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Saints lock in five-year NZ deal

Jennifer Phelan  October 5, 2013 10:35 PM

Westpac announcementlarge.jpg

Michael Nettlefold, Celia Wade-Brown, John Morrison and Tony Woods

AUSTRALIAN Rules will be showcased on Anzac Day in Wellington for the next five years after St Kilda sealed a deal that locks the club into the fixture until 2018.
 
Just over five months after the Saints and Sydney Swans made history by playing the first game for premiership points on international soil, the club's agreement with the Wellington City Council has been extended.
 
There had been suggestion the Saints would move to play two games a season in Wellington following the commercial success of their April 25 game this year.
 
But instead, they've secured the marquee timeslot on Anzac Day that worked well this season when televised live into Australia at the conclusion of the Collingwood-Essendon clash at the MCG for a longer term.
 
Outgoing St Kilda CEO Michael Nettlefold recently visited Wellington to finalise the arrangement.
 
He said it was an important step in the club's venture into the New Zealand market.
 
"To have locked in this game at such a significant venue on such an important day on the Australian and New Zealand calendar shows the commitment St Kilda has to building a presence in New Zealand," Nettlefold said.
 
"Making the deal even more momentous is the fact that 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing that stands as the most significant moment in the military histories of both countries."
 
It is yet to be confirmed who will play against the Saints in the yearly fixture.
 
It is believed there are logistical challenges with the opposing club being from Victoria, given the number of flights between Melbourne and Wellington.
 
It is expected the opposing club will be from the east coast, leaving the Swans, Greater Western Sydney, the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast in the main frame.
 
The clash with the Swans this year attracted a crowd of 22,183, with every hotel in the Wellington area at capacity over Anzac Day.
 
There was also an estimated $8.5 million tourism impact on the city throughout the period.
 
The arrangement comes after the Saints were initially set to play at Wellington's Westpac Stadium for at least three years with an option of continuing after 2014.
 
It reaffirms the club's commitment to growing interest in the game in New Zealand, which was emphasised by the signing of Porirua teenager Joe Baker-Thomas as a scholarship holder in April.
 
Commercial terms to the arrangement can be adjusted by either party at the end of 2015, which comes after the centennial anniversary of Anzac Day that will be commemorated in both Australia and New Zealand.
 
"Following the overwhelming success of this year's Anzac Day match in Wellington and the support it received from New Zealand and Australian fans who both attended and watched the game, the AFL welcomes this long-term agreement," AFL international development manager Tony Woods said. 

"Significantly, the five-year deal locks in the centennial anniversary of Anzac Day in 2015, which will be an important milestone in the national calendars of both countries.

"We are grateful for the ongoing support of Wellington City Council and look forward to this agreement providing the basis for the future growth of Australian football in New Zealand."
 
The arrangement has been met favourably by the locals with acting chief executive of the Wellington City Council Derek Fry thrilled the Saints had made the commitment.
 
"We are delighted to be entering into a long-term relationship with St Kilda and the AFL," Fry said.
 
"The inaugural match this year was a success in terms of economic impact and visitation from Australia, and we look forward to the ongoing success and opportunities of an annual Anzac Day event."
 
Twitter: @AFL_JenPhelan