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Sydney to host NRL Grand Final, ‘Super Bowl’ concept mooted for future games

Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) has confirmed that this year’s Grand Final will take place at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, although the long-term future of the event remains up in the air.

Reports in Australia earlier this month had suggested that Brisbane could step in and host the Grand Final 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.

The NRL has confirmed today (Thursday) that Accor Stadium has agreed a one-year deal to host the 2022 Grand Final on October 2. The league said that “further discussions” will take place for matches beyond 2022.

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.

Sydney would have been assured of hosting rights until 2042 if the New South Wales government delivered on its promise to redevelop Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval, Penrith Stadium and Shark Park. Reports have suggested that Peter V’landys, chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, is unhappy that the A$800m (£461m/€546m/$555m) deal could be in doubt. New South Wales Sports Minister Stuart Ayres has said the government has made it clear to the NRL that limitations exist in its budget.

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.

V’landys said today: “We’re pleased that we have been able to confirm a one-year deal with the NSW government for the 2022 Grand Final. The Commission was always keen to ensure a balanced decision which was in the best interests of our fans and other important stakeholders, and we believe we have achieved that. The Commission will always act in the best long-term interests of the game.

“I’d like to thank the NSW government for the additional investment in this year’s Grand Final. It’s important to note that all options remain open from 2023. I’d also like to thank the Queensland government, who stood by us through COVID, partnered with us through the relocation of the 2021 Premiership, including the Grand Final, while also being ongoing hosts of NRL Magic Round.”

V’landys said that Brisbane was close to securing hosting rights for the Grand Final and had been in pole position on Wednesday evening. He also suggested that the Grand Final could move between venues from 2023 onwards.

“It (Sydney’s deal) is not for the long term,” he said, according to The Guardian. “Negotiations will recommence for future Grand Finals. We were hoping we would have an exclusive arrangement with the New South Wales government. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. It opens the door for a Super Bowl-type concept or who can give us the best deal for the game.”

Next month, Sydney’s 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 Allianz Stadium had been due to form part of a wider infrastructure project that also included a major redevelopment project for Accor Stadium.

Plans for the Accor Stadium 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.

Image: MasterMind5991/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size