International cricket deals are limited to four years by the ICC’s future tours program, but Barr wants a «four plus four» which would see an existing contract rolled over.
«We’ll probably look at some kind of four plus four arrangement, you don’t want to be consistently in commercial negotiation mode,» Barr told The Canberra Times.
«[Four years] is the extent of what we can practically talk about in terms of identified opportunities in the international arena, but domestically, Big Bash and the like, we can talk even longer term.»
It’s unlikely Test cricket will return to Canberra in the foreseeable future with the next four-year deal coming across four five-Test summers.
Manuka’s best chance in that period is Australia’s one-off Test against Afghanistan in 2020-21, but that fixture looks more likely headed for Hobart.
«We’re aware of the scheduling challenges in relation to Test matches, we really do need six-Test match summers or situation where there might be a Test that is not expected to be highly attended,» Barr said.
«A Test match that might be better suited to Manuka both in commercial terms and atmosphere. It’s clear that cricket fans in Canberra have been starved of top quality international cricket, the fact we only had the Australian team play here for the first time in 2013 gives a sense of how long we’ve gone without.
«Cricket Australia have recognised this region will respond positively to that sort of fixturing. Getting 10,000 — 12,000 fans per day means a full house at Manuka, but that’s barely worth opening the gates at the MCG or Perth.
«Outside that’ we’d be looking at six-Test summers, and it’d be a degree of competition between Canberra and Hobart. We did ourselves a great service by the way we supported the inaugural Test. We’re really on the front foot in that regard, more than 30,000 attending was nearly double the attendance at the last Test played in Tasmania.»
Barr said his government are also working to increase the seating capacity and building more corporate boxes at Manuka Oval to make the venue more commercially viable for hirers.
«One of the things I’m particularly focused on is what further improvements we can make to the venue to make it more commercial for the hirers,» Barr said.
«Part of that is capacity, part is amenity, there’s a commitment now to put more seats under cover, that helps both cricket and AFL but the government’s objective is to ultimately get the venue to a point that it doesn’t require significant ticket subsidies because it is able to return a reasonable commercial return for its hirers.
«That’s been a challenge for Manuka for some time now; it doesn’t have 30 corporate suites in the way Canberra Stadium does. A 12,000 crowd at Manuka and a 12,000 crowd at Canberra Stadium deliver very different commercial returns for hirers.
«We’re looking at what we can do at Manuka to bridge that gap because it’s an expensive gap for taxpayers to fill by way of public subsidy.
«I also intend to meet with the AFL and Cricket Australia and Cricket NSW to seek a co-contribution on the infrastructure side.»
Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times