Premier League team to play at stadium

The Forsyth Barr Stadium, where the game will be played. Photo by ODT.
The Forsyth Barr Stadium, where the game will be played. Photo by ODT.
Top-tier English Premier League team Newcastle United will take on Sydney FC in a major football fixture at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The evening clash, which organisers hope will draw a crowd of 15,000 or more, will be staged on July 22.

The exhibition game would be the only South Island fixture in a four-match tournament being held in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland in late July, Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive Terry Davies said.

The Football United Tour had been organised by the Wellington Phoenix club, which would play another premier league team, West Ham, in Auckland on July 23, followed by Newcastle in Wellington on July 26.

West Ham would also play Sydney in Wellington earlier on July 23, to round off the tournament with a double-header.

Full details are expected to be unveiled in Wellington this morning, but Mr Davies has confirmed Dunedin's part in the tournament after being approached by the Otago Daily Times.

News of the clash was welcomed by Football South general manager Bill Chisholm and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, who was ''delighted'' Otago and Southland football fans would have a chance to see EPL players ''in the flesh''.

''This is an opportunity for football fans across Otago and Southland to watch top-quality football in a world-class facility without having to trek a great distance,'' Mr Cull said.

Mr Davies said securing the July 22 clash in Dunedin was a major coup for the stadium and the city.

''You would rarely have the opportunity to see an EPL team from England come down to Dunedin. We've been lucky to grab hold of it.

''Newcastle are a sexy club. They've got a great following, a great supporter base, and they're a very passionate group.''

The match was the first major event secured for the stadium since Mr Davies' appointment, and both sides had guaranteed to bring full squads to Dunedin for the match, he said.

''They will treat it fairly seriously and it will be a great spectacle on our surface and under the roof.''

Newcastle has struggled in recent rounds of the current EPL season, losing its last six matches, but is still ninth on the table, and boasts stars including French internationals Yoan Gouffran and Loic Remy.

Sydney qualified for this year's A-League finals after finishing fifth in the 10-team league, before being knocked out in an extra-time 2-1 loss in an elimination final.

Former Italy and Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero had been expected to travel to Dunedin as part of the Sydney FC squad, but the 39-year-old confirmed on Monday he was leaving after two seasons with the club.

However, the club is set to announce another marquee signing, who will travel to Dunedin, the ODT understands.

Live coverage of the match would be beamed to an audience of about 2.5 million viewers in Europe, as well as fans around New Zealand, providing valuable international exposure for the city, Mr Davies said.

''It's big for us ... It's about promoting the city out to the world, and we're using the product as that vehicle.''

Mr Davies would not divulge details of the financial arrangements yesterday, but confirmed the stadium's 2200 members would enjoy free entry as part of a new push to acknowledge their loyalty to the venue.

Sponsors and the football community would also be offered early-bird tickets from May 10, followed by sales to the general public from May 21, he said.

Mr Davies said he hoped the match would attract ''die-hard football fans'', event-goers and families, which was why Dunedin's ticket prices were cheaper than those for matches in Auckland and Wellington.

''We're trying to make it accessible for everyone.''

It would be ''very important'' to get Dunedin's football community to support the event, and he hoped they would turn out after being ''starved of top-quality football down here''.

''I'm sure there is a big following, and excitment, to see one of the top EPL teams coming to town.''

Mr Chisholm said it was a ''brave and exciting'' fixture to stage in Dunedin, and although it was a mid-week game, he hoped sports fans from Dunedin and further afield would support it.

''It's the sort of thing you have got to try and see what sort of response you get. People say they want more big events.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

They make their choices

Sorry, Stevesone57, I fear you may be disappointed in your hope that  "people go out to watch the Premier League teams when they vist our shores".
Gone too are the days when crowds poured into the streets at the sound of a barrel organ, or throngs thrilled to the sight of morris dancers.

"Players running around in empty stadiums with zero atmosphere. Even the people in the pubs don't seem to watch anymore," you say.
Times and fashions and passions change.  That was then: they do things differently now. 

Hope it works

I do hope people go out to watch the Premier League teams when they vist our shores. I am watching the Auckland v Reds game at Eden Park and the place is empty. Seems unless the All Blacks are playing we can't fill a stadium anywhere in NZ. What has happened to the Super 15? Players running around in empty stadiums with zero atmosphere. Even the people in the pubs don't seem to watch anymore.

Heard of Ellis Island?

Qs, for once I concur with your irony. Fun? I should say not. Overrun by Argentinians, not even playing Tonga Park. Never heard of Ellis Park.

Who cares?

Who cares if there is a New Zealand team playing or not? If so, who cares that they aren't exactly a match for Newcastle.

Seriously people, get your heads out of the sand and just go along and watch it. It will still be a great spectacle, and this is coming from someone who isn't even much of a soccer fan.

I went to the game a while back at the stadium with the Wellington Pheonix or someone playing, and it was actually good fun to watch - I don't remember the score, because I frankly couldn't care less. I went to watch the game, not cheer on my favourite team (I don't actually have a fave team anyway).

These sort of things aren't exactly going to happen every day, so get out there and make the most of the chance while you have it. Stupid not to really... 

Not a winning match

A New Zealand side against a Premier League team that's actually won something in recent times would interest me. As it is I think I'll stay at home.

Football withdrawal

The world cup will have finished the week prior. I might be going into football withdrawal by then, so this game is at a good time. I will be able to see some good quality football in real life, not just on TV.

Whoa! hold on a minute

This must be wrong, it's a rugby stadium, built for rugby! If they want to play Football in Dunedin go down to Ellis Park!

How much will this cost ratepayers?  Outrage! Shocking! Terrible!

Not in my city! There is no room for fun here.  

So, what about KP?

Good question, ntj. I thought we were talking to Katy Perry's people.

A New Zealand side

You really care who it is that they are playing? You might be missing the point.

So...

...how's that Lily Allen concert coming along?

Match should be good

This exhibition match will be quite interesting I think in that it is a different event to what has been on offer to date. Well done to the people that have arranged this. If done right, it shouldn't cost too much either and could make the stadium some money too.

Now all is required is that people actually go . . .

Premier

Shame it's not a New Zealand side playing or I would have been interested. When the back story to this appeared around a month ago from memory it seemed to imply it was the Wellington Phoenix who would be playing the premier league side, sorry to see that's not the case.

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