Grow the game by taking the grand final north and south

ANZ-Stadium.jpg

This article was first written for and published by The Roar. 

Last week, the winner of the Sydney stadium stoush was finally announced.

After a heated final month of negotiations the $1.6 billion set aside for stadium redevelopment was finally allocated, with $700 million going to ANZ Stadium for its redevelopment into a rectangular stadium, $350 million allocated to the new stadium at Parramatta, and $450 million allocated for the refurbishment of Allianz Stadium.

The big catch is that the priorities will be the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium and the new stadium at Parramatta.

Only leftover funds will be allocated to the refurbishment of Allianz Stadium, and the amount allocated will likely be much less than $450 million. If I were the head of Allianz Stadium, I would only be thinking about minor touch-ups.

The winner was ANZ Stadium and rugby league, rugby union, rugby sevens and football – essentially, the sports that are played on a rectangular field.

The loser was Moore Park, which at one stage was set to receive most of the funding for a new 55,000-seat stadium at Kippax Lake.

The biggest loser was the AFL. Should the Greater Western Sydney Giants continue to grow into the powerhouse that the AFL dreams about, where will they play when they outgrow Spotless Stadium?

Following allocation of the funding, another issue arose. Where will the NRL grand final be played during the four-year upgrade? Should the game go north to Suncorp Stadium or south to the MCG? Why not play it at the SCG?

Debate is set to continue, with Stadium Australia Group chief executive Daryl Kerry saying, “our view is that what we should do is keep the stadium open under its refurbishment and reduce the capacity at key times.”

But continuing to hold the grand final at ANZ Stadium in the midst of construction would be a foolish move.

The biggest gripe about ANZ Stadium are that it lacks atmosphere. Sometimes this is because the stadium is empty and sometimes this is because the crowd is too far away from the action. The other major complaint is that once fans leave the stadium, the positive energy created by the event quickly disappears, as spectators disband and celebrate at home instead of staying in the precinct and celebrating there.

Both these issues are largely solved by moving the event. So let’s take the opportunity to do so.

Despite the word ‘national’ in the NRL’s name, the reality is that rugby league heartland is NSW and Queensland.

What better way to celebrate the importance of Queensland to the game than by having the grand final at Suncorp Stadium? The 55,000 seat stadium creates an electric atmosphere, which spills out into the streets following the conclusion of an event. The NRL would have no problem selling out the ground for an event as epic as the grand final – particularly if a Queensland team features – and if the atmosphere is anything like State of Origin, fans are guaranteed a spectacular evening.

The other option, the MCG, also has positives – I get goosebumps thinking about 100,000 people at the MCG enjoying the most exciting football code in Australia (despite what Malcolm Turnbull says).

When the event is over, the party will continue. The MCG is in the centre of Melbourne, and this means the celebrations will continue well into the night.

If the success of State of Origin at the MCG is anything to go by, then a grand final would also be a highlight of the state’s sporting calendar.

We need to have confidence in the NRL product. It is good enough that should a NSW team make the grand final in the years the game is relocated, fans will travel – Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys fans did last year, and Melbourne Storm fans have done in the past. There is nothing more special than seeing your team take part in a grand final (other than, of course, seeing your captain lift the trophy at the end of the night!)

We should forget about the SCG. It may evoke nostalgia, which is the appeal for holding ‘heritage’ themed rounds there, but let’s take this opportunity to grow the game and share the grand final experience with fans in other states.

I want to share the grand final experience with as many fans as possible so let’s hold the NRL grand final at Suncorp for two years, and at the MCG for two years.

Then it will be time for the party to return to Sydney to what, I hope, will be one of the southern hemisphere’s premier sporting venues.

Love,

Ladies who League xxx