Upgrade on hold
By JACK AMI
PLANS to increase the capacity of the National Football Stadium from 15,000 to 25,000 for Papua New Guinea’s three scheduled Rugby League World Cup matches have been shelved, Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko confirmed this week during a visit by tournament chief executive officer Andrew Hill to Port Moresby.
Tkatchenko advised Hill that the Government, along with Oil Search, the venue’s primary owner, would not be able to complete the structural upgrade to the facility in time for the event.
The World Cup is from Oct 27 to Dec 2, with Port Moresby hosting three games on the Oct 28 (against Wales), Nov 5 (against Ireland) and on Nov 12 (against USA).
Australia and New Zealand are the other co-hosts, with the final to be played at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane on Dec 2.
Tkatchenko admitted that the stadium capacity was too small for a World Cup event but that was the only issue for co-hosts PNG.
“The NFS that you know we first started off with 15,000, and we were hoping to complete the second stage and increase the seating to 25,000 but unfortunately I don’t think it will be ready in time for the Rugby League World Cup,’ Tkatchenko said.
“The design and plans have already gone forward but you’re looking at how Papua New Guineans will embrace what the Government is doing in sports.
“Whether it’s the NFS or the Sir John Guise Stadium, neither of these venues are presently big enough to cater for the interest that a Rugby League World Cup match will generate.
“Eventually we will increase the capacity of these venues for major sporting events and even though the venues will not have increased capacity for the 2017 World Cup, I’m sure it will be an outstanding success,” he said.
“We don’t want to disappoint any of our rugby league fans but at the moment this is where we are.”
Tkatchenko said local organisers were working with the RLWC staff on ways to bring the World Cup experience to the public. “We have to look at ways to get the public involved in the event and setting public parks and social areas to watch games on big screens for those who won’t be able to attend the matches is one alternative.”
Tkatchenko said similar to the Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup last November in the national capital, the aim was to make the event accessible wherever possible for local fans.