Suburban NRL Grounds feel the pinch against the Stadium giants
State Government funding snubs suburban grounds making the NRL consider a switch to bigger stadiums, as Tony Salerno reports.
A new report commissioned by Graham Annesley (Minister for Sport) indicates that there will no longer be state funding for the upkeep and maintenance of suburban grounds.
The lack of funding has forced the NRL to consider moving games from suburban grounds to the bigger stadiums, namely ANZ and Allianz Stadiums.
The switch to the two larger stadiums would attract greater crowds through an upgrade in stadium facilities, more parking available and of course more seats for spectators.
“They want to go to a stadium that is secure, where they have a seat, good toilet facilities, great public transport – that’s how we get people coming to our games,” South Sydney CEO Shane Richardson told the Daily Telegraph.
The fact stands that: GREATER ATTENDANCE MEANS MORE MONEY FOR THE NRL.
So, isn’t the switch a simple solution?
A standard adult ticket at ANZ stadium is $25. In comparison, a standard adult ticket at a suburban ground, for example Brookvale Oval, also costs $25.
On face value the price is the same, but add on traffic, public transport and petrol prices; a suburban supporter would be paying a much higher price.
Last year, the Manly Sea Eagles were told by the NRL to move their Week 1 Finals game from Brookvale Oval to Allianz Stadium (formerly the Sydney Football Stadium) to attract a bigger crowd. The NRL’s plan backfired, as the crowd recorded was a dismal 13, 972.
It then became apparent that more fans would have attended had the game remained at Brookvale Oval. The the clear message from the Manly fans was they would not be willing to travel.
“I think if they were to abandon Brookie (Brookvale Oval) it would be a disgrace; think of all the legends that played at this ground and we’d be throwing it away,” Manly Sea Eagles supporter Anthony Fedale said.
“The travel is a big hassle because it is expensive, which is why no one turned up last year,” he said.
The Canterbury Bulldogs have been playing their home games at ANZ stadium since 1999, and the club has committed to continue to play their home games their until at least 2020.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs also call ANZ stadium ‘home’. The West Tigers move four home games a year to Allianz stadium, while the Parramatta Eels move two ‘home’ games to ANZ stadium when facing the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs.
If this trend continues, the future seems bleak for grounds like Brookvale Oval, Campbelltown Stadium, Leichhardt Oval, WIN Jubilee Oval, Parramatta Stadium and Toyota Park. They could follow the direction of the Redfern Oval and Belmore Sports ground, which were abandoned by the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs for the bigger stadiums.
“It’s sad that this heritage is gone, but it is in the best interest of the NRL, at the end of the day it’s a business. I’m sure if they want to support their club, they will be willing to travel,” said Bulldogs fan Joseph Kahawati.
But, what would the game really be losing if they were to disregard suburban grounds?
The Rivalries. The Fortresses. The Tribes. The Heritage.
“It’s what the game is all about. I go down to Campbelltown (Stadium) with my son every time they (Wests Tigers) play there and the atmosphere is just unbelievable. If the game moved to the bigger stadiums permanently that feeling will be lost forever,” Tigers tragic Peter Leonello said.
The Sport Minister’s withdrawal of funds will also have an affect on the Junior Rugby League system.
According to Evan Walsh, President of Balmain PCYC Rugby League Club, this could financially impact local clubs.
“The only effect this will have on us is via a possible increase in field hiring costs. PCYC is a non-profit group, so every dollar counts,” Walsh said.
President of St. George Junior Rugby League Chris Books believes that St George Junior rugby league has not felt the backlash of the fund withdrawal.
“The only potential (effect) may be in applications for the many and varied grants for ground upgrades and development but these are a bit of a lottery at the best of times,” he said.
According to Leichhardt council member Vince Cusumano, the fund withdrawal will considerably restrict both clubs and local councils.
“There is no doubt that if funding is taken away, then the ability of West Tigers and council, should the ground come back to us, to carry out improvements to the ground will be diminished,” he said.
This increase in costs to hire grounds including upgrades and improvements will discourage the NRL to host games at the suburban grounds.