NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has weighed in on the ongoing stadium debate as a decision on this year’s grand finals is still up in the air.
After an angry Peter V’landys targeted the NSW government for a backflip during suburban ground improvements last week, there is now a chance the season decider could travel to Brisbane for a second straight season.
Dominic Perrottet and his government instead want to put money into flood relief, despite originally agreeing to a multimillion-dollar modernization of Shark Park, Brookvale Oval and Leichhardt Oval.
Speaking of 100% footy On Monday night, Abdo said a decision on the grand finals was nearing completion.
“We’re working as hard as we can and trying to look for innovative ways that we can try to create a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.
“We’re running out of time – our fans are very excited and very keen to get their tickets.
“We totally understand that, so we work as quickly and respectfully as possible.
“We have a good dialogue with the NSW Government.”
The home grounds of the Sharks, Sea Eagles and Tigers are in dire need of upgraded facilities as dozens of games are played each season.
To make matters worse, a collapsed fence at Leichhardt during a high school rugby union fight over the weekend painted a clear picture of a floor in need of some changes.
Recent drama surrounding funding has also fueled the stadium vs. suburb debate.
With a brand new 42,500 seater Allianz stadium due to open in the coming weeks and a new stadium in Penrith in the works, the question is whether the smaller site will be used in the long term.
But the NRL boss insists suburban grounds, such as those previously mentioned or the likes of the Kogarah Oval and Campbelltown Stadium, still play a role in rugby league.
“If you look around the world, stadiums are actually getting smaller – even the big stadiums are getting smaller because it’s less about the quantity and more about the actual experience,” Abdo said.
“Sydney is a city of villages and we’re very tribal – obviously having a local stronghold as a commons is very attractive for a team. But also, when you go to a major event, whether it’s a grand finale or a state of origin or a concert, you’re engaging with the senses that come with it all.
“You need both, is the answer – every major city in the world wants to attract major events and for that they need stadiums.
“The vision is that we want a great center of excellence for every single club, men’s and women’s teams. Then we want a big fortress, a home stadium that plays 80-90 percent of their games.
“Ultimately it is a club decision. We have nine clubs in Sydney and each has its own strategy.
“Every single club, and we work with all of them, come out where they want to play 80 per cent of their home games, so you get into a situation where you have to be a member or you’re going to miss out.
“Whether you’re in Brookvale or a big stadium, you can feel the intensity of a packed audience.”