The Queensland government has launched a bidding process to secure a first-ever naming rights partner for The Gabba, stating that a sponsor is needed to ensure the Brisbane stadium retains its status as an iconic Australian sports venue.

The process has commenced after an independent Stadiums Queensland Taskforce Report in December recommended that a naming rights agreement be sought. The Gabba is the home ground of the Brisbane Lions AFL Aussie rules football team and is also renowned as one of the best cricket wickets in the world.

Both the Brisbane Heat and Queensland Bulls cricket clubs call the Gabba home, and it has also historically served as a stronghold for the Australian Test team. However, its status has been called into question of late after losing its long-held position as the home of the opening Test of the Australian summer. Indeed, The Gabba lost out completely for India’s 2018 tour in favour of newly upgraded venues in Perth and Adelaide.

Commenting on the naming rights process, Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said in a statement: “After 123 years, we are unlocking the opportunity to restore the Gabba to its former glory. Giving this process the green light is the next leap forward to modernising our major sports facilities and the authority that runs them.”

Deputy Premier and Member for South Brisbane Jackie Trad said a key condition of any deal will be that the iconic ‘Gabba’ name be retained. De Brenni said the Gabba continues to attract solid attendances, with 566,896 people visiting the stadium during the last financial year.

“That’s great exposure for any prospective sponsor,” he said. “During that period, Queenslanders loved hosting the Ashes Test, Big Bash and the Lions AFL seasons, and more recently we’ve hosted a Taylor Swift concert, T20 international cricket and a day/night Test, so the content and audience is quite varied and the geographic reach is significant.”

However, De Brenni stressed the importance of a naming rights deal when speaking to the Brisbane Times newspaper. He added: “I think what would really make die-hard cricket fans uncomfortable is if this venue fell into a level of disrepair that didn’t see us win back the first Test of the cricket season, and this sponsorship deal is all about achieving that.

“Quite frankly (the Gabba) costs a lot more to operate and maintain and upkeep than we get through the doors. We weren’t prepared to jack up the ticket prices for families and so the other option was to embark on a search for a naming rights sponsor.”

Nevertheless, the prospect of a historic venue changing its name to accommodate a corporate partner has led to criticism. Indeed, Queensland’s opposition Liberal National Party accused the government of mismanagement over the plan.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander said: “The only reason the government is selling naming rights is because it’s broke. It doesn’t have any money to upgrade the stadiums to the standards that we expect. What we want is the first Test back at the Gabba, and the government doesn’t seem to have a plan to do that.”

Expressions of interest in naming rights for The Gabba close on April 17.

Image: Brisbane Heat