NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg says the game’s crowd numbers in Sydney are aligned to the quality of stadia and is adamant the only way they can go through the roof is with the transformation of ANZ Stadium into a world-class, purpose-built rectangular venue.
Greenberg was stunned last week after being told in a meeting with Premier Gladys Berejiklian that there was no guarantee of a knockdown and rebuild of ANZ as part of the government’s $1.6 billion stadia strategy.
The NRL is opposed to a cheaper alternative, a modification of the Sydney Olympic Park venue, which would bring the lower bowl closer to the field but leave the upper tier as is.
Greenberg’s desire is for a new 70,000-seat stadium on the ANZ site to accompany the 30,000-capacity venue being built at Parramatta and due to open in 2019, with Allianz Stadium to be refurbished as well if possible.
He believes getting the new venue at Olympic Park right is key to significantly increasing crowd numbers. The average attendance throughout the regular season was 15,000, slightly down on 2016 excluding finals but in a similar range to the competition’s crowds since the Olympic stadium was first built.
“If you be fair dinkum, for two decades Sydney crowds have either been one or two per cent either above or below what they currently are now,” Greenberg said at Monday’s finals launch at ANZ.
“The reality is that won’t change until we have a significant change in the stadiums in the city. Parramatta coming online in 2019 will be the biggest shift we’ve seen for crowds in Sydney rugby league for the best part of 20 or 30 years. If we end up having a purpose-built rectangular stadium here at Sydney Olympic Park it will be nothing short of phenomenal for fans in Sydney.
“It’s critical for Sydney because Sydney deserves to have a purpose-built rectangular stadium that is probably world’s best. That’s the design that I’ve seen and that’s the outcome we are absolutely, desperately hoping for.”
Greenberg said the NRL had received “approaches from just about every state and New Zealand” to host grand finals for the two years that ANZ and Allianz stadiums were likely to be out of operation.
And while there has been an expectation that Brisbane could be handed a premiership decider during one of those years – with the SCG having been raised as another option – the grand final is not going anywhere just yet.
“It’s possible but I’ve been at pains to point out in this whole process that when you’re working with NSW government, who are prepared to invest $1.6 billion and potentially more, the one thing you’ve got to do is have some respect for those people first and foremost,” Greenberg said.
NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres, who has pushed for a new 50,000-seat venue at Moore Park as well as a redevelopment at Homebush Bay, said the timeline for work on ANZ and Allianz stadiums would be carefully managed in an effort to avoid having to sacrifice grand finals and other major events such as State of Origin being held in Sydney.
Source & Image: Sydney Morning Herald