Todd Greenberg, chief executive of Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), has warned that its Grand Final will not be played in Sydney after 2019 should the NSW Labor party be elected and follow through on its promise not to provide funding earmarked for the redevelopment of two major stadia in the city.
The 45,000-seat Allianz Stadium is set to be rebuilt, while the 82,000-capacity ANZ Stadium is to undergo major renovation work as part of plans outlined earlier this year by the current NSW government, led by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
The total cost of the plans stands at Aus$1.5bn (£846m/€956m/$1.056bn) but Labor leader Michael Daley said yesterday (Monday) that this money would be set aside for schools and hospitals should his party be elected into government in March.
Allianz Stadium is managed by the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust (SCG Trust), whom Daley urged to oppose the plans. Should Daley replace Berejiklian as Premier, the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the latter’s government and the NRL, which ensures that the NRL Grand Final and State of Origin games remain in Sydney for 25 years, would effectively become void, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
Next year’s Grand Final is scheduled to take place at ANZ Stadium, with the 2020 event to be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground. However, the Herald has reported that the NRL would be forced to move the event to Brisbane or Melbourne in 2020 if the MoU is not upheld.
Greenberg said: “Clearly, if we don’t have the very best stadiums, we will have to look at alternatives. Our expectation is that the Memorandum of Understanding will be acknowledged and executed, which effectively means we will continue to play Grand Finals here and they will continue to build the stadiums around the network.
“It starts next year with Western Sydney, there’s clearly Allianz and Homebush. If that position changes, that forces us to make some changes to our strategy because ultimately we have a duty to both our fans and players who play in the biggest matches of the year to make sure they play them in the very best stadiums.”
On the debate between investing the money in stadia or schools and hospitals, Greenberg added: “I don’t think it’s a choice, I think you can do both. This government will spend Aus$200bn on infrastructure investment (in schools and hospitals) and about Aus$1bn of that is on stadiums.
“If you look at every other city in this country – we’ve played games in the new stadium in Perth, will play in the new stadium in Adelaide, also at the MCG in Melbourne – we want to take our premium games to the very best facilities but unfortunately at this time Sydney is way behind. This infrastructure investment will make sure Sydney leads the way.”
Image: Alex Proimos