Ashes Test in Perth to be relocated due to coronavirus restrictions
Cricket Australia (CA) confirmed the fifth and final Ashes Test scheduled to be played in Perth has been relocated due to Western Australia's border restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ashes showdown between Australia and tourists England was set to be staged at Perth's Optus Stadium from January 14-18, however, the state's strict travel restrictions have forced the series finale to be moved.
While CA announced the relocation of the Perth Test on Monday, no new host has been confirmed, with Hobart among the possible locations.
Melbourne – the scene for the Boxing Day Test – and Sydney, which will host the fourth Test, have been floated as possible new host venues for the Test match.
Under Western Australia's current border rules, visitors from New South Wales – where the fourth Test is due to take place from January 5-9 – must complete 14 days quarantine upon arrival.
Talks between CA and the WA state government had seemed to be heading in a positive direction last month, with a potentially shorter and more relaxed quarantine period for players, their families and match and broadcast staff, but the emergence of the Omicron variant has reaffirmed the state's hardline stance on borders.
"While absolutely every effort was made to ensure the final Test match of the series could be staged in Perth, border controls, quarantine requirements and the complexities of staging a five-Test series in a tight schedule have meant it is unfortunately not possible to align the respective priorities of the WA Government, CA and WA Cricket," CA said in a statement.
WA Sport and Recreation Minister Tony Buti had publicly spoken about a proposal to shift the order of the Tests, with Perth replacing the second Test in Adelaide starting December 16 – given borders remain open between WA and Queensland where the first Test will be held – but CA closed the door on that idea.
"These complexities also mean that any suggestion of changing the order of the venues would not be feasible," the statement said. "Discussions about a replacement venue for the fifth Test match are underway."
The decision is a major blow for WA Cricket and Perth, which missed out on a Test match during the last Australian summer following the postponement of a one-off game against Afghanistan.
WA Cricket CEO Christina Matthews said: "We are extremely disappointed for our Members, fans, Commercial Partners and the wider WA cricket community as well as all our staff and players who have been looking forward to and planning for the first ever Ashes to be played at Perth Stadium.
"We've been working closely and constructively with the WA Government and Cricket Australia for many months to bring this fixture to Perth amid the pandemic-related challenges we've faced.
"While this decision is very difficult to accept, the complexity of staging the Test in the face of strict border controls and quarantine requirements has resulted in it not being possible to align the respective priorities of the WA Government, Cricket Australia, and WA Cricket."
The first Ashes Test begins in Brisbane on Wednesday.