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Centenary paves way for name deal

IT WAS passed in for sale last year, but the ACT government is again targeting a naming-rights sponsor for Canberra Stadium as it looks to cash-in on the biggest sporting year in the city's history.

ACT Minister for Sport and Recreation Andrew Barr said a sponsor would enable Canberra to better capitalise on centenary sporting celebrations, providing a war chest to bid for feature events after next year.

The state government failed to attract a financial backer for the stadium after a two-month publicity campaign last year, but believes the time is right to test the market again.

Canberra Stadium will be centre stage to some of the national capital's biggest sporting events during next year's centenary, headlined by the Anzac rugby league Test in April and the British and Irish Lions tour game in June.

The matches will attract international exposure for the stadium, which is already home to regular NRL matches with the Raiders and Super Rugby games involving the Brumbies.

Despite difficulty attracting a stadium sponsor over the past 18 months, Mr Barr said the state government was not prepared to undersell the venue.


The ACT government launched a two-month marketing campaign in June last year and, although there were discussions with potential backers, none met the asking price.

At that time, it is understood the government had been looking at a figure somewhere between $500,000 to $700,000 a year.

''We had a benchmarking exercise, what was a reasonable amount to anticipate for naming-rights sponsorship. No one's really hit that mark as yet,'' Mr Barr said.

''It's still on the table, but we may have to have a look at the current marketplace … we don't want to undersell naming rights at the stadium, but it's clearly on the agenda for us.''

The ACT government leases Canberra Stadium from the Australian Sports Commission, paying a ''peppercorn rent''.

But under the terms of the lease, payment was supposed to change to ''market value'' at the end of 2009.

In early 2010, the commission agreed to extend the nominal rental amount until negotiations about the long-term lease arrangements were concluded. Those negotiations are continuing.

Maintenance and upgrade costs at Canberra Stadium are about $2 million a year.

The state government has forecast a long-term solution, to build an enclosed stadium in the city centre by the end of the decade. Initial planning work is set to be released early in the new year.

But Mr Barr said a naming-rights sponsor at Canberra Stadium would subsidise costs and enable the ACT to bid for more sporting events.

''There are very few stadia now that don't have a naming-rights sponsorship associated with them and we could use the revenue,'' Mr Barr said. ''That sort of revenue allows you to bid for other events.

''Our stadium is commercially viable for a large number of events but there are some that require a subsidy, and so with the revenue you get from a naming-rights sponsorship, you may be able to attract another event to the venue.''

Mr Barr said any potential sponsor would need to:

■ have corporate values aligned with the values of the ACT government and the Canberra community;

■ be a publicly listed or local company and;

■ not be a direct competitor of the main hirers of the venue, the Brumbies and Raiders.