Colin Barnett says AFL grand final prove selling naming rights to Perth Stadium was a ‘massive mistake’

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Ben O'SheaThe West Australian
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Colin Barnett during the construction of Perth Stadium in 2016.
Camera IconColin Barnett during the construction of Perth Stadium in 2016. Credit: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

Former Premier Colin Barnett says the AFL’s decision this week to award the grand final to Optus Stadium, a venue his government built, proves why it was a “massive mistake” for the McGowan Government to sell the naming rights to Perth’s glittering palace of footy.

In 2011, then-Premier Barnett confirmed a new 60,000-seat stadium was to be built on a section of the Burswood Park golf course, next to the the river and bordering the Crown Perth property.

Mr Barnett went to the 2017 State Election promising to keep Perth Stadium as the name of the venue, which was unfinished at the time, but lost in a landslide to Labor.

The incoming McGowan Government said the State’s dire economic situation meant it had no choice but to sell the naming rights to the Singaporean-owned telco.

Colin Barnett with a model of Perth Stadium in 2014.
Camera IconColin Barnett with a model of Perth Stadium in 2014. Credit: Bill Hatto/WA News

“The reality is the financial situation we face means we have to make these sorts of tough decisions,” Premier McGowan said at the time.

Four years on, with the State enjoying a multi-billion-dollar surplus, while simultaneously struggling to increase awareness around its tourism offerings, the former Premier thinks selling the stadium name for a quick buck was short-sighted.

“I think that was a massive mistake, the name of the stadium was always Perth Stadium, right from inception through design and construction,” Mr Barnett told The West Live.

“And the McGowan Government changed it to Optus Stadium, sold off the naming rights for a fairly small amount of money, and therefore we’ve lost all of that international promotion.”

The former Premier said he always “thought eventually” the AFL would give WA a grand final, and he was confident the venue would do the State proud.

While Premier McGowan invited his predecessor to the ribbon cutting when Optus Stadium officially opened in 2018, Mr Barnett isn’t expecting an invite to see one of WA’s greatest sporting moments in the stadium he built.

“Everyone would probably would like to go, I doubt that I’ll go, but I think it’ll be just a fantastic event, and everyone who gets a seat, good luck to them, they’ll enjoy it,” he said.

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