Christina Matthews, the Western Australia chief executive, has forecast little if any international cricket for the WACA Ground in future, as both Cricket Australia and the state association prioritise playing “the best cricket at the best ground for fans and players”.
Perth’s new multipurpose stadium at Burswood looms over WA’s traditional home of cricket, and Matthews said it would be up to CA to make the final call on scheduling for international matches. However, she said that any decision would place a premium on the quality of the experience for attendees, with the new stadium offering countless amenities not available at the WACA Ground.
Previously both state and governing body have said that matches would be judged on a case by case basis depending on their likely attendances, but the pulling power of the new stadium is likely to mean that very few international or Big Bash League fixtures are held at the WACA Ground. The venue makes its debut with an ODI between Australia and England on January 28.
“At this stage we’ll be working on what’s best for cricket fans in WA, not what’s best for the ground,” Matthews told ABC Radio. “We’ve got great plans for the ground that are outside Test cricket and international cricket, so we’re quite happy with the future. But most importantly, we’ve got to be able to say hand on heart that we want the best cricket at the best ground for the fans and the players.
“The traditionalists obviously love cricket here. This Test has been fantastic for people being involved and loving the Test. I haven’t heard any people to be honest saying ‘It’s terrible they’re going, this is where it should be played.’ Everybody’s looking forward to something new and exciting. We’re lucky on the 28th of January, we’ve got the first ODI, and that will really give us a good idea of what the future’s going to hold.”
Plans for the future of the WACA Ground revolve far more around it being a community centre, a hub for WA cricket and a winter venue for the WA Football League than they relate to the staging of major international matches. “This is the home of cricket, forevermore,” Matthews said. “Sheffield Shield, one-day domestic, our women’s 50-over games, WBBL. But more importantly it’s going to be a ground that’s more available to the community.
“We’ll look to build high performance facilities, indoor centre that can be used when it’s raining, recovery facilities, swimming pool, that all the cricket community can use. At the moment we’re restricted because of the facilities we’ve got here and the overlay of international cricket. So it’s going to be a brilliant facility for the cricket community and the broader community. We’re open to sharing those facilities with other sports.”
Those facilities are contingent upon funding from state and federal governments in addition to the WACA and CA. Matthews pointed out that as a single sport venue the WACA Ground has received very little public money relative to the new stadium in particular, and said that its opening up to wider purposes should encourage government assistance.
“We’re down to final design, but we think somewhere between A$50 to $70 million, and we’re really driving our own fundraising at the moment, so looking at Federal Government, Cricket Australia have already committed some funds, and our own philanthropy of A$10 million. That way we can go to the State Government having proven that we’re trying to help ourselves as well as lean on the State Government.
“We’re very confident, we’ve got good relationships with both Federal and State Government, and cricket in WA hasn’t really had much support, we’ve really moved along on our own for a long time, and people are conscious that it’s the number one sport in the country, and each state needs to do their bit. Certainly we know there are restrictions, but we’re not looking to build another Lillee-Marsh stand, it’s about downsizing it to some degree, having a look at what we may demolish.
“But the Stage 1 area is really about our business and the cricket community and helping us do that. So in terms of funding for facilities, it’s a small amount we’ll be going for relatively speaking. A big amount in terms of the public purse, but in terms of this sort of project. But we’re prepared to wait a couple of years, there’s an economic issue here, our economy is getting better. We don’t expect anything in the next budget cycle, but we’d certainly be hopeful in the next budget cycle after that.”
As for the morning’s lengthy delays due to a combination of squalling showers and damp patches on the pitch, Matthews said water had been allowed to leak in via the hessian under covers. “The hessian got wet and it’s just been unbelievable late last night and this morning, blustery,” she said.
“I think in their efforts to get the game going, they’ve been slightly slow in getting the hessian back on. Hard thing for us is we don’t normally have these conditions, so reacting to it is a little bit different to other places.”