Delivering the AFC Asian Cup to Australia pt 2

There isn’t much Australians love more than a big sporting event, and the AFC Asian Cup 2015 will deliver a summer to remember for local football fans.

There isn-t much Australians love more than a big sporting event, and the AFC Asian Cup 2015 will deliver a summer to remember for local football fans.

But while the tournament will no doubt deliver for those who love the round-ball game but one of the major challenges facing the competition-s Local Organising Committee (LOC) is convincing the sceptics and attracting the broader community to the matches.

CEO Michael Brown is the man charged with building the platform for a successful tournament. After a decade as deputy CEO of Cricket Australia, Brown has experience of working with Asian sporting bodies, and the opportunities hosting an international competition presents.

“One of the things that inspires me and my team is our ability to leave a legacy other than just good football,” Brown says.

“What if we could leave a legacy of the relationship with Asia? What if we could leave a legacy around tourism and trade and business?

“It-s a whole of government approach not just about sport. The Street Football World Cup will be played here in January 2015, so the social inclusion of helping people who have had difficult times in their lives will be brought to life by all the things around this event.

“We-re also working with the federal government to make sure expatriates get involved. We know there are over 600 students in Australia - how do we get them to follow their teams and come to matches?

"We need to get out there and do the hard work and sell it, because I don-t know of another sport that can do that.”

Selling the tournament is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks facing the LOC. The football community will be ready and waiting, but many are still to be convinced.

Media personality and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire-s widely reported citrus cynicism about the 2015 Asian Cup illustrate the challenges facing the LOC.

But while Brown acknowledges some people will be hard to convince, he argues that the tournament-s potential for the community and business should help win over the critics and those feeling protective of their own football codes.

“Without doubt, there-s parochialism about the other codes,” Brown says.

“The more we can get people like Eddie to understand the size of the opportunity. That-s one of our great challenges but also great opportunities.

"The first match will played in Melbourne and there-ll be 50-60,000 people there. I don-t know what else will be happening around 8 January but this will be far the biggest event in that period of time.

“There will be competition between sports but football has 1.7 million participants, which is more the all the other codes combined; we just need to turn that into action and marshal the forces.

"The one thing I know about Eddie and other people is they-ll be cynical but once the opportunity comes they-ll behind the event 100 per cent.”

One of the main logistical issue to consider is what will happen to the Hyundai A-League while the Asian Cup is running, but Brown says that decision is still to be made.

“We-re in discussion on that issue,” he says.” It-s likely it will need to go into recess for three weeks but there are some opportunities because of the different times zones but that-s a matter to be resolved.

"The FIFA window is the month of January; it-ll be very much focused on the Asian Cup.”

So while football fans will be in for a treat, those non-committed sports fans will still take some convincing. Brown points to previous examples of how they can be encouraged to participate and create a tournament Australia can be proud of.

“Whilst there will be some cynicism and the challenge will be getting crowds to the smaller games, we know what happened in the rugby world cup where they ran events when odd and even street numbers had to barrack for different teams and they created this local interest in teams.

“There will be a number of initiatives like that as we do know that Australians are really good at building a passion for a sport and a team.”