NRL must not ditch suburban grounds
Money is once again getting in the way of tradition, as a secret push is on to abandon the suburban ground for bigger stadia.
The reason behind this idea is that the State Government would prefer not to fund redevelopments to suburban grounds.
Furthermore, the two-stadium system works in AFL. Yet what works for one code doesn’t necessarily work for another.
The problem for the NRL is that Sydney does not have the infrastructure of Melbourne.
In Melbourne fans can travel by car, tram, rail, bus or even walk to the big two venues.
In Sydney it is much more complicated getting from A to B.
Manly and Cronulla fans have no benefit leaving their suburban grounds for ANZ or Allianz stadium.
A rail trip from Caringbah can take 45 minutes just to get to Central station. Then you still have to catch a bus or walk to Allianz stadium.
Manly fans don’t even have the luxury of a rail line so their best bet is bus or car.
Canterbury and Souths are two clubs that have taken the financial gain of playing away from their traditional homes. I’m sure if both clubs could afford to, they would move back to Belmore and Redfern respectively.
The passionate fans will travel any distance to support their team but those fringe supporters, the fans who go to one or two games a year will ditch watching a game live for watching it on the big screen at a pub.
The argument on the other side is that the suburban grounds lack the facilities that are needed to host NRL games. This is true but fans and players would much rather be at a near-capacity suburban ground then a less-than-half-empty stadium.
The solution is simple.
The ARLC must invest in the suburban grounds and not merge home grounds.
Can you imagine Tottenham Hotspur sharing a home ground with Arsenal and West Ham United. How about Chelsea, Fulham and QPR sharing Wembley?
It would not happen and the fans would never let it happen.
Sydney fans share the same tribalism as London.
If you live in Dee Why it is most likely you support Manly. If you live in Gloucester Park you support Chelsea. If you live in Petersham you probably support the Tigers.
You don’t have to live local to support a team, but home districts are still significant.
Ninety percent of club memberships come from the local area so it is important for clubs to keep some identity.
The big stadiums should only be used for big events such as State of Origin, test matches and the finals, the same way Wembley is used in the UK.
This would make a game at ANZ Stadium a special occasion for fans and players and would become a great tradition just like home games.