Cricket Australia faces fan backlash after closing shaded areas at Perth Stadium for second Test
Many cricket fans will be forced to sit in direct sun on the lower levels of Perth Stadium. (ABC News: Jarrod Lucas)
“Fan first” was the phrase spruiked by former West Australian premier Colin Barnett in the lead up to the opening of the state-of-the-art Perth Stadium.
“As the Government has said all along, the new Perth Stadium will be a world-class venue built with a ‘fan first’ philosophy,” he said in 2013.
World-class? Yes. Fan first? Hmmm.
As the first Test match at the new venue approaches, many have been left disgruntled.
Cricket Australia has caused controversy by choosing not to open the top tier of the stadium for the second Test between Australia and India due to poor ticket sales.
Fans are unhappy with the decision, with temperatures forecast to hit 38 degrees on Friday. (ABC News: James Carmody)
It means many cricket fans will be forced to sit in direct sun on the lower levels, in temperatures that will be approaching 40 degrees Celsius.
Peter Wright from the Perth suburb of Carlisle, who has been a cricket fan for 60 years, slammed Cricket Australia’s decision as “ridiculous”.
“I was astounded, we’ve put up with sun exposure at the WACA for years and years and years,” he said.
“I thought at last we’ve got a solution and then suddenly Cricket Australia, who I don’t think paid any money towards us having the stadium, it was mainly a public-funded thing, tell us we can’t sit in the shade in our own stadium.
“I’d just like to know how Cricket Australia has the right to decide this for our populace?”
Paul, a cricket fan from the Perth suburb of Floreat, who did not want to give his last name, agreed.
“For them to decide to stop people being able to get in the shade … on a 38-, 39-degree day is really quite rude,” he said.
“Cricket Australia are on the nose with most people, with the ball tampering sort of kerfuffle, I think they’ve got to bring the cricketing public back into the fold and get them to support cricket and the Australian team.”
‘Profit before public health’: Cancer Council burns CA
The $1.6 billion stadium was paid for by WA taxpayers at a cost of $1,500 per household.
The top tier was designed with cricket in mind — the gaps at the back of the stands were engineered to allow the sea breeze to enter the stadium and provide relief on those scorching days.
And one of the major sells for cricket to move from the WACA Ground to the new stadium was the increased shade and amenity.
There is hope for cricket fans — the decision to close tier five can be changed at short notice.
The $1.6 billion venue was engineered to allow the sea breeze to provide relief to fans. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)
Earlier this year, the NRL opened the top tier at the stadium during its double-header after encountering issues with the seats on the lower level.
The decision to make thousands of shaded seats unavailable has also drawn criticism from the Cancer Council.
“To have a stadium that has well shaded seats, and then to simply withhold access to those seats for some unstated reason, but reasons I am assuming are commercial, it makes us angry, because it seems to be a clear case of profit coming before public health,” said Mark Strickland, manager of Sun Smart in Western Australia.
‘Many of our fans prefer to sit in the sun’
A crowd of 21,000 is expected for day one on Friday.
Cricket Australia has said if that changes it will review the decision to close the stadium’s shaded sections, but in the interim it would put measures in place to help the crowd deal with the heat.
“We offer free sunscreen to all fans attending the stadium and encourage them to be sun smart regularly through in-stadium messaging,” a Cricket Australia spokesman said.
“Many of our fans prefer to sit in the sun and come prepared to do that.
“There are still plenty of seats available for sale on level one and three which will enjoy shade for a majority of the day.”
Cricket Australia has been on a campaign to reconnect with the public following the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, and the subsequent explosive ethics report into the culture of the organisation.
But episodes like this show many fans still have a long way to go before the heat will start to come off Australian cricket.