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The famous Telstra Dome in Melbourne will carry Etihad's name in a five-year sponsorship deal.
The famous Telstra Dome in Melbourne will carry Etihad's name in a five-year sponsorship deal.

Etihad sponsors Aussie stadium

Melbourne's famous 55,000-capacity Telstra Dome will carry the UAE national airline's name, in a five-year sponsorship deal.

Melbourne's Telstra Dome, one of Australia's most famous sporting venues, is to change its name to Etihad Stadium in March. The 55,000-seat stadium today joined the expanding list of attractions coming under the sponsorship of the UAE's national airline, which will begin direct flights to Melbourne in April. Etihad Airways already flies 11 times a week into Sydney and there are three flights available each week to Brisbane, via Singapore. The company has been spreading its name across the sporting world in recent years, linking itself to the Ferrari racing team, as well as Chelsea football club and Harlequins rugby union club, both with home grounds in London. Etihad is also a big supporter of regional sports with the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, launched in 2006, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, to be staged next year at Yas Island, major beneficiaries. Welcoming the deal, Ian Collins, the chief executive of Melbourne Stadiums, said: "This marks a new and very exciting chapter for the venue. Etihad Airways, like our company, has developed an outstanding international reputation through the delivery of first-class services and we are delighted to have them as a partner. "It might take footy fans a while to get used to saying Etihad Stadium. But not too long. It will soon become part of Melbourne's sporting vernacular." By "footy", Mr Collins meant Australian Rugby League and Aussie Rules football, whose followers are the main Telstra Dome patrons. A week on Sunday they will be gathering once again as Australia and England meet in a key Rugby League World Cup match. Rugby Union is also played there and provided the stadium with its record sporting attendance when some 56,605 people - 1,600 above the official capacity - watched the Australia v British Lions Test match in 2001. The biggest crowd assembled under the retractable roof was when Robbie Williams, the British singer, performed there two years ago. He attracted a sell-out crowd of 66,500. Barbra Streisand and Bruce Springsteen have also performed there. The renamed Etihad Stadium will play an important part in Australia's bid to host the Fifa World Cup in 2018. Also, even though the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is situated nearby, the Telstra has often been used to stage important cricket fixtures. It has also been used to stage major boxing matches. Etihad has secured naming and branding rights for an initial five-year period with an option for a further five years. Company officials refused to disclose the sum involved but sources in Melbourne indicated that it was worth AU$15 million (Dh37m) over the initial five-year term. James Hogan, Etihad's chief executive, who was born in Melbourne, was delighted with the agreement, which is similar to Dubai-based Emirates Airways' deal to link its name with Arsenal's new football stadium in London. "Sport sponsorships form a major part of Etihad's international marketing strategy," he said. "Australia is a hugely important and rapidly growing market for our airline, and this deal provides an excellent opportunity to continue building our global brand and forge close and long-lasting relationships with the Australian travelling public, many of whom we know are huge sports fans." The Telstra Dome, which was opened in 2000, is renowned for its roof, which takes eight minutes to retract, and its colosseum arena structure. It is oval shaped with a maximum sports playing surface of 170 metres by 140 metres. wjohnson@thenational.ae

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