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WACA faces uncertain future

Brydon Coverdale

December 17, 2013

Comments: 41 | Text size: A | A

The game under blue skies at the WACA, Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 1st day, January 13, 2012
The WACA's redevelopment plan has been abandoned © Getty Images
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The WACA faces an uncertain future as an international venue after a major redevelopment plan was abandoned on Monday. The project had been intended to provide the venue with financial security by linking an upgrade of the ground to the construction of commercial and residential buildings on site, but disappointing pre-sales for that development has led to the scrapping of the plan.

That means the WACA will need to find another way of increasing the ground's capacity and improving its facilities to meet ICC standards. Perth has already been left off the Test schedule for next summer, where there are only four Tests against India due to the presence of the World Cup in the fixture later in the season, and unless it can fund an upgrade it may be in danger of losing future international matches.

It is likely that from 2018, major internationals in Perth will be held at the Burswood Stadium, which is currently under construction opposite the WACA on the east side of the Swan River. That venue will be a multi-purpose and mulit-sport 60,000-seat stadium that the Western Australia minister for sport and recreation Terry Waldron said last week would be fan-friendly from day one.

"The WACA is the home of cricket in Western Australia and will continue to be," Waldron said. "The construction of this 60,000-seat stadium with the ability to play cricket here gives them flexibility to hold big matches here, the bigger Tests, one-day internationals, World Cup fixtures, Twenty20 competitions. This stadium will be world-class right from the start. It will be for the fans."

However, since then the WACA's redevelopment has been shelved, leaving the situation until the completion of the Burswood Stadium unclear. The WACA chairman, Sam Gannon, said that the residential and commercial proposal couldn't go ahead due to the lack of sales.

"Despite strong sales up to November and a renewed marketing effort, we have been unable to achieve the pre-sales target required to achieve finance on acceptable terms in time to meet our commitments for the 2015 Cricket World Cup," Gannon said. "I would like to thank the board and advisors for their considered advice. We have given this development every opportunity but the final decision not to proceed is in the best long-term interest of members and stakeholders."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by LoungeChairCritic on (December 19, 2013, 5:58 GMT)

@9-monkeys well said. You are a lot braver man than me taking a 7 year old to the cricket. I am still scarred by taking my 7 year old nephew to an Ashes match about 12 years ago. The now 6ft 3 19 year old couldn't stay still. I rang my sister to come and pick him up about 3pm just in front of the Gloucester Park gates. In the half hour I waited for her, I missed a quick fire Adam Gilchrist run a ball 40. He virtually got out just as my bumb hit the seat. On a happy note, my nephew still enjoys watching cricket.

Posted by 9-Monkeys on (December 19, 2013, 2:13 GMT)

Meety, I'm with LoungeChairCritic. I did take my seven year old son to the WACA on Saturday and the little bloke almost expired sitting in the designated alcohol-free unshaded family area. The temperature touched 46 degrees and the majority of the crowd (60%+ I'm guessing) had little or no cover. Not good enough. I'm sorry, but it is an appalling venue and the WACA has completely goosed its attempts to raise the necessary money to appropriately redevelop it. A move to Burswood with drop-in pitches based on the unique clay used in the existing centre wicket is the answer.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 18:11 GMT)

let's start 'save the WACA' campaign!!!

Posted by LoungeChairCritic on (December 18, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

@meety I am sure the WA Cricket Association would be able to pay an experienced consultant like Les Burdett (ex Adelaide curator) to make sure that the clay content is high to replicate the WACA pitch. Meety the WACA holds so many wonderful memories for me, but there is no way I am going to take my young family there to bake all day in 40 degree heat. According to my friends who went on the weekend, the ground is just not up to scratch. You know that you are in a bad place when the temp is 40 degrees plus and you can't be bothered having a beer in the outer because it will take you 30 minutes to get one.

Posted by LoungeChairCritic on (December 18, 2013, 7:36 GMT)

Although I acknowledge that so many people around the world love the WACA, I think some consideration should be given to the people of Perth. We are the one's who will miss out on a Indian test next year, we are the one's who will be forced to watch a second rate World Cup game like Australia v Afghanistan because our ground is not big enough, we are the one's who have to put up with a poor facility whilst paying premium entry prices. If we do not move to a bigger stadium, cricket will be left behind in the West. The new stadium will virtually be on the opposite side of the river about 1km from the WACA. The WA cricket association needs to become both cashflow and asset rich to remain viable. At the moment it is like a 70 year old who lives in a multi million dollar old house in an expensive suburb but can't afford to live off the pension.

