Sport

Brumbies sponsorship deal opens door for A-League and Big Bash options in Canberra, says Chief Minister Andrew Barr

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has backed Canberra to secure stand-alone Big Bash and A-League teams in the coming years, declaring the Brumbies' record sponsorship deal has enhanced the capital's sporting market.

The Brumbies signed the biggest naming-rights deal in the club's history this week, finalising a six-year, $8 million sponsorship deal with Aquis to ease the organisation's financial pressure.

But Barr said it had also freed up Canberra-based companies to put cash into a potential Big Bash cricket side or an A-League soccer franchise if the capital is successful in its bid for inclusion in the national competitions.

The Brumbies and Raiders, who have a deal with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, have linked with Asian organisations.

"The Brumbies have brought money into the city from outside, not from one of the usual suspect sponsors," Barr said.

"That's comforting in terms of growing the overall pie for sports sponsorship because if the city is to sustain more teams in national competitions, then we have to be able to draw the corporate dollar from outside the ACT.

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"The fact that the Brumbies and Raiders have succeeded in that area is a good sign and frees up some capacity in the market place for Big Bash or the A-League."

The Brumbies deal with Aquis caused some friction in government ranks, with Minister for Sport and Recreations Shane Rattenbury saying it was a "shame" the Brumbies "couldn't find a more socially responsible sponsor".

Greens MLA Rattenbury's concerns stemmed from problem gambling, given Aquis has acquired the rights to a casino in Canberra.

"I appreciate there are a variety of views over sport sponsorship," Barr said.

"Aquis, yes, they do have casinos, but they also operate resorts. It's a mixed business. Their intentions for a Canberra precinct are for more than just a casino.

"I understand Minister Rattenbury's views. We've discussed them, we've agreed to disagree on that question and I'm comfortable with that outcome.

"For sport, it's bringing in new sponsorship and that has always been the point raised, the narrow corporate base in this city, of why teams find it hard in national competitions."

The ACT government is keen to capitalise on a bumper summer of sport in Canberra, which is set to continue with the first of three cricket World Cup games when Bangladesh and Afghanistan clash in front of an expected sell-out crowd at Manuka Oval.

The Australian cricket team played against South Africa in November while the Big Bash final was at Manuka Oval in January.

Canberra Stadium hosted seven Asian Cup games, with the playing surface rated the best in Australia and crowd figures exceeding expectations.

Barr believes the impressive crowds in a packed schedule is proof that Canberra has the capacity to enter the A-League and Big Bash when both competitions expand.

He is working with respective organisations to host a Big Bash game in Canberra next season, as well as luring all national teams to the capital.

"The other goal that's missing [in Canberra] is the pathway side to the A-League and cricket. For cricket and soccer, you need to go interstate at the highest level domestically.

"We want to work with both sports to ensure they maintain a good presence in Canberra, I think they have to be pleased with the support this summer. There's no reason to doubt Canberra."

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