City warned ARC about Beckham risks

By Bernard Orsman

Senior Auckland Regional Council staff were warned about the financial risks of the LA Galaxy-David Beckham soccer match after the Auckland City Council decided against underwriting the event.

In the latest twist to the fiasco that ran up a $1.79 million loss, Auckland City events manager Rachael Dacy says two senior ARC executives were told of four risks that led the city council and the Eden Park Trust Board to pull out of negotiations to stage the match at Eden Park.

A feasibility study had indicated some financial risk at Eden Park, risks with securing a high-profile team to play the Galaxy, resource consent issues around playing the match at night and operational challenges of having the game at Eden Park while its South Stand was being demolished.

Ms Dacy said that at her request the trust board and city gave the ARC pair the feasibility workings and information on why they had decided not to proceed with the event at Eden Park. This was about late March last year.

The Herald sought details of the financial risk under the Official Information Act, but the council has refused to release them.

Last April, the two ARC executives - parks general manager Lance Vervoort and Mt Smart Stadium chief John Lynch - wrote a confidential report to councillors recommending the soccer match opportunity.

The report said Auckland City had pulled out because of issues relating to the redevelopment of Eden Park, but made no mention of its concerns about the financial risk and risk of securing a high-profile opposition team.

ARC chief Peter Winder yesterday said he had a copy of material Auckland City gave to the Herald, but could not "dredge through the detail of who said what to who" because he was looking at a number of employment-related performance matters.

The documents show LA Galaxy's Melbourne-based match agent, Lou Sticca, contacted the Auckland City Council in December 2007 about a NZ-Australia visit to cities different from the previous Sydney-Wellington tour.

Ms Dacy said Auckland was "extremely keen". So too was the trust board. She said it was critical the numbers stacked up.

When the Eden Park and other issues arose, she approached the ARC about holding the game at Mt Smart.

The documents show she continued to play a role in organising the visit - she co-signed an expression of interest with Mr Lynch on April 3 - and secured $80,000 in cash sponsorship and $70,000 in services from Auckland City councillors. The city council's final contribution was $128,000.

On August 29 last year, Mr Vervoort emailed Ms Dacy at 4.44pm to say the contract was signed after five months "and I'm off for a celebratory drink".

She replied: "Awesome, congrats on getting the damn thing signed. I'll even have a drink for you tonight!"

On December 6, just 16,600 people turned up at Mt Smart to watch the game.

Four reasons Auckland City Council and Eden Park Trust Board ditched the Beckham match:

Financial risks.

Risks securing high-profile opposition team.

Problems holding an evening match at Eden Park.

Demolition of South Stand spoiling the spectacle.

- NZ Herald

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