Former Australian Rugby League boss John Quayle, who is considered one of the country’s sharpest sporting administrators, says diverting the money from ANZ Stadium is not the solution.
“Government committed those funds so Sydney and the state of NSW can compete against all other states and nations for the best quality facilities for events for the next 50 years,” Quayle, who is a Venues NSW director, said. “To divert money now in the short-term to help sports that have overspent and not planned for the future would be wrong. They will never get that money back because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Contracts have already been signed with building contractors to start work soon on the new Allianz Stadium at Moore Park.
ANZ Stadium was poised to make an announcement in coming weeks about which construction company will be refurbishing it into a rectangular configuration.
The stadium was supposed to be decommissioned after the final match, between the Bulldogs and Souths on June 27, which is six days after State of Origin II.
If the NRL is eventually suspended, as many people are privately predicting, and the draw is dramatically changed, plans to rip up ANZ Stadium are likely to be delayed.
Where would that leave the NRL, which signed a 25-year deal with NSW government to keep the grand final in Sydney on the proviso Allianz was rebuilt and ANZ was turned into a 70,000-seat rectangular stadium?
Will it continue to aggressively ask the state government for compensation and threaten to take the grand final to Brisbane if there’s another stadium delay?
The leading football codes are rightfully concerned about their short-term viability, wondering how they will keep the lights on let alone where they will be playing, but Quayle believes one eye needs to remain on the future.
“The stadium strategy is not just about the economic benefit from rugby league,” he said. “It’s about what major events, like the Adeles and Taylor Swifts, we can attract ahead of our competitors.”
Doubtless, Quayle would be watching rugby league’s brazen dash-for-cash in recent days with interest. ARLC chairman Peter V’landys has been trying to wriggle out of his request on Sunday morning for financial help from the federal government, claiming in interviews he was “taken out of context”.
Which is curious considering he made it at a media conference on Sunday morning, which was broadcast live across various channels, in which he said he’d be “asking for $500 million and working down”.
Few who watched his performance believed he was thinking about anything other than the NRL clubs and its players.
He has since claimed he was talking about the wider game, about those at grassroots level, which will surely bemuse those at the grassroots level who have been neglected for years as junior and bush clubs wither on the proverbial vine.
People are not idiots. They understand the importance of rugby league — of all sport — to society, especially in smaller communities. To now use those people at the coalface as an emotional bargaining chip to entice money out of Prime Minister Scott Morrison is galling.
Just as galling is the claim by some NRL clubs that they need government assistance to survive.
Are these the same clubs that sack coaches with two years to run on their contract after picking out the wrong man in the first place?
The same clubs that find themselves embroiled in salary cap scandals, and sex scandals, and Mad Monday scandals, all of which smash their bottom lines as sponsors and members run away?
The same clubs that sign lengthy contracts with veteran, injury-plagued players late in their careers?
The same clubs that are asking head office where the money is, after some of them — the Titans, Newcastle, Tigers and Dragons — needed to be rescued from insolvency or need a substantial cash injection to pay the bills?
The same clubs that are propped up by wealthy leagues clubs that record annual profits in the tens of millions of dollars?
To be even discussing out loud the notion of the taxpayer keeping these entities afloat is selfish and wrong.
Perhaps they should heed the words of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who said earlier this week: “Football always seems the most important of the least important things, and today football and football matches really aren’t important at all”.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.