The New South Wales stadium policy is madness

Mark Campbell Roar Guru

172 Have your say

    Build it and they will come. The New South Wales government thinks this to be true – so much, in fact, that they are spending a minimum of $2.3 billion of public money in achieving their aim.

    The NSW government feel that having three elite stadiums – Homebush, Parramatta and the Sydney Football Stadium – will enhance the economy of the state. However, even blind Freddy can see this is foolish.

    Before you howl in protest and scream that rugby league needs purpose-built stadiums, know that I do not disagree with you. Having purpose-built stadiums that can be home to three major sports makes sense. I am, like you, tired of seeing AFL ovals pop up around New South Wales and Queensland with no-one playing on them.

    I am just saying the locations, the size of the stadiums and at that cost is wrong.

    Think of it like this: the government is knocking down the Stadium Australia at Homebush, which is only 20 years into its lifecycle, and replacing it with one of almost equal capacity. At the same time, they are knocking down the SFS in the eastern suburbs that rarely, if ever, sells out and replacing it with a stadium of equal size.

    Further to this, Parramatta Stadium is also under construction and will hold 30,000 people, but this venue is within half an hour of Homebush. All of this will cost at least $2.3 billion.

    The NSW government thinking is entirely wrong. The SFS does not need to be a 45,000-seat stadium. When was the last time it sold out? Even if we take into account population growth, a 30,000-seat stadium at most is all that is required here.

    NRL Finals empty seats

    (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    To have an elite stadium in the heart of Sydney makes sense and reconfiguring Stadium Australia to make it a genuine rectangular field is a good idea, but why spend $200 to $300 million on a 30,000-seat stadium half an hour away? Wouldn’t it just make sense to have that team play out of the Stadium Australia?

    Maybe I am just blinded by the waste of money.

    Don’t get me wrong – the new Parramatta Stadium will be a great place to watch footy, be it football, rugby league or rugby union. Maybe the smaller stadiums are what Sydney should be going for. A stadium of roughly 25,000 seats in the east, the south, the far west and on the northern beaches along with the Stadium Australia may have been money better spent.

    Another way to go could have been to spend the money on rectangular grounds all over country New South Wales. This option would at least provide more people with quality playing surfaces to play their junior and senior rugby league, rugby union or football.

    Naturally, I could list all the social services, transport and community bodies that are crying out for money as well, but that list would be too long for this post.

    All I am trying to say is that $2.3 billion could have been better spent, and despite this deal providing rugby league fans with world-class stadiums, we should call this spending decision for what it truly is: madness.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (172)

    • November 28th 2017 @ 6:30am
      Womblat said | November 28th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

      Well $120 million thrown away on the world’s most expensive opinion survey we already knew the answer to could have been spent better too. We have a Federal Government who couldn’t care less about the responsible spending of taxpayer dollars so why would the State Government?

      But $2.3 billion is staggering. That’s 20 times the SSM waste and for what, a single stadium with a competing venue 30 minutes away in one state?

      I know this is a sports site and I love my footy but when the hell are our overpaid, irresponsible, arrogant governments actually going to see the damage they are doing to the masses who actually elected them?

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 8:53am
        spruce moose said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        Maybe when the masses stop electing them.

        I feel your pain though.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:34am
        bazza said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Actually that’s for 3 stadiums

      • November 28th 2017 @ 12:44pm
        Griffo said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        I don’t think it’s fair to compare the cost to the SSM survey. Building physical infrastructure is much more costly than undertaking a postal survey. Also as Bazza said it is for 3 stadiums. The fact that their spending money upgrading stadiums I don’t think is a bad thing but I suppose the question is whether they need to do all of it and have all of that spending in a short period of time. Having said that, it may be more cost effective doing it that way.

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 1:30pm
        Cadfael said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

        Well, they have run into a political problem. It appears the monies for the building come from a sale BUT a third of monies raised this way are to be spent in regional.rural NSW.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:20pm
        Kangajets said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:20pm | ! Report

        Why not spend the money on hospitals and welfare and give me a pay rise . Nsw govt out

    • Roar Rookie

      November 28th 2017 @ 7:21am
      Hard Yards said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Look at Suncorp in Brizvegas. Does the job. Capacity of about 53,000. Sells out; atmosphere is great. Robina where the Titans play is a great stadium. The problem is the locals don’t show up – but if they did, it would be perfect.