Posted by Meety on (December 18, 2013, 7:02 GMT)

@LoungeChairCritic on (December 18, 2013, 5:56 GMT) - most of my International cricket viewing has been at the Gabba. It is a great stadium for football, & provided a fantastic atmosphere during the Ashes, (was there Day 2, & the 6/9 collapse of the Poms created an atmosphere I have never witnessed at the cricket b4) - that said, I prefer the old Gabba as the fun Police have sapped a lot of the enjoyment out of being at the cricket. I don't why the ICC are insisting on larger ground capacities IMO it is none of their business. I suppose, IF Test cricket is played at Burswood, they would have to GUARANTEE the nature of the WACA strip is transferred.

Posted by LoungeChairCritic on (December 18, 2013, 5:56 GMT)

As a Perth local, I can't wait until cricket is played at Burswood. Even though I am a cricket tragic, you could of given me a free ticket last weekend and there is no way I would of gone to the game. The state government is making a significant investment in a creating 60,000 seat stadium and a "greenfield" entertainment precinct at Burswood. Of the 5 regular test venues, the WACA is the only stadium that has one tenant. The WACA board needs to resume talks with the state government. They should look to re-create an Alan Border field sporting complex in a suburban location. Shield games could be played there whilst test matches, one dayers and 20/20 games can be played at Burswood. Like the Adelaide Oval, the WACA pitch would be able to be replicated in a drop in pitch. I am aware that the WACA has a 999 year lease on the site. My guesstimate is that they are sitting on between a $70 million to $100 million dollar asset. Hopefully a sensible decision is made.

Posted by duralsumo on (December 18, 2013, 2:27 GMT)

Having visited the WACA in 2009 and seeing Gayle forced hundred and as well as organising my cricket clubs (Sydney Based) yearly tour I am sad that the WACA is facing the situation it is now in. However my impression is that nothing has been done on the WACA since the1980s and the ground reflects this. As a tour orgnanisor I found that Hobart did not provide the transport on match day and Perth is a run down ground. Perth was a very popular tour amongst my club members and our Tasmanian tour offered a true cricketing experience for the group. It will be sad if these two venues dissapear of the test line up in the futue. I can only sell Brisbane and Adelaide so many times and unfortunately Melbourne does not fit in to our schedule due to family commitments of most of the members of our club.

Posted by pat_one_back on (December 18, 2013, 1:01 GMT)

There were similar threats to the SCG when the Olympic Stadium was built, the SCG now stands prouder than ever and I'm yet to hear any talk of drop in pitches, hopefully never will. Reports on facility management & catering sound similar to the SCG 20 years ago too. Hopefully some learnings and business strategy can be sent west, Sydney's far from perfect but definitely sustainable and respectful of it's heritage.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 17, 2013, 23:10 GMT)

If they can't save the ground they should dig that pitch square up and put in a museum. It would be a crying shame to lose this place to cricket. Surely something can be done.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2013, 23:00 GMT)

Oh boii! Probably the best pitch in the world and so much history attached to this ground. A fast bowler's paradise, something exciting for all the cricket fans. I really hope this doesn't get stripped off as an international stadium.

Posted by bren19 on (December 17, 2013, 22:02 GMT)

How about CA helping out with some of those TV broadcast funds!! WACA tests are always great entertainment, something special always happens - Johnson giving it to the SA team, Gilly scoring 100 of 57, Bailey hitting a world record 28 off an over. If something extraordinary is going to happen it will happen at a WACA test match. Maybe we can save Burswood for next time One Direction tour Australia and leave the cricket at the WACA.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2013, 21:34 GMT)

@mervo I think u still live in the 90s seeing bare outfields on Indian grounds. Having said that the WACA is my favourite test match venue. There is something about tradition in cricket. Lords looks like a fortressand is perhaps the ugliest cticket ground with millions of stupid restrictions. Yet preserbing it is a priority for all the cricket administrators. Same goes with an Eden Gardens or Kensington Oval or the Wanderers. CA should go out of its way to preserve this ground so that atleast it hosts Test matches every year. Else we will loose a unique feature in the cricketing calender

Posted by YogifromNY on (December 17, 2013, 17:24 GMT)

I am a supporter of the Ind cricket team based in the US and mostly get to watch live cricket only online. For my money, no other ground in the world can compete with the WACA for onfield theatrics and suspense. The WACA's not just an Australian treasure but the whole cricketing world's. Please save it! Rather than letting the WACA go to waste, pitches all over the world should be mandated to have some life and bounce in them so that it is a more even contest between bat and ball.

