Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop yesterday fired his first shot at the game he once ran, announcing football's major coup just an hour after State of Origin tickets went on sale.
Manchester United, the largest sporting brand on the planet, will be touring Sydney in July and will play at ANZ Stadium on July 20, just three days after what could be the Origin decider on the same patch of turf.
Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and co will demand the headlines when they touch down in Sydney on the eve of rugby league's showcase event for a game against the fan-voted A-League All Stars, a concept Gallop introduced during his time in the NRL. Coincidence? Maybe.
But the wry smile on Gallop's face when Fairfax Media commented on the timing of the announcement suggested it may have been more tactical than coincidental.
He didn't miss the opportunity to let it be known football was invading not only rugby league territory, but rugby union, with the Wallabies to host the British and Irish Lions for the first time in 12 years at ANZ Stadium two weeks earlier.
''I think it's massive to have the most famous football club in the world coming out here,'' Gallop said. ''It's an opportunity for us to launch the All Stars concept, and part of that will be giving fans a say in selection. This is a massive opportunity for football fans to get out and see a big game in Sydney at an important time of the year when it's a pretty busy sporting calendar.''
The NSW State Government has splashed out A$3m to lure Ferguson's side to Sydney and said they expected to recoup that outlay fivefold, suggesting the match will generate some A$15m in revenue.
Tickets for the game between United and the A-League All Stars went on sale today, and given the price of admission for the respective football, rugby league and rugby union games on in July, most people will only be able to afford to attend one. Football is the most affordable of the three codes, with the cheapest adult ticket on sale for A$49.50 and the cheapest family ticket available for A$138.
The cheapest State of Origin
tickets are A$55 for an adult and A$165 for a family, while the cheapest tickets to the rugby union come in at A$95 for adults and A$215 for a family.
The Red Devils' tour, which was revealed by Fairfax Media last week, will be the feature of a bumper month at the Olympic venue.
The Wallabies play the Lions on July 6, the Waratahs host the Reds on July 13, NSW battle the Maroons on July 17 and United line up against the All Stars on July 20.
South Sydney and St George Illawarra go head-to-head two days later, while arch enemies Parramatta and Canterbury close out the month in a Friday night clash on July 26.
ANZ Stadium invested A$3 million on grow lights from the Netherlands last season to help the surface cope with the rigours of winter.
Ensuring the surface is at its best for the most famous club in the world will be a priority, and stadium officials are confident it will be in pristine condition. ''We're mindful of the fact we need a world-class surface for all our major events in 2013,'' ANZ Stadium chief executive Daryl Kerry said. ''We replace between 3000 to 5000 square metres of turf every winter and have 10,000 square metres of turf growing on a farm waiting to be used.''
Gallop was the brains behind the All Stars concept the NRL launched in 2010. While he admitted the FFA had been working on a similar project before he arrived, he is determined to ensure it remains an integral part of the A-League calendar.
''It certainly worked well in my previous role and is something the players really liked being part of,'' he said. ''Having the fans involved in the selection process will add an element as well. This is a good way to launch All-Stars, which should be part of the A-League every season. It's become something that's really exciting all over the world in sporting comps and we want to be part of that.''
At the same time the Sydney sporting public turns to ANZ Stadium to watch United in action on July 20, GWS will do battle against Kevin Sheedy's former club Essendon next door at Skoda Stadium, while the Sydney Roosters take on Cronulla at Allianz Stadium.
- Sydney Morning Herald