The National Rugby League (NRL), which operates Australia’s top rugby league competition, has confirmed a long-term deal to keep its Grand Final in Sydney.
The agreement, which will run until 2046, will see the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) host the showpiece game in 2020 and 2021 before the event moves a few yards north to Allianz Stadium in 2022.
The Grand Final will then return to ANZ Stadium in 2023 after an Aus$810m (£441m/€499m/$549m) upgrade, the timeline of which was confirmed last month.
The redevelopment of ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park is part of a major infrastructure project that has proved to be a contentious issue in recent months. While ANZ Stadium is being redeveloped, Allianz Stadium at Moore Park will be demolished and rebuilt by 2022.
Delays in the redevelopment plans had raised the prospect of the match moving away from Sydney for the first time.
Such an eventuality has been quashed after a deal was finalised by NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, even though the league told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper that staging the game at the SCG is “not a great experience”.
The report added that the agreement is worth more than Aus$15m – the most lucrative offer on the table. Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth were also thought to be interested in hosting the occasion.
“By 2023 the game will have three brand new state-of-the-art rugby league venues to ensure the optimum game day experience for our fans while our bottom line will not be impacted by using alternative Grand Final venues during the construction phase,” Greenberg said.
“This deal will benefit rugby league fans everywhere because it ensures we can continue to increase investment in grassroots participation right across the country.”
Greenberg added to the Sydney Morning Herald: “Effectively it’s long-term thinking for our fans. What that means is we’ll have some short-term pain to get through during the next few years, but what the ultimate prize is Aus$2bn of infrastructure development, three brand-new stadiums in Sydney.”
The third venue referenced by Greenberg is Bankwest Stadium, which opened in Western Sydney in April.
Image: Richard Munckton