Games naming snub angers Vodafone

Austadiums   |  Thursday 18th November 2004

Vodafone has reacted angrily after having its name deliberately removed from the official list of Commonwealth Games venues.

As revealed in The Age yesterday, the mobile phone company's naming rights agreement at Vodafone Arena - believed to be worth more than $1 million a year - was ignored, with the venue instead referred to as "Melbourne Park".

The incident has fuelled speculation that a major Games sponsorship deal with rival phone company Telstra could be imminent.

Vodafone's Victorian and Tasmanian general manager, Edward Goff, said the company was frustrated by the breach of its naming rights agreement, particularly given benefits from Games exposure was a key selling point in the deal.

"During negotiations the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust made representations to the effect that we would be gaining significant benefits out of the Commonwealth Games," he said.

Mr Goff said Vodafone was demanding that the trust solve the problem, despite the fact the reference was made in a statement from the office of Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden.

"We would expect the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust to rectify this and we have sent formal notification for them to do so today," he said.

"The trust are the ones that we've got the agreement with, they are the ones that did the deal for the naming rights so they are the ones that have got to get it fixed.

"We reserve the right to take further action."

Trust chief executive Gareth James said he could only refer inquiries about the incident to Games organisers. "I believe they are the people that made the reference," he said.

A Commonwealth Games Corporation spokeswoman said the organisers were still looking for a phone company sponsor.

Vodafone assumed naming rights to the 10,500-seat stadium, which will host basketball and track cycling during the Games, on July 1, 2000. The naming rights deal expires on June 30, 2007, more than 15 months after the closing ceremony.

Vodafone has sponsorship arrangements with major international sporting brands including the Ferrari formula one team, English soccer giant Manchester United and AFL premiers Port Adelaide.

While Vodafone lamented the naming rights snub, Telstra had no such problems, with the announcement of venues recognising their naming rights to Docklands Stadium - now known as Telstra Dome.

"We would be very happy to work alongside other sponsors," Mr Goff said. "We're a bit frustrated about it all."

Docklands was also announced as the venue for the walking section of the athletics program. Though most events will take place around Vodafone Arena and Olympic Park, the Games will have a presence beyond the city with events scheduled for Lilydale, St Kilda, Port Melbourne and Lysterfield Park.

The Government kept its promise to take events to provincial Victoria, with Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Traralgon all hosting preliminary-round basketball matches. Basketball finals will be held in Melbourne.

Bendigo will also host the entire "Full Bore" category of the shooting. The announcement was timely for Bendigo, with the city to host the Commonwealth Youth Games starting on November 30.

John Cain Arena

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Vodafone has reacted angrily after having its name deliberately removed from the official list of Commonwealth Games venues.
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