Newcastle in mix to host Socceroos’ Greece international


NEWCASTLE is on the “first level of options” to host a friendly international between the Socceroos and Greece as the NSW government battles Victoria for the right to host a two-game tour in early June.

The game would be played at Hunter Stadium, most likely on Tuesday, June 7, after a match in Sydney three days earlier.

The games were originally set down for Sydney’s ANZ Stadium and Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, but Football Federation Australia has struggled to agree on a funding deal with the Victorian government.

A source told the Herald that Newcastle’s proximity to Sydney and its successful hosting of Asian Cup games last year gave the Hunter the inside running to secure the second game if NSW wins the rights to both.

The source said other cities had shown some late interest but Newcastle remained a viable option.

Bicci Henderson, the general manager of Hunter Venues, which controls the stadium, confirmed Newcastle was in the mix to host the Greeks.

“I think it would work really well,” Henderson said on Sunday.

“I’m not sure how far down the track they are, but if they are looking at doing it regionally in NSW, then we are the only option.

“There’s rumours going around and there’s a chance for it to come to Newcastle, but there’s competition from Melbourne and maybe Perth.”

It is understood government body Destination NSW is aggressively pursuing sporting events to promote the state’s tourist attractions overseas.

Newcastle and Sydney hosted last year’s Asian Cup semi-finals, but Melbourne has not hosted a Socceroos match for more than a year.

It is not scheduled for any games in the current round of World Cup qualifying.

Newcastle hosted four games in the Asian Cup, including Australia’s 2-0 win over the United Arab Emirates in the semi-finals.

The Socceroos’ double-header in June will follow an away friendly against England on May 27, the first between the two countries in 13 years.

Greece have not played in Australia since a warm-up game for the 2006 World Cup when the Socceroos won 1-0 in front of 95,103 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Greece did not qualify for Euro 2016 and finished bottom of their group, below the Faroe Islands.

But the Greeks have a huge following in Australia, and especially in Melbourne, due to the large expatriate population.

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