“The media will respond with ferocity to feed the public’s insatiable desire for anything remotely connected to a well-known sportsman going off the rails,” writes sports columnist TIM GAVEL
WHEN the Raiders won the premiership in 1989 there was a perception that the team had provided the rest of the country a glimpse into the true Canberra.
Before the Raiders there was a feeling among people living outside Canberra that, other than Federal Parliament and the Australian Public Service, there is little else.
The Raiders did their best to change those perceptions, not just once, but three times.
For years there seemed to be a view that the people of Canberra made it their business to make life hard for the rest of the population by putting up taxes and cutting spending. “Canberra” seems to be mistaken as and made a substitute for “the Australian Government” on a regular basis.
The Brumbies did their bit to change the image as well with two premierships. The celebrations and the outpouring of joy with the success of both football teams did more to energise the image of Canberra than millions of dollars in tourism marketing.
It continued this year as the Raiders made their charge towards the finals only to go down in the preliminary final.
The back-page spreads in Sydney newspapers and the endless hours devoted to Canberra on television and radio were solidly focused on the Raiders and the refreshing brand of football they were playing.
It was a style that, in many ways, reflected the way Canberra has changed as a city. I would go as far as to say the Raiders, through their success this year, did more to bridge the gap between Canberra and the rest of Australia than any previous marketing campaign.
People outside the city were not talking about Canberra in reference to decisions made by Federal Parliament; they were speaking with passion about our football team.
That’s why any government money spent on sporting teams, such as the Raiders and the Brumbies, is funding well justified.
Not only do the teams generate tourism with people coming to Canberra spending money on accommodation and the like, but there is the intangible value of putting the city into the minds of those who had not considered visiting before watching the Raiders or the Brumbies on television.
That brings me to my next point, which is the proposed indoor football stadium in Civic, which seems to be on the back burner through lack of funds.
Opponents say the cost is not justified; government money should be spent on hospitals and education.
I have no issue with that, but surely there comes a time when there’s a realisation that our sporting teams actually do more than many other local industries to generate funds and a priceless sense of goodwill and exposure for the city.
If it’s based simply on people coming to Canberra to watch Raiders’ and Brumbies’ games then the argument for funding a new stadium falls short, but if other factors are taken into account the case surely has considerable merit.