Hosting the 2015 Asian Cup offers a “massive and unprecedented” opportunity for Australia, according to football supremo Frank Lowy.
“We want the tournament to open doors for government, business and tourism,” the Football Federation Australia chairman said on Friday.
“It is an outstanding chance to strengthen our ties with Asia,” the billionaire businessman told a conference at his Lowy Institute in Sydney.
“It’s about more than 32 games of football.”
Describing the tournament as the “jewel in the crown” of Asian football, he said: “It’s often hard for people who don’t love football to understand the magnitude of the game across the world.”
The tournament would reach a TV audience of 2.5 billion people, he said.
Asia was home to 80 million people who played the game, a number that would jump to 380 million by 2022.
“These are staggering figures,” said Mr Lowy, who is chairman of the 2015 Asian Cup organising committee.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson told delegates Australian football had just reached “undreamed of heights” with its new $40 million-a-year TV rights deal.
“Football is big business, and it’s a driver of business the world over. It’s also a potent vehicle for world diplomacy,” Mr Emerson said.
“Asia’s rise will continue,” he said.
By 2025 the region would be home to four of the world’s largest 10 economies.
“The Asian Cup is an enormous opportunity to promote Australia’s brand.”
Michael Brown, CEO of the 2015 organising committe, said the event was expected to attract a minmum of 45,000 tourists and 3,500 international media.
“There has never been a better opportunity to showcase Australia to football-mad Asia,” he said.
Many of the 44 Australians playing club football in AFC nations were better known in Asia than in their own country, he said.
He had been told that Chinese-based Joel Griffiths was “as big as Nicole Kidman” in the world’s most populous nation.
Tourism Australia chairman Geoff Dixon said 10 years ago the Asia-Pacific accounted for 40 per cent of Australia’s visitors and traditional markets like the US, UK and Europe 60 per cent.
Those numbers had now been reversed, and China had overtaken the UK as Australia’s second largest tourist market.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that,” he said.
Tourism and Transport Forum chairman Bruce Baird said lessons could be learned from how Sydney and other Olympic host cities had experienced a decline in tourism numbers after staging the Games.