Fifth Ashes Test moved from Perth over Western Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions

The fifth and final men’s Ashes Test will not be played in Perth after Cricket Australia (CA) decided to move the match due to Western Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Australia and England were hoping the West Australian government would give exemptions for players and staff to avoid lengthy quarantines, but they faced a 14-day stint on arriving in Perth.

The final match in the series, which is due to begin on January 14, will now be held at a new venue yet to be announced.

The MCG — which will host the third Test of the series — and Hobart’s Bellerive Oval are considered the frontrunners to stage the match, although the SCG and Canberra’s Manuka Oval are understood to also be in contention.

CA released a statement on Monday afternoon confirming the decision to move the fifth Test away from Perth.

It said “absolutely every effort” had been made to ensure the Test could be played at Perth Stadium.

But CA said it was “not possible to align the respective priorities” of CA, WA Cricket and the state government.

“These complexities also mean that any suggestion of changing the order of the venues would not be feasible,” the statement read.

CA chief executive Nick Hockley said he appreciated the efforts of the West Australian government and WA Cricket.

“We are very disappointed that we are unable to stage the fifth men’s Ashes Test at Perth Stadium,” he said in CA’s statement.

“We did everything we could in partnership with the WA government and WA Cricket to make it work under the current border and health arrangements, but unfortunately this was not possible.

“We are particularly disappointed for Western Australian cricket fans who were so looking forward to seeing the first ever Ashes Test at the new stadium.”

‘No-one’s fault’

Perth has not staged a men’s Test since 2019. Last year’s fixture between Australia and Afghanistan was postponed because of COVID-19.

WA Cricket chief executive Christina Matthews said her organisation was disappointed to have missed out on staging the Ashes Test.

“With everybody [states] opening up, we held out a bit of hope that there’d be some concessions more than we’ve been able to get,” she said.

She argued the West Australian government and CA “both could have done things differently along the way”.

“For their own reasons, they couldn’t,” she said.

Two Australian male batters walk off the field in Perth after batting against New Zealand.
Perth has not hosted a men’s Test since 2019.(Getty: Cameron Spencer)

CA claimed “pandemic-related restrictions” were behind its decision, but Matthews said this related less to West Australia’s situation and more to how different states and organisations were handling COVID-19.

“Everybody has their own way of doing it,” she said.

“Would we like it to be different? Absolutely. Would we like to have a road map now to know what we’re doing? Absolutely, but it’s no-one’s fault.

“If the penalty for living a free life — virtually for the last two years — is losing a Test match, I don’t think we’ve got a lot to complain about.”

Matthews said the need to accommodate specialist broadcast staff — who operate equipment needed for DRS — had been a factor in the final decision to rule Perth out of hosting the Test.

“They can’t get here any earlier than the players can get here,” she said.

“When they come to do their job, they’ve got to go in and out of the public areas, so there’s things that can’t be kept away from the public.

“That wasn’t known until, let’s say, 10 days ago.

Matthews said the decision could cost WA Cricket up to $5 million, depending on how many Big Bash League (BBL) and one-day International matches Perth is able to host.

Hockley said CA was still hopeful of holding upcoming BBL matches and a men’s ODI against New Zealand in Perth over the summer.

WA government refuses to budge

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan took to social media to express his disappointment about Perth missing out on the Ashes Test.

He said the state government was never going to compromise on its strict quarantine and border rules.

“Health advice and COVID rules need to be followed by everyone,” Mr McGowan wrote on Facebook.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have worked constructively and cooperatively with all sporting codes to ensure major sporting events could take place without putting the public or players at risk.

“It’s an approach that’s been based on our expert health advice, and it’s resulted in some of the biggest and safest spectacles in Australia across the past two years.”

West Australian Sport Minister Tony Buti said he had been hopeful CA would adhere to the protocols the state government had required for the Test to be staged in Perth.

“The safety of Western Australians is the most important responsibility of the West Australian government,” he said.

“We believe Cricket Australia could have worked with us, and they have been working with us for the last two months.”

Before CA confirmed its decision on Monday afternoon, Mr Buti had said the West Australian government had suggested to CA that the second Test could be moved from Adelaide to Perth.

Adelaide Oval is scheduled to stage the day-night Test from December 16-20.

Mr Buti said Perth could have swapped with Adelaide as long as quarantine-free travel from Queensland remained in place.

The Australian and England men's Test cricket captains stand with the Ashes trophy.
The men’s Ashes series begins in Brisbane on Wednesday.(AAP: Jono Searle)

Brisbane is hosting the first Test from Wednesday, but Mr Buti said Perth had shown it could adapt quickly in hosting other sports at short notice.

“We were able to put on the (AFL) Dreamtime game between Richmond and Essendon at very short notice, I think four days’ notice,” he said.

“So there’s no reason why we can’t ensure that Optus (Perth Stadium) is ready for the second Test and Optus has indicated they could hold the second Test at very little notice.”

But the South Australian Cricket Association ruled out any possibility of it agreeing to swapping its Ashes Test with Perth.

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