Sydney ‘at risk’ of losing NRL Grand Final

Sydney could lose hosting rights to the NRL Grand Final amid a dispute over a funding agreement for stadium redevelopment in New South Wales.

With the exception of last year when the match was moved to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions, Sydney has hosted the Grand Final every year since its inception.

The city is scheduled to host this year’s match in October but reports in Australia suggest that Brisbane could step in due to uncertainty surrounding an agreement between the NRL and the New South Wales government over the development of rugby league infrastructure in the state.

Peter V’landys, chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, met with New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet yesterday (Monday) to discuss plans to revamp Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval, Penrith Stadium and Shark Park.

Sydney would be assured of Grand Final hosting rights until 2042 if the state government delivers on its promise to redevelop the grounds. But Australian newspaper the Daily Telegraph has reported that V’landys is unhappy that the A$800m (£454m/€543m/$555m) deal to improve the stadiums is now in doubt.

“We are in delicate negotiations with the NSW government,” V’landys said. “All options will be on the table if these negotiations fail.”

Last month, the state government in New South Wales commenced commercial negotiations for the acquisition of the Penrith Paceway horse-racing venue with a view to building a new stadium for the NRL’s Penrith Panthers.

The Panthers will continue playing at BlueBet Stadium, also known as Penrith Stadium, in 2023 following the announcement. To date, this is the only stadium from the aforementioned four which has had plans drawn up.

Speaking to radio station 2GB, New South Wales Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said: “We have been really clear with the NRL about the limitations that exist on our budget.

“We have invested well in excess of A$1.5bn. Part of that is to say that we would like to have a long-term commitment from the NRL for the Grand Final.

“I think there comes a point where you have got to say we have invested enough in that sporting infrastructure and when we have got the capacity to invest in more sporting infrastructure in the future there is no reason why we won’t do that.”

Next month, the new Allianz Stadium will reopen with a triple-header of sporting events. The 42,500-capacity stadium is being built at a cost of A$828m on the site of the former Allianz Stadium, which was knocked down in 2019.

The rebuilding of Sydney’s Allianz Stadium had been due to form part of a wider infrastructure project that also included a major redevelopment project for the city’s Accor Stadium.

Plans for the Accor Stadium (pictured) revamp were scrapped by the New South Wales government in 2020, with the funds redirected towards job-creating infrastructure projects in a bid to boost the local economy following COVID-19.

Accor Stadium hosted every edition of the NRL Grand Final between 1999 and 2020, before Brisbane stepped in to stage last year’s game due to COVID-19 restrictions in New South Wales.

Image: Tommy Silver on Unsplash