19 Jul 2023

British & Irish Lions set for first visit to Adelaide in 137 years

Adelaide will host one of the most famous sporting teams in the world, when the British & Irish Lions Rugby team arrives for their once-every-12-year tour of Australia in 2025, delivering another boost to the state’s visitor economy.

In a significant coup, the State Government has locked in the most crucial tour game the week before the first Test and it will bring Australian and New Zealand players together on the same team for only the second time in history.

To be played at the Adelaide Oval, this will be a marquee match-up between the Lions and an invitational team of players from Australia and New Zealand on Saturday 12 July 2025 in what is shaping up to be the unofficial “Fourth Test”.

Securing a British & Irish Lions match in Adelaide will deliver an economic boost for South Australia. The last Australian tour by the British and Irish Lions in 2013 saw an estimated 30-40,000 British and Irish supporters come to Australia for the tour, generating an estimated $150 million for the Australian economy.

The historic visit will be the first to Adelaide by the British & Irish Lions in almost 140 years. They first visited Adelaide on their very first tour of Australia in 1888 when they defeated the Port Adelaide Football Club in a game of Australian Rules and smashed an Adelaide XV 28-3 in rugby.

A capacity crowd of 54,000 people is expected at the Adelaide Oval - the same venue where the Lions played in 1888.

Ever since then, Adelaide has been left off the touring itinerary and it has taken more than 12 months of promoting SA’s case to the Lions and Rugby Australia by the Malinauskas Government to score this game which is expected to bring tens of thousands of visitors to SA from overseas and interstate.

The best players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are selected to play for the British and Irish Lions.

They tour Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on rotation every four years while never playing a series at home in the UK or Ireland.

Following this tour, the next opportunity to see the Lions in Australia won’t come until 2037.

The Lions have a keen travelling fanbase and the historic invitational Australia-New Zealand combined team promises to draw fans from interstate and across the Tasman.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the short-term visitor arrivals from the UK increased from 48,300 in May 2013 to 81,400 in June 2013, an increase of more than 68% which they attributed to the British and Irish Lions rugby union tour.

Major events that make a significant contribution to our visitor economy for a reasonable outlay is what we are focused on.

Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Katrine Hildyard said the Lions’ visit to Adelaide will be momentous for Rugby in South Australia, and for South Australia's broader community.

"To have Adelaide as a host city for the Lions – and to welcome the combined Australia-New Zealand team is incredibly exciting – for our community, for our economy and for all of the girls and boys who play rugby who will be inspired by some of the best players in the world," Minister Hildyard said. 

"We can’t wait to welcome thousands of travelling Lions fans to SA to watch their team at our iconic Adelaide Oval go up against the invitational Australia-New Zealand XV.

"As well as enjoying the Rugby, thousands of fans will also be able to enjoy all that South Australia has to offer.

Rugby Australia CEO, Phil Waugh said the British & Irish Lions Tour is one of the great sporting festivals – it is a real landmark of Australian and world sport.

"Rugby Australia is looking forward to welcoming back the Lions for the first time in 12 years – as well as the tens of thousands of Lions fans from the northern hemisphere," Mr Waugh said.

"It is an exciting fixture of matches all around the country with the Lions taking on our Super Rugby franchises, three massive Test matches, and a marquee match in Adelaide featuring a combined invitational Australia-New Zealand side."