Matildas’ Olympic qualifier moved to bigger stadium due to soaring demand for tickets

<span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Soaring demand for Matildas tickets has prompted Football Australia to move a crucial Olympic qualifier in October to a larger stadium as interest in the World Cup semi-finalists shows no sign of abating.

Tony Gustavsson’s side are due to play three matches in Perth as part of the qualifying tournament for the Games in Paris next year. They have been drawn in Group A alongside the Philippines, Iran and Taiwan.

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The ticket allocation for all three match days at the 20,500-capacity HBF Park – which hosted five matches at the recent World Cup – has already been exhausted, prompting FA and the Western Australian government to make the switch for the second day on 29 October.

The Matildas will now line up at the 60-000-capacity Optus Stadium against the Philippines, who caused a stir in July when they won their first ever World Cup match against co-hosts New Zealand. The match forms part of a double-header, with Iran playing Taiwan at the same venue later in the day.

The Matildas’ opening World Cup match against Ireland in July had to be moved from Sydney’s 45,000-seat Allianz Stadium to the 80,000-capacity Accor Stadium at Homebush to accommodate the huge demand for tickets. That, and each subsequent Matildas game at the tournament, sold out.

The FA CEO, James Johnson, said the interest was a testament to the “enormous drawing power” of the Matildas following their history-making fourth-place finish.

“The Matildas are one of the strongest sporting brands in the country and it has become strongly evident that passionate support for this iconic team continues to grow and, for the second time in 12 months, because of the popularity of the CommBank Matildas, we need to relocate to a venue with a higher capacity to accommodate the demand.”

HBF Park is a rectangular venue best suited to football, while Optus Stadium is primarily an AFL and cricket ground, but the premier of Western Australia, Roger Cook, said “on balance” it made sense to move one match day to Optus Stadium, “so that as many fans as possible could see the team”.

Fans who have already bought tickets for the games at HBF Park will be able to swap their tickets for seats in the same category at Optus Stadium at no extra charge.

The Matildas are seeking to qualify for a fifth Olympic Games and better their fourth-place finish in Tokyo. Topping Group A next month would guarantee them a place in the final round of qualifying, before the Olympic tournament gets under way in July 2024.