On a separate note, next year's Test series against India won't have a match in Perth. Let's guess - the BCCI did not want their team mauled at the WACA and hence twisted CA's arm to drop that ground from the itinerary?!

Posted by MrPud on (December 17, 2013, 14:20 GMT)

At first I was outraged to hear that this Test may be the last at the WACA. The pitch is unique and creates an unfamiliar challenge for all cricketing skills. After reading the comments of WACA members about the poor facilities, it is time to move on. @anton1234; I guess you have only started watching Test cricket in the last five years. In the early 90's the WACA pitch would be badly cracked and almost unplayable on the second day, then they over compensated and it became a batting paradise. Adelaide, on the other hand, is a very good batting wicket for 3 1/2 days and then keeps low to bring a result on day 5 - remember 2006? The Gabba has been the best pitch in Australia for 10 years.

Posted by RJHB on (December 17, 2013, 13:21 GMT)

I am floored by this report, absolutely floored. Not only no WACA test next summer but in future there may not be any more either! Let me guess, a drop in pitch for the new stadium? OMG, what a tragedy to lose this magnificent, famous pitch if it happens. And that after what's become of the beautiful Adelaide Oval, which with the football next year will probably become known as Hungry Jacks stadium or Panadol Park!

Posted by 9-Monkeys on (December 17, 2013, 13:16 GMT)

No doubt it is a fantastic playing surface and the uniqueness of the pitch (the speed and bounce) makes it a very special and much loved ground. But it is a sub-standard venue for patrons. For mine the WACA should sell it, create drop in pitches using the existing centre wicket square for use at Burswood (for Tests, ODI and T20 ) and pour the massive sales revenue into grassroots cricket in WA and the creation of a boutique Allan Border Field type venue for Shield and domestic 50 over fixtures. I've watched a lot of cricket at the WACA starting in the early 80's throught to being there melting in the 40+ degree heat on Saturday and I'm realy sorry to say it is the worst major sporting venue I've been to.

Posted by dilscoop_uk on (December 17, 2013, 12:35 GMT)

CA pls save the WACA !!!! my most favorite ground though I am not an Aussie but love watching Cricket at this Iconic Ground.

Posted by izzidole on (December 17, 2013, 12:27 GMT)

There is no other cricket venue in Australia as well as in the world which provides such speed, bounce and entertainment for cricket fans as the WACA wicket and it is a terrible tragedy to realize that there's no money to redevelop it and could be lost forever. I reckon Cricket Australia has to make sure that this does not happen and should take a firm interest and provide the necessary funds to redevelop it. The WACA wicket is the only one of it;s kind in the world and should be safeguarded for the present as well as for the future. It is also one of Australia's luckiest grounds where many victories have been registered.

Posted by BRUTALANALYST on (December 17, 2013, 11:26 GMT)

If we lose the WACA it will be just as sad as the Antigue Rec, cricket losing iconic grounds for these characterless new stadiums is a tragedy.

Posted by Gaswell on (December 17, 2013, 11:21 GMT)

That is a real shame. The WACA always provides a great test match. CA should step in. A solution must be found. I`m a Victorian but i find the WACA so often provides the best test cricket of the summer. Aussie cricket fans won`t be happy with this.

Posted by frogger235 on (December 17, 2013, 11:11 GMT)

I am Also a WACA Member and agree totally with Ted_Sweet. Everything at the WACA within the boundary rope is great but outside of that the bumbling management completely ruin the experience. I mean cmon not being allowed to wear a pair of 80 dollar leather Reef thongs (flip flops) on a 46 degree day is absurd when sitting in the sun watching cricket. Selling so many memberships that 1000 members on day 1 at least didnt have a seat. Running out of stock of food and drinks on day 4 of the test, making people line up at 5am to get a seat in the shade. The WACA pitch has certainly historically been a fast bowlers paradise that has been good for Australian cricket, but the useless management at the WACA has meant that every year members see great cricket but leave with disappointing experiences with the WACA staff and management. Cutting drinks from 4 allowed per person to 2 at 130pm meant double lines at bars, hence people waiting in the sun to be allowed in the bar. WACA management have disappointed!

