Watching Peter V’landys answer media questions on the stadiums fiasco, it is clear the ARLC chair is highly skilled at being elusive with interrogators, while appearing candid. But when he says the NRL grand final will likely be played in Sydney to honor an agreement with the NSW Government, he is being selective with the truth.
The real reason the season decider will be played in Sydney, rather than Brisbane, is the ARLC makes more money staging it in Sydney.
Consider the maths. In pre-COVID-19 times, the range for high to low earning grand finals in Sydney was a profit of between $7m and $11m.
This range reflected the support of the two teams in the grand finale. For example, a Storm versus Sea Eagles decider would yield less than the Dragons versus Eels.
Although both are sell outs at Homebush stadium, there would be a large number of free/low-priced tickets to the Storm-Sea Eagles grand final, while almost every ticket in the Dragons-Eels would be an A class ticket, meaning high- priced.
Pre Covid-19, there was also an annual $4m payment from the NSW Government to secure the grand final in Sydney.
From 2019 onwards, the NSW Government stopped paying the fee because of a signed agreement with the ARLC to make a significant spend on new stadiums in Sydney. However, in order to compensate for the loss of the $4m, the NRL financial boffins negotiated a charge to each of the Homebush stadium gold pass members reserving seats. Up to 2018, the NRL received nothing from the 15,000 to 20,000 gold pass holders. Assuming 90 per cent of these seats are occupied at 75 per cent of ticketed face value, it adds $3m to $5m to the profit range. This increases the range of low and high yielding grand finals to $10m -$16m.
It is extremely unlikely the 52,000 seat Suncorp stadium in Brisbane would exceed a profit of $5m to $7m. Therefore, taking the midpoint of the Sydney range ($13m) and the midpoint of the Brisbane range ($6m), the Queensland Government would need to offer minimum support of $7m to win the grand finale. Given that the Queensland Premier Palaszczuk copped flak last year when she outlaid $4.6m to secure the Panthers versus Rabbitohs grand final in Queensland, she may be reluctant to bid. And why would she pay $7m when there is no alternative bidder?