The battle lines between Cricket NSW and the SCG Trust have again been drawn, with Blues chief executive Dave Gilbert suggesting Sydney's next Ashes Test could be staged at ANZ Stadium, the main venue for the 2000 Olympics. Cricket NSW and the Trust were involved in a similar stand-off five years ago during negotiations over the existing tenancy agreement, and Gilbert has again flagged the possibility of moving cricket from its traditional home at the SCG to the 80,000 capacity stadium in Homebush.
The last agreement, signed in 2004, expires at the end of 2010, creating an air of uncertainty over where the New Year's Test of 2011 against England will be staged. The very notion that major international fixtures could be relocated from the SCG will dismay the cricketing purists of Sydney, but Gilbert said he would keep all options open when negotiations with the Trust begin next year.
"ANZ is focused on getting a major cricket match to its venue," Gilbert said. "I know Test cricket will be a difficult one to do at this stage - and you have to weigh up tradition and history and the drama at the SCG - but when I was a kid growing up at the SCG, rugby league Test matches and union Test matches were only ever at the SCG. Not anymore.
"If you're a 15-year-old kid, you've only ever known big sport events to be played at ANZ Stadium - that's not meant to be an inflammatory comment, it's a fact. If you take the heat and emotion out of it, as CEO of Cricket NSW, I have to do what is best for cricket to generate revenue to keep this game going, and this is what this process is about.
"This is what our negotiations will be about the next few months. It has to be recognised SCG and ANZ Stadium run a ground and we run a sport, we need each other and it's about working out the best deal moving forward."
Simon Katich, the Australian opener and NSW captain, said it would be a "huge surprise" if the decision was made to break with tradition and relocate Test cricket from the SCG to the larger-capacity ANZ Stadium. NSW have staged 20- and 50-over matches at the Olympic venue for several seasons, but as yet no internationals have been played there.
"We've played a lot of one-day cricket out at ANZ Stadium," Katich said. "The game is always developing and changing, who knows where it could head now with where we play, but it would be a shock if we moved from the SCG.
"I think the only issue might be that the wicket at ANZ is a drop-in wicket and people are always worried about losing the characteristics of all the five different [Ashes Test] venues in Australia," he added. "That would be an issue, but in terms of attendances out there, we obviously get great crowds for the Blues and being a big stadium, who knows what a Test match could draw out there?"
A spokesman for ANZ Stadium said the venue's primary focus was to attract ODI and Twenty20 international cricket, but would not rule out a bid to poach Test matches from the SCG.