      You know, stadiums shouldn’t be built on the basis of how many people could fit in if there was a real big event and a lot of people wanted to come. They should aim for a capacity that sells out when there is a median demand, or maybe just above it. Sometimes some people will miss out on attending, but that does ensure best bang for the buck. Then, in principle, it doesn’t matter if you have one at each of Homebush, Moore Park and Parramatta.The question is whether they are selling out. The other thing to consider is whether the stadium is hosting the maximum events it can carry. Not much point in having one used one day every two weeks in a window of 8 months out of a 12 month year.

      There is an an argument in principle for upgrading regional grounds. Depends on frequency of use and whether people show up regardless of whether they pay to show up or not. Look at the new Townsville stadium plans. Probably overkill to host the Cowboys, but if (and I don’t know) other people in the community up there get to use it regularly, then it’s good for the community. Free housing is probably better than a football stadium for a section of the community. In my book it is. But maybe the decisions are made on a utilitarian principle of what is the maximum good for the greater number of people. How do you make that decision? Government is like the parents with 12 kids. Doesn’t matter how much money they have, there is never enough to go around.

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 8:52am
        spruce moose said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        “But maybe the decisions are made on a utilitarian principle of what is the maximum good for the greater number of people. How do you make that decision? Government is like the parents with 12 kids. Doesn’t matter how much money they have, there is never enough to go around.”

        Or, the government is like “What does Alan Jones want? What will Alan Jones do if we don’t get what we want? Why are we STILL SCARED of Alan Jones when it’s proven he DOES NOT have any influence over the results of elections?”

        • November 28th 2017 @ 12:37pm
          Peter Phelps said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

          Its more likely to be made looking at potential audiences and stadium capacities in competing cities. Remember that Sydney wants to retain the GF at any cost plus at least 1 preferably 2 Origins. These games sell out. Suncorp with 53000 sells out, the ‘G’ in Melbourne almost sold out with 95,000 in attendance. This is what the NSW government is looking at. If it doesn’t build a big shiny new stadium then how long before we get another Dave Smith in NRL headquarters looking at potential money in the bank and asking why have we picked Sydney again ?

          • Roar Guru

            November 28th 2017 @ 1:24pm
            spruce moose said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

            Yes, all true – but Allianz doesn’t sell out. If you have two stadiums, all marquee events go to the bigger stadium, which means Allianz will continue to be a graveyard.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 9:24am
        Adam said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        how often does it actually sell out? Also with one team in Brisbane, the fact it doesn’t sell out pretty much every home game is disappointing

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 11:10am
          Nat said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          Do you go to games or just add dumb comments?

          • November 28th 2017 @ 11:20am
            Christo the Daddyo said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            How is that comment dumb? As far as I can tell, it’s spot on. Feel free to refute it if you have evidence though?

            • Roar Guru

              November 28th 2017 @ 1:35pm
              Nat said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

              Relevance to the topic being obscured by opinion based on dumb logic. HY didn’t say it sells out every week. His point is, it is a quality stadium with good facilities and transport options. Not everyone is Brisbane is a Bronco fan but those who wish to attend do come from far further afield, generally at a far higher cost, then what the 3 stadiums will offer Sydney when competed. The fact Brisbane has the best – everything – in the NRL is still disappointing to Adam because on ave 35,000 of 52500 people show up every Friday night.

              • November 28th 2017 @ 9:11pm
                Adam Bagnall said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

                Look at Suncorp in Brizvegas. Does the job. Capacity of about 53,000. Sells out; very first paragraph. Implying it sells out which may happen only once a season for Origin not like it happens regularly.

              • Roar Guru

                November 29th 2017 @ 9:52am
                Nat said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

                Sells out quite often outside of Origin. Cowboys games, dbl headers and most big matches comes close. THEN we have the Union and Soccer finals and internationals. Concerts, Boxing… Govts don’t build stadiums for one single purpose. So yes, the first line was correct. You just assumed he meant for every single occasion which is ridiculous.