Posted by Markdal on (December 17, 2013, 11:10 GMT)

It's ironic that Australian Rules football was invented by cricketers to keep fit in the off-season, and now it's the greatest threat to traditional cricket! Drop-in wickets are fine for AFL, but useless for a good game of cricket. With the new stadium being built in Perth, the cricket authorities should follow the lead of the Qlders - you are welcome to play on our ground, but don't even think about changing our wicket! Up here, AFL is a cyclic thing, it's more popular when Lions are winning, but Test cricket is the bread-and-butter for the Gabba Trust. For the WC Eagles and F Dockers - don't be sooks. Cricket created your sport, so put up with the harder block and earn your dollars!

Posted by Ted_Sweet on (December 17, 2013, 10:01 GMT)

I am a WACA member. Everything within the boundary rope is great, but it's what lies outside it that is the problem. Spectator facilities that are way below par, and stupid management that has had its head in the sand for years. They thought these Saffa property developers would be their saviours, and that was simply dumb. Now the game is up, and I expect cricket will move to the new stadium, with drop in wickets. That's the 21st century way.

Posted by anton1234 on (December 17, 2013, 9:22 GMT)

A move away from WACA will be fine as long as they can reduce a similar wicket. We don't need another Adelaide. Adelaide wicket often produces the most boring test matches in Australia, due to the nature of the wicket. They are often turgid affairs which offer nothing to the bowlers. The WACA was great this test match as it offered something to both the bowler and the batsman.

Posted by Front-Foot-Clunge on (December 17, 2013, 8:38 GMT)

Ed Oliver, while I know you're only talking cricket, my understanding is that AFL games will also be played at the Burswood. A local head-to-head would probably come close to filling it, I'd wager. Still, I agree with your point, and that of so many others here: the WACA is a beautiful ground with a unique pitch, one of the few stadiums left in Australia which doesn't have to pimp itself to other sports. Wish there was a way it could retain it's atmosphere and conditions without losing it's heart and soul.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2013, 8:27 GMT)

Common guys,stop blaming on the other boards.Every one knows that how good the WACA wicket is for test cricket.If they could prepare the same kind of pitch, some how using same soil from WACA or with different soil, I couldn"t ask better than that.It's a real treat to watch good bowling sides like South Africa,England playing Australia at Perth.

Posted by Mervo on (December 17, 2013, 8:26 GMT)

CricMatters what game were you watching? The one that went for 5days, where batsmen scored centuries and both pace and spin bowlers took wickets? Not all wickets should be feather beds that make slow batsmen look like champions.

Posted by Mervo on (December 17, 2013, 8:22 GMT)

Many of the Indian grounds have large fan capacity yet terrible rolled mud for turf wickets and bare outfields. Give me the WACA any time for cricket

Posted by   on (December 17, 2013, 8:11 GMT)

The WACA is a fantastic pitch, probably the most unique in all world cricket, how typical that money is ruling the roost, whatever happened to history and tradition, far too much credence is given to the bottom line now at all costs (pun intended). Just look at the 3/4 empty, soulless white elephants that have sprung up in West Indies and Sri Lanka for the last 2 world cups, instead of using that money to improve grounds like Bourda in Guyana, the St. John's Recreation ground in Antigua and the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy. Other than for an Ashes test when else would they have a hope of filling a 60,000 seat stadium for cricket in Perth? For the Big Bash League?!! Perlease.

Posted by   on (December 17, 2013, 7:55 GMT)

Great for bowling , Good for batting and excellent in terms of match result. What else does one need from a pitch ? Countless hours of trashing of bowlers at the hand of batsmen , bowl not bouncing above knee , massive partnerships , dull draws . Sound cool right ? Who needs result ? We play cricket to see batsmen scoring as many as they like. Banning WACA would be a shame and ICC are aware of that.

