THE local cricket season officially gets under way in less than a fortnight yet the Western Australian Cricket Association is still seeking a sponsor at its top, platinum, level.
It’s far from an ideal situation but WACA chief executive Kath White is hoping to secure a sponsorship deal for the Western Warriors very soon.
“We’ve got three companies very interested and I hope that in about two weeks we will get that finalised,” she said.
Locking in a replacement for Western Power, which announced in May it was scaling down its sponsorship of WA cricket, will clear one of the major hurdles facing Ms White.
Obtaining government support for further upgrades of the WACA Ground is another major task.
Last year’s $12 million upgrade was funded entirely by the association, in marked contrast to the government-backed upgrades at Subiaco Oval and Perth Oval.
WACA chairman Charles Fear – better known in business circles as chairman of investment bank Argonaut Capital – believes the WACA may have been a victim of its own success.
“We have suffered because we have been efficient and conservative with our money,” Mr Fear said. “The government hasn’t needed to bail us out like other sporting codes.”
Nevertheless, he is hopeful the Gallop Government will support a request for about $10 million to fund further improvements including a video replay screen, extra shade for public seating, an indoor cricket centre and improved media facilities.
Ms White said the WACA was prepared to stagger the work so the funding could be provided over several years rather than as a lump sum.
She strongly believes the WACA is deserving of more government support.
It injects between $8 million and $18 million into the WA economy each year and the WACA Ground is the only venue with regular guaranteed international sport.
“We think that has not been recognised,” she said.
Ms White believes the task of running a sport is even harder than running a normal business.
As well as financial, social and environmental goals – the triple bottom line – she has to account for a fourth factor: “the tradition and essence and passion of the game”.
“You have to run it along business lines but you can’t run it as a business,” Ms White said.
The WACA generated total revenue of $13.8 million last year with nearly two thirds of this sourced from cricket operations.
The other major revenue sources were member subscriptions ($1.8 million) and marketing ($2.9 million), which encompasses sponsorship, signage and corporate box sales.
Ms White said the exposure provided by signage was still one of the key selling points for sponsors.
A notable change this year is that signage for international matches has been negotiated on a national basis through Cricket Australia.
As part of this deal, the WACA is introducing scrolling signs that will allow a single sponsor to blanket the entire boundary for a period of time.
Ms White said many companies were keen to sponsor junior and regional cricket because it supported their corporate citizenship goals.
She also believes the traditional values of cricket, such as integrity and fair play, are a selling point for sponsors.
Ms White said the WACA would be looking for regular non-sporting events to supplement its income.
She said an estimated 20,000 people attended a boating show in August and the WACA was keen to host this event annually.
The WACA will be the venue for a Fleetwood Mac concert in February and has been the venue for classical concerts during summer.
Ms White believes the redevelopment, which included raising the level of the seating and providing more spacious seating for patrons, will help the WACA compete for rectangular sports such as rugby.
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