NSW Sports Minister says moving NRL grand final from Sydney would be ‘extraordinary’ move – Michmutters

NSW Sports Minister says moving NRL grand final from Sydney would be ‘extraordinary’ move

NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres says it would be “extraordinary” for the NRL grand final to be moved from Sydney over a row about upgrades to suburban stadiums.

The NSW government’s decision to back out of plans to upgrade several suburban stadiums across Sydney put it at odds with Australian Rugby League Commission (ALRC) chair Peter V’landys.

Mr Ayres attributed the financial impact of the recent flood crisis for the decision not to proceed with funding the agreement.

Mr Ayres, speaking from the rebuilt Sydney Football Stadium on Tuesday, said the government had spent more than $1.5 billion on sporting infrastructure since 2014.

That figure includes the $828 million redevelopment at Moore Park, the $300 million CommBank Stadium at Parramatta and funds for ground upgrades and centers of excellence, he said.

He said projects such as those “massively benefits the NRL”, and he was sure the grand finale would stay in Sydney.

“I think if the NRL walked away from the home of its sport here in NSW, the state that the grand final has always been played in, with the exception of the COVID grand final from last year, that would be an extraordinary move,” Mr Ayres said.

“I’m very confident that the NRL will keep the grand finale here in NSW. They know it’s the right thing to do.”

Stuart Ayres looks to the sky with a grandstand behind him
Sport Minister Stuart Ayres says the government has made big commitments to stadiums in Sydney. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)
A large blue and white grandstand with pristine grass before it
Allianz Stadium has been rebuilt at a cost of $828 million.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Mr V’landys has lobbied the state government to pay for the upgrade of heartland grounds including at Manly, Leichhardt, Cronulla and Penrith.

It is understood Mr V’landys used the threat of moving the NRL’s decider interstate as a bargaining chip during a meeting with the government in April.

Asked when leaving that meeting if the grand finale would stay in Sydney, he said: “At this stage, yes.”

There has only been one year when the premiership was not settled in Sydney — that came in 2021 when the game was moved to Brisbane due to COVID-19 restrictions in NSW.

Mr Ayres today said the government would honor its commitment to build a new stadium in Penrith, his home electorate, as the development also formed part of its three cities plan for Sydney.

“We also know that we’ve always got limitations on what we can do,” he said.

“We are continuing our engagement with the NRL. We want to be able to upgrade suburban infrastructure but we want to be able to do that when the fiscal capacity of the state allows for it.”

The Australian Rugby League chairman speaks at an NRL media conference.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys has pushed for investment in suburban grounds.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

The Minister said the government was facing huge costs associated with the recovery effort from NSW’s devastating floods, which ranged from the state’s north to Sydney.

He said a similar decision was made at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when a planned rebuild of Stadium Australia was shelved.

“We’ll continue to talk with the NRL about what we can afford to do. But we’ve got priorities and we’ve gotta make sure we stick to those,” Mr Ayres said.

“These are the tough decisions governments have to make.

“It just might mean that we have to wait a little bit longer before we can spend additional money on those venues.”


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