Asian Cup boosts Australian football infrastructure

Millions of dollars for improved football pitches, stadiums and facilities around Australia will be among the lasting benefits of hosting the AFC Asian Cup long after the final whistle has blown.

Infrastructure upgrades were announced in Sydney on Wednesday during the legacy program launch and include:

•         Covered team benches for the tournament worth about $400,000 bequeathed to the 10 A-League clubs;

•         Lighting upgrades worth $400,000 at Asian Cup training facilities including Perry Park in Queensland and Canberra's Deakin Stadium and McKellar Park;

•         Turf improvements worth $275,000 at those three venues, as well as at SS Anderson Oval in Melbourne and Wanderers Oval in Newcastle; and

•         A complete pitch upgrade at Newcastle Stadium worth $1.25 million, including a $150,000 contribution from the Asian Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC).

Australia's hosting of Asia's premier football tournament has also attracted government funding for the development of:

•         Ballarat's Eureka Stadium, worth $15 million; and

•         Speers Point Park, the home of Northern NSW football, worth $11.3 million.

The benefits of hosting the Asian Cup will be seen for years to come in classrooms as well as on playing fields, thanks to the Asian Cup education resource.

The free online service is already helping  more than 54,000 primary students at more than 380 schools to learn about Asia. The program will be used by FFA as an ongoing resource after 2015.

It has also produced a football diplomacy forum to coordinate government activities through football, including the international efforts of Tourism Australia and Austrade.

The tournament has also been an important social bridge-builder, with participation in more than 100 Asian-Australian community events and the appointment of more than 200 ambassadors throughout Australia's multicultural communities.

"The benefits of hosting the Asian Cup are a significant part of football's breath-taking ascent in Australian sport, but go far beyond that into the whole Australian community," LOC CEO Michael Brown said.

"They will be felt well into the future at football stadiums, training pitches, in classrooms as well as boardrooms, and at government level.

"They show that hosting this tournament on behalf of Asia's 4.3 billion people is not just about football - it is a massive exercise in nation-building."

Asian Cup Director and Legacy Sub-Committee Chairperson Cheryl Bart said the benefits of hosting the Asian Cup would be evident in Australia long after the final ball is kicked.

“The LOC has had a strong focus on legacy since day one and I am proud of the work that we have done to ensure there would be lasting and meaningful benefits,” Ms Bart said.

The 16 nations to qualify for AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 are Australia as hosts, defending champions Japan, Korea Republic and 2012 AFC Challenge Cup winners DPR Korea, along with Bahrain, China, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Palestine

The 16 finalists will take part in a 23-day festival of football in five cities which the Socceroos will kick off against Kuwait on January 9, 2015, in Melbourne, with the final set for Sydney’s Stadium Australia on January 31, 2015.