          • November 28th 2017 @ 1:25pm
            Adam said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

            I go to games fairly regularly actually, not that is a pre-requisite for commenting. My point was, that with Brisbane’s population of over 2 million, and with one fairly successful team, they should be selling out a 50,000 seat stadium every home game

        • November 28th 2017 @ 11:13am
          Oingo Boingo said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

          If the politicians making these decisions could come up with a formula to “sell out” these stadiums as easily as they themselves do , all three would have a capacity of 100,000.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 9:30am
        Larry1950 said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        Great observation HY, is it really just the NSW government caving in to NRL pressure to stop a grand final going to Suncorp just once that is the agenda here. If so, Qld has won the financial battle with nsw wasting $2b to hold something they deserve anyway. Glad our lot aren’t getting in that war, the ACB is already trying the same blackmail with the Gabba test.
        Tourism dollars are welcome but how much do you spend to get people to visit for just one event, money better spent on the Great Barrier Reef.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 10:35am
          not so super said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          only 1 stadium is needed for a GF, not the 3 being built.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 2:22pm
          marcel said | November 28th 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

 suggest its not the NRL, rather the political influence of the SCG trust that is at work here.

          Little is being said about the fact last time around..Futbol,League and Rugby all made public statements in opposition to a new stadium at Moore park….seems they have been persuaded otherwise.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:17am
        Perry Bridge said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        I know this article is on the RL tab – however it’s a generic issue. With your reference to Brizvegas – you have not mentioned the Gabba (AFL/cricket) and Metricon (AFL/Commonwealth Games).

        The oval stadia serve a purpose and function that the rectangular stadia can’t. What we haven’t perfected is the multipurpose reconfigurable stadium – Etihad perhaps the closest. Stadium Australia could never get their turf right which for an open air venue I find astounding.

        A lot of money reconfiguring Stadium Aust to permanent rectangular will be good for the what? 1 SoO and the GF each year – the rest of the time??? I’m still to be sold of that as a good spend (due to the limiting nature of it).

        I still find it astounding though that come Boxing Day the MCG will be carrying over 90,000 while day 1 at the SCG and the capacity of the ground caps it at about half of the MCG (and that’s only because the MCG is a reduced number for test cricket compared to the smidge of 100k footy capacity).

        So me – Sydney and sports and stadiums really is hard to figure.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 10:46am
          RandyM said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          RL isn’t that only sport that will use the rectangular configuration of ANZ. Wallabies, Socceroos, Exhibition games from European football.

          • November 28th 2017 @ 2:13pm
            Perry Bridge said | November 28th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report


            I’m not suggesting RL is the only sport that will use the rectangular config – however – it’s the only regular scheduled matches. Wallabies perhaps there might be an All-Blacks game scheduled each year? the others are very much ad-hoc.

            It just seems to me to be a backward limiting step – whereas getting the venue working correctly as a multi purpose venue might have been better – but, certainly, the folk in the upper sections will feel a long way from the action and the tele in the lounge at home is so much more convenient.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:19am
        paul said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Your BrisVegas example only holds water while Brisbane remains a one town team. Once the Broncos get competition from another NRL side, which has to happen sooner rather than later, Suncorp will be half full, the same as the grounds in Sydney

        • November 28th 2017 @ 10:30am
          Birdy said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

          Wrong paul.
          2 teams in brisbane would mean 70% plus full every week.

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 11:10am
          Wayne Lovell said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          Geez I laugh when people try to sprout this rubbish

        • November 28th 2017 @ 7:34pm
          Slane said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

          Must be why the Crows, Port, Eagles and Dockers play in front of such small crowds….

    • November 28th 2017 @ 7:55am
      Christo the Daddyo said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      Yep, agree it is an astonishingly inept use of taxpayer money.
      I’m all for rebuilding Allianz, but based on usage it really needs to be about half its current capacity.
      And knocking ANZ down for something the same capacity but a little bit better is just madness.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 12:50pm
        Peter Phelps said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

        Thing is Christo, week in week out gates don’t really matter. They just pay the rent. Tourist dollars are minimal as only a handful of fans travel interstate and don’t hang around if they do come.

        Origins sell out, huge numbers of fans travel and stay in hotels at inflated room prices but stay just 1 day.

        Internationals numbers might not sell out but they have huge numbers of visiting fans staying in expensive hotels, eating in expensive restaurants, drinking in pubs 7 days a week while they wait for the next competition round. Something like the World Cup brings in massive tourist dollars