Back-to-back National Rugby League (NRL) matches will mark the opening of the new Perth Stadium in Australia next year, despite opposition from Australian Football League (AFL) fans.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will both face off against a yet-to-be confirmed opposition in the double-header event on March 10, 2018.
The two matches will be the first sporting events to take place at the venue and form part of a three-package NRL sponsorship deal, with nib Stadium scheduled to host a Rugby League World Cup double-header on November 12 this year and Perth Stadium to stage game two of the 2019 State of Origin series.
Construction work on Perth Stadium is nearing completion and is expected to be finished early next year.
Australia’s Sport and Recreation Minister, Mick Murray, said: “NRL continues to grow in popularity in Perth and we expect this double-header, in round one of the 2018 NRL premiership season, to be extremely popular.
“The NRL premiership fixture between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors played at nib Stadium in June 2015 was a sell-out match. The crowd of 20,272 still holds the record for sporting event attendance at the venue since its redevelopment.”
However, the news has been met with criticism from AFL Aussie rules football fans, who had hoped that an AFL match would officially open the Aus$1.6bn (€1.1bn/U$1.3bn/£980.1m) stadium next year.
The 2018 AFL season will not start until several weeks after the NRL double-header takes place at Perth Stadium.
According to ABC, Murray said the stadium will be a multi-use venue and not associated to a single sport, so it should not matter what sports event will take place there first.
“Who cares about who opens it, let the people of WA get out there and enjoy it,” Mr Murray said. “It is a stadium for all West Australians, not just one particular sport.”