Posted by AB-50 on (December 17, 2013, 7:35 GMT)

The kind of cracks -- no,fissures that the English batsmen had to face against hostile Aussie bowling was alarming to say the least.It is a small wonder that they did not get hurt,barring Sturat Broad,who of-course had a crushing yorker directly on his foot. Had it been in India,there would have been a huge uproar to blacklist the venue.But then,this is Australia and with the aura of 'WACA -- the best pitch in the World",nobody will raise a voice,I guess. But apart from the pitch,the Aussies have given a superlative performance to return the urn back to them.

Posted by Slunk on (December 17, 2013, 7:27 GMT)

For those complaining about the pitch, oh come on! Sure the cracks got worse than usual, but that was because of the consistently very high temperatures. Batsmen need to be able to bat in a variety of condition.

One more thought - Johnson was SOOO lucky not to have seriously injured EITHER knee with that fielding attempt. I could imagine him being stretchered off, England get a draw, and the rest of the series... who knows.

Posted by Little_Aussie_Battler on (December 17, 2013, 7:08 GMT)

Have you Indian cricket stadium supporters been to the WACA? Have you lot ever been to Lord's, the MCG or SCG?

Indian cricket grounds have improved somewhat but they are ramshackle by first world nation standards.

Why do you need to have five metre high wire fences around the perimeter and is it really that difficult to grow grass on Indian wickets? If you like I can send over some grass samples that will grow perfectly well on that soil and it will ensure well grassed pitches instead of the rolled mud jobs you now use.

Rumour has it the BCCI is actually behind Perth not being used for next summers series against India as they do not like the bounce. That is from former South African test match bowler Fanie DeVilliers. He also mentioned India only wanted two tests in South Africa because they knew they would be trounced in every match. A two nil does not look too bad compared to a five nil. What ever the story, India will drop out of the top four test nations.

Posted by gws67 on (December 17, 2013, 6:55 GMT)

The WACA is the best cricket pitch in the world bar none, great for bowling, great for batting. Ask anyone who has played at any decent level and they will all tell you the same thing. The facilities are outdated however and in fact were better 15 years ago. The ACB want cricket at the WACA, the players want cricket at the WACA. It is up to the WACA members if they want cricket at the WACA because they have been against major upgrades for 30 years. The ground needs to increase it's capacity back to 30-35k, bring second tier football back to the ground and of course a major modern upgrade of facilites. If they don't do that then cricket will be lost to the great ground and the players will never play on this great pitch again and have to put up with the batting friendly highways most of the world produce.

Posted by CustomKid on (December 17, 2013, 6:30 GMT)

A real shame, it is the best pitch in the world. I'm guessing it will lifeless drop in wickets at the Burswood stadium unless they can somehow replicate or get the same soil in to the drop ins?

Soon all our grounds will be producing dead flat wickets bar the Gabba and that will be a huge loss to the game of test cricket.

Posted by Sunman81 on (December 17, 2013, 6:19 GMT)

@Little_Aussie_Battler Most of the Indian stadiums are well equipped and world class with good crowd capacity.. don't name it without facts...

Posted by cricmatters on (December 17, 2013, 6:19 GMT)

Truth is out. WACA is a pathetic ground which is not fit to host an international match. Match Referee should have intervened and cancelled the match as it was unsafe for the players even to stand at the crease, let alone play deliveries at 150 Kmph. It is high time CA looked at alternative venues like Hobart or even Canberra for future Test matches.

Posted by Udendra on (December 17, 2013, 5:41 GMT)

@Little_Aussie_Battler: have you ever been to Pallekale? It's obvious you haven't.

Posted by satzzz on (December 17, 2013, 4:09 GMT)

@ Little_Aussie_Battler.. you wanna compare this stadium with the likes of the ones at India? Come on bro. Wake up. Indian stadiums are the new meaning for worldclass! It is so silly to blame other boards when you don't know the proper facts.

Posted by Little_Aussie_Battler on (December 17, 2013, 3:46 GMT)

The ground is actually fine. It is a better venue for cricket than 90 percent of the other test match grounds on the planet. Is there a ground anywhere in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh, West Indies, Pakistan, India as good?

The real reason for this move is preparing us for the inevitable move of cricket to the Burswood casino stadium owned by the obviously influential James Packer, son of World Series Cricket instigator Kerry.

The planning permission for the redevelopment would no doubt have been blocked by Packer supporters in WA parliament.

Australians turning their noses up to Russia's institutionalised official corruption should take a look at their own nation. We are just as bad. Australia is an oligarchy as well.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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