Local Asian Cup chief slams state of Brisbane pitch

Brisbane Stadium must take full responsibility for the sub-standard pitch that has tarnished the AFC Asian Cup, local organising committee chief executive Michael Brown said.

brisbane stadium

Brisbane Stadium undergoes repairs by night (AAP)

The surface of the Brisbane venue that has been described as a "disgrace" by Australia striker Robbie Kruse and "too late to fix" by Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has come in for a lot of criticism from the teams that have played on it.

Although Massimo Luongo took it in his stride:

The surfaces of the tournament's other venues are in excellent condition but Brisbane is a glaring exception.

Parts of the surface have been relaid but the pitch condition is not expected to improve for the quarter-final between Australia and China on Thursday.

"The responsibility lies with the venue," Brown said.

"We hired a venue to present world class facilities and a world class pitch for a world class event.

"We're disappointed. We don't grow grass, that's their job.

"We've had to do a lot of work with them to play catch-up and this should not have happened.

"It has created negative criticism but it is a reality that the venue has to take responsibility.

"I feel let down, absolutely. You want everything to go well.

"Things are not insurmountable and they tried to relay the turf but you should present players of this calibre with a quality pitch and they failed. Sadly it's been a talking point but we have to move on."
Brown spoke more glowingly about the other aspects of the tournament that has exceeded all expectations.

A total of 360,641 fans has watched the 22 games so far for a staggering average of 16,392.

Brisbane apart, are you happy with the way things are going generally?

I'm thrilled by the engagement of our multicultural communities and the people who are coming to the games who have given us an average of more than 16,000 per game.

Potentially we will get eight sellouts, the television coverage in China is growing by 100 per cent match by match, 10 per cent of people in the Korea Republic are watching the Asian Cup and I think it has captured the hearts of everybody. I could not be more pleased.

You've always said that you wanted this Asian Cup to be a massive football feast with a strong multicultural flavour. Have we achieved this?

If you look across the markets, we have had a sellout crowd in Canberra for the China versus Korea DPR game on a Monday night. We have another sellout in Melbourne for the Japan versus Jordan game. Iran, Japan and China have drawn massive crowds.

We have sold 8000 tickets to the Iranian community alone and the owners of Guangzhou Evergrande have bought 10,000 tickets for the three Chinese group games.

We have reached a level of multicultural engagement that even I did not think we could. We budgeted for an aggregate attendance of 350,000 and a stretch budget of 500,000.

At the moment the crowd figure is 360,641 so we're on track to reach the figure of 550,000 plus, hopefully 600,000 plus.

And we have not seen Japan or China in the Sydney and Melbourne markets yet.

People across the board have reflected the fact that we are a multicultural society and it really is a credit to the people of Australia. It makes me very proud to be Australian and part of the event.

What has been your high point of the tournament so far?

There have been many highlights but watching China and Korea DPR in Canberra the other day was one of them. Who would have thought that these two teams could draw more than 18,000 fans.

To see the passion of people, I've been fortunate to stay at the same hotels as the teams and to see the involvement of people, just waiting to see their heroes, and the colour and the enthusiasm.

And most importantly the smiling and helpful volunteers who are replicating the work done at the 2000 Olympics.

The NSW government has put in most money for the tournament. Is this why Newcastle, which is the smallest of the five Asian Cup venues, gets a semi-final?

Let's make this clear, the NSW government has not interfered in any way in the programming of the event. When the draw was done there were seven games in each city and the four finals were in NSW.

Victoria did not want the finals because of the Australian Open tennis so having so many games in one stadium (Stadium Australia) in NSW was going to be challenging. Then sports minister Graham Annesley suggested we look at other venues and Newcastle was the next best stadium we had available.

Football has a strong presence in the area so having a semi in Newcastle made a lot of sense. I've heard suggestions we swap venues (if Australia beats China and plays its semi in Newcastle) but why would we? This is a fantastic event for Newcastle which has incredible supporters.

This is as much about a legacy that we give to the game as it is about money. This is all about engaging the community. Newcastle has earned the right to host a semi-final and I am confident that it will be a great celebration of football.

Have we convinced Asia that we are bona fide members of the confederation and that we are in it because we want to be not necessarily because it suits us?

The AFC has congratulated the local organising committee for its work and and I have had personal thanks from the president and each of the visiting delegations. They've seen the way Australia has engaged Palestine and Korea DPR. That's what our country stands for.

So what legacy will this Asian Cup leave behind?

At every level this has been a huge driver for us, from football matters and the growth of the game in Australia to trade investments and economic benefits. The AFC and Australia can only be proud of what we have achieved so far.

The challenge now is to convert the people who are watching the Asian Cup into A-League fans and supporters of the game. If they don't do that I think we've failed.

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6 min read
Published 20 January 2015 at 11:07am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS