Big money on offer to move NRL Grand Final from Sydney

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The NRL can more than double the money it makes from the Sydney grand final and Origin matches if these big games are taken interstate, according to data which demonstrates the value of major sporting events to rival cities.

Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and New Zealand are willing to pay the NRL to move the big games away from Sydney because their economic impact justifies the outlay.

NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley has declared he will not be bullied by NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg, who has said he will shift Sydney’s big games interstate if an incoming Labor government cancels plans for stadium rebuilds.

Daley clearly believes the NRL will continue to stage the grand final at ANZ Stadium because it is unaffected by his freeze on funding of a rebuild of Allianz Stadium at Moore Park. However, two figures demonstrate Greenberg is not making an idle threat.

Firstly, the NRL receives about $4 million from the NSW government to stage the grand final in Sydney. Greenberg’s office has already fielded bids from Queensland, Victoria and New Zealand to take the game to their capitals or country. Their initial offers are around $10m to shift the grand final away from Sydney for the first time.

Secondly, a Sydney grand final generates about $20m economic benefit to the NSW capital while a State of Origin match staged in Melbourne impacts $40m on the Victorian economy. In other words, if a state receives twice as much benefit in hotel, restaurant and transport use, as well as the jobs they create, then the government of that state can afford to pay the sport twice as much to win hosting rights to these big games.

An NRL grand final played at the MCG may not attract as much interest in Victoria as an Origin match but a Queensland government would lodge a high initial bid for the NRL decider, allowing Greenberg to auction the game.

Melbourne prides itself on being the sporting capital of the known universe and is willing to pay for the privilege of the title. Its citizens seem to consider it their civic duty to attend sporting events, particularly those held in the city for the first time. Remember 87,000 at the first Origin match at the MCG in 1994?

A quarter century later, Origin still draws that attendance. Based on recent Victorian data an estimated 30 per cent are interstate and international visitors who specifically travel to the event. This year’s match at the MCG remains the No.1 television program in 2018 with 3.4m plus viewers.

The brand halo effect for a city which also boasts it is the capital of the country’s most attended sport (AFL) is not lost on Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, who ironically is an NRL supporter.

There are also non-pecuniary benefits to a sport. The NRL is committed to expansion and promoting itself as a national code. It has already scheduled Origin matches in Perth and Adelaide, as well as transferring one entire NRL round next season to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Furthermore, it does not have to endure the annual anguish over Sydney’s notoriously fickle market and whether it will fill ANZ Stadium.

An interstate game can sell out in days. The house full sign to next year’s Origin match in Perth’s new stadium is close to going up and the game is six months away. However, the NRL is willing to accept $4m, or less than half what other states will bid, to retain the grand final and one Origin match in Sydney for the next 25 years, provided the NSW government honours a binding memorandum of understanding to proceed with stadium rebuilds.


The code is locked into a deal to stage the NRL grand final at Homebush for 2019 but can then take the best offer.

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