Bosnich with the AFC Asian Cup in Canberra last month. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"We have a budget that is in place and that budget becomes our measuring point.

"We're on track to pass budget.

"At no point are any of those massive sell-outs, so I'm not going to tell you we're going to get 20,000 at Canberra Stadium for China v North Korea because it's not going to happen, but we're not going to get 2000. 

"We've got seven days of selling ahead of us and I'm comfortable we'll have positive crowds."

Crowd figures are only one element to judge whether the ACT government's $3.5 million investment in the tournament is a success.

There's the exposure to an estimated television audience of up to 1 billion people to some of the territory's biggest trading partners.

There's the long-lasting benefits, such as the upgrades to lighting at McKellar Park and Deakin Stadium, both of which are being used as training venues, and temporary upgrades to Canberra Stadium.

It was always going to be a tough sell at a time when Canberra's population is coming back after the festive break.

Tickets have been priced from just $15 for the group games and $29 for the quarter-final, which is most likely going to feature Iran and Jordan.

The Socceroos will play their three group games in the cities with the biggest venues - Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

"Canberra is always challenging because you don't have a Socceroos game, but you have seven great games and the prices are so affordable," Brown said.

"People tell me Canberra people wait until they see what they're doing on the day and what the weather's like, so hopefully there's a big walk-up crowd.

"We are comfortable and upbeat of where we are."