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Parramatta Eels dismiss Western Sydney Stadium deal

NRL rugby league club the Parramatta Eels have dealt a blow to developers of the new Western Sydney Stadium (WSS) by rejecting a deal to play at the venue claiming a proposal represented unacceptable commercial terms.

The Eels were expected to be one of the main tenants of the 30,000-seat stadium, which is due to open in April and has been built on the site of the old Parramatta stadium that was demolished in 2017.

The club has been holding talks with stadium operator VenuesLive, which has been contracted to run the facility by the New South Wales government, for the past six months. However, Eels chief executive Bernie Gurr has today (Tuesday) said the club’s venue for its home games in 2019 will be listed as to be confirmed when the NRL releases its schedule.

Gurr said in a statement: “Our view that the current proposal is unacceptable has been confirmed after an extensive six-month due diligence process conducted by myself and other members of the management team. The due diligence process has included the engagement of a reputable consulting firm. Together we have benchmarked the commercial terms of the current offer against offerings currently being received by NRL and other sports at a range of stadiums across multiple states of Australia.

“The current proposal if accepted would adversely affect the ability of our club to invest in our football department including our NRL team and our junior elite football programs. The current agreement at ANZ (Stadium) has adversely impacted the club financially and we are not prepared to accept a new agreement that will continue to impact the club negatively for the next 25 years.”

In particular, Gurr said the club will “not compromise” on key areas that are important to members and supporters such as affordable food and beverage pricing and options; a clear public transport plan for WSS; and reasonable event costs to ensure affordable pricing for members and casual ticket holders.

Gurr also said the Eels are seeking expanded opportunities for corporate partners to help drive revenue for the club and better technology to enhance the game day experience. He added: “In the interests of arriving at a fair and reasonable deal, we are continuing our discussions with the stadium operator in an attempt to resolve this matter quickly so that our members and supporters have a clear understanding of the WSS schedule for 2019.”

WSS will also host A-League football club Western Sydney Wanderers, while the Eels’ NRL rival, Wests Tigers, have already committed to playing four games at the venue next year. Parramatta has been playing home games at the site since 1947 and NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government would continue talks.

“I’m very confident we will reach a compromise because why would you not want to play at one of the great stadiums that this country is going to have,” he said, according to Australian broadcaster ABC.

“Western Sydney Stadium is going to be the envy of the west (and) is a world-class facility that will have world-class games played there, and I believe Parramatta will be a part of that story.”

Image: Infrastructure NSW