Monday, December 10, 2012

Barry United

I was at the ground last time Manchester United played in Australia.

My family (or at least, my father, brother and I) were and still are United fans, so understandably we were pretty excited about the prospect of seeing in real life a team we had been watching on TV for years.

It was a great night. United got up over the Socceroos 1-0, we got to see some of our favourite players in the flesh, and everyone went home happy. I'll spare you all the photo of me in a ridiculous hat.

I don't know what the tickets cost (thanks Dad!) but I feel pretty safe in assuming that it turned a profit for a few investors.

Naturally, transporting a Premier League team out to Ausralia to play in one game costs a packet. I'm guessing 20 players, over a dozen staff, plus enormous amount of paraphenalia - and you know those players aren't flying economy.

Add to that the logistics of staging the event and you have an enormous cost. It's hardly unusual for governments to kick in for events like this.

Football teams like to tour other countries to provide a bump to their foreign fan base (and, inevitably, their foreign merchandise sales) - but it's hard to believe that the numbers add up for those teams.

And, when O'Farrell announced today that United would be playing a game against the "A-League All Stars" several people quite rightly asked how much we were kicking in.

The answer?
Full story in the SMH
The ever-present problem with these kinds of figures is that they are almost impossible to calculate. Who can possibly know with any certainty how much the local economy will benefit from people who travel here to watch the game? How about the benefit to tourism as United fans all over the world read about where their beloved team played on the weekend?

And the effect on Sydney's "brand"?

When it comes down to it, these numbers are only one small step away from "wholly imaginary" - they are almost impossible to assess and only fool would rely on them.

So why on earth is O'Farrell investing our money on that basis?

Well, a few reasons.

First of all, he gets to present a good-news story.  You know, making things happen, getting things done, Sydney is a world city etc.

Moreover, he gets to do it looking just a little lame in the United scarf and red tie, which I'm sure picture editors will make heavy use of tomorrow.
Full video on the ABC website
But, most of all, I think it taps into the Sydney parocialism that we are so famous for.

People who care about football (and even those who don't) will view this announcement with a smug satisfaction that we got the game and Melbourne didn't. What was it O'Farrell said again?
It doesn't matter if you have any intention of attending, or even if you will be inconvenienced by the fixture.

Sydneysiders like putting one up Melbourne, and they're going to like a politician who is responsible for that.

And if that ends up costing the government some money - I reckon most of Sydney (if not NSW) would be OK with that.

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