The game that had many soccer fans in the Berkeley area in a fervor has been moved from its original site, Kabam Field at Memorial Stadium. Instead, the game — which features Manchester United, one of the world’s most popular soccer teams taking on MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes — will now be played at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.
The game, set to take place July 21, was organized and promoted by Relevent Sports and is part of the 2015 Guinness International Champions Cup. Hosting a team of Manchester United’s stature was seen as something that would draw a sellout crowd to Memorial Stadium and bring a solid influx of money to the campus. In 2014, UC Berkeley hosted a similar match, also hosted by Relevent Sports, featuring Real Madrid C.F. against F.C. Internazionale Milano. The match was also played before a sellout crowd and was expected to bring in as much as $1 million in revenue for the campus.
When this year’s match was first announced in May, officials from the campus and Relevent Sports seemed excited about the possibility of a partnership.
“We are thrilled to bring the International Champions Cup back to Berkeley for the second consecutive year, as Cal is a tremendous partner,” said Charlie Stillitano, chair of Relevent Sports, to Cal Athletics at the time.
Now, the game’s relocation away from Memorial Stadium will surely be disappointing for campus officials. The stadium’s capacity to host such events during football’s offseason is seen as one of the pieces that would help pay off the campus’s $321 million in rebuilding and retrofitting costs.
“We are excited to have an opportunity to build on the success of last year’s sold-out match by hosting two world-renowned soccer clubs at the world’s leading public university,” said John Wilton, campus vice chancellor for administration and finance, to Cal Athletics at the time of the announcement. “It will have a positive economic impact on the city of Berkeley and generate revenue to support our athletics programs and core mission of excellence and access in teaching and research.”
Since this preseason tour was announced for Manchester United, the team’s manager, Louis van Gaal, has been fighting to reduce his team’s travel times, according to the Daily Mail. It appears as if this is a sign of his winning this battle, as his team has its base camp in San Jose during its U.S. tour. Van Gaal had previously expressed displeasure with the team’s U.S. tours and the amount of travel it committed the players to enduring. The Daily Mail also reports that he had to be persuaded to agree to a series of matches in the country at all.
“We were informed that the change in venue was made in order to better meet Manchester United’s travel and logistical requirements,” Cal Athletics said in a statement released Monday night.
Given the size of the venue, at least 45,000 fans will no longer be able to see the match live. The match’s move to San Jose means it will be held in a stadium that can hold a maximum of 18,000, compared with the nearly 63,000 that Memorial Stadium can hold. The statement assures those who purchased tickets for the game when it was set to take place in Berkeley that their tickets will be fully refunded within five to seven days.
“In addition, we have been informed by the promoter that those who purchased tickets for the match in Berkeley will be eligible for a special pre-sale opportunity to purchase seats before they go on sale to the general public,” Cal Athletics’ statement said.
Further information about how refunds will be doled out is set to be released later Tuesday.