Optus Stadium naming rights a potential election issue
Optus Stadium may have its commercial naming rights deal cancelled if the Liberal government wins next month’s Western Australian state election.
During construction of the 60,000-capacity stadium in 2015, then state Premier Colin Barnett rejected plans to sell the venue’s naming rights, saying “having the name of the host city within the name of that city’s most significant big sports grounds is common practice around the world.”
"Think of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Adelaide Oval and the Singapore Sports Hub as very well-known examples."
However, when Labor won the 2017 state election, new Premier Mark McGowan allowed a naming rights sponsor to be secured as part of moves to pay down state debt by getting a sponsor.
Telecommunications giant Optus signed a 10-year naming rights deal with the Western Australian Government’s Venues West agency in 2017 for an estimated $50 million.
Despite the commercial name, international cricket matches played at Optus Stadium currently refer to the venue as Perth Stadium due to Cricket Australia's contractual obligations with its own commercial partners.
Campaigning for March’s state election, Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup claimed changing the name to Perth Stadium would lead to job creation, telling WAToday “what we need to do here is make sure we have every opportunity to draw more events here ... and promote our city here.”
“We’d negotiate with Optus about what that looks like, but we’ll get it done.”
In response, Premier McGowan said the Liberal Party was just giving away “scores of millions of dollars” of revenue to the state for no reason.
“We had a tourism industry that was going absolutely gangbusters (prior to Covid) and that was because of all the measures we put in place to promote tourism. All they (the Liberals) have done is a bit of a stunt” McGowan said.
“We took the policy to do this to sell the naming rights ... to the last election because it’s basically, the taxpayers get money for nothing.”
Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said he would like to see the facility renamed Perth Stadium but not at the cost of the taxpayer, saying “I think we’re missing out on a golden opportunity for additional promotion.”
“Having said that, I understand the state government came into power and were advocating prudent financial management and were conscious of a debt they wanted to manage.”
“I’m not sure I would advocate for the current arrangement to be torn up if that then costs the state five years’ worth of the existing sponsorship and we have to pay that money out effectively for nothing.”
The Liberals renaming announcement was part of the party’s sport plan which includes $36.4 million of commitments and a matching of $130 million promised in the portfolio by Labor.
The Liberal party has also committed $20 million for the redevelopment of the State Tennis Centre at Burswood.
The current Western Australian Government also sold the naming rights for Perth Arena in 2018 to insurance company RAC, with the indoor venue now known as RAC Arena, while it also brokered a new naming rights deal for Perth’s premier rectangular stadium, HBF Park, in 2019.