Canberra set for a barmy invasion next year
Block your ears and warm up the beer - the British are coming, bringing two of the world's most iconic sporting teams and their passionate travelling supporters to Canberra next year.
Cricket Australia has announced Manuka Oval will host the English cricket team for a two-day match during next year's Ashes series, also sure to draw on the chants and trumpeting of famous supporters' group the Barmy Army.
The match, between England and an Australian Chairman's XI, will be held on November 29 and 30, in between the first Ashes Test (Gabba November 21 to 25) and the second Test (Adelaide, December 5 to 9).
Canberra's hotel beds and bars are also set to be filled by the supporters of rugby union team the British and Irish Lions next June.
The Lions are embarking on their first Australian tour in 12 years and are booked to play the ACT Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on June 18.
British High Commissioner to Australia Paul Madden told Fairfax Media the Lions and the Ashes tours would build on the intense competition between the two traditional foes.
''We have a great rivalry with Australia, across a whole range of sports, which manages to be both intense and friendly,'' Madden said. ''We will have the Lions here, with around 40,000 fans accompanying them.
''Then back-to-back Ashes in the northern and southern summers, and that should bring up to 20,000 of the 'Barmy Army' to Australia.''
It will be the first time the England cricket team has visited Canberra since February last year, when it beat the Prime Minister's XI by seven wickets in a rain-affected match.
Cricket ACT chief executive Mark Vergano hopes the timing of the Chairman's XI match entices a large majority of the Barmy Army to include Canberra in their pilgrimage for cricket supremacy.
''We'll be in contact with government tourism and also the Cricket Australia Travel Office to facilitate any of the travelling English supporters and put Canberra on the agenda,'' Vergano said.
''It's between the two Test matches and it's a logical extension to that.''
The fixtures add to an already packed sporting calendar for Canberra's centenary celebrations next year.
Other highlights include: the first one-day cricket match involving the Australian cricket team, against West Indies, on February 6; the first rugby league test match between Australia and New Zealand in Canberra in April; and an Australia versus New Zealand netball test in October.
Cricket Australia has yet to finalise details for five one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches against England.
ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr said the popularity of next year's marquee fixtures against the West Indies would determine whether the government launched a late bid for one of the games.
''Our focus is on the PM's XI and one-day international,'' Barr said in a statement.
''If both attract sell-out crowds then we will consider our options [for matches during the Ashes tour].''
BIG MATCHES FOR CANBERRA’S CENTENARY IN 2013
January 29: Prime Minister’s XI v West Indies at Manuka Oval
February 6: Australia v West Indies at Manuka Oval
November 29-30: England v Chairman’s XI at Manuka Oval
February 14-17: Women’s Australian Open at Royal Canberra
October: Australia v New Zealand at AIS Arena
April 19: Australia v New Zealand at Canberra Stadium
June 18: ACT Brumbies v British and Irish Lions at Canberra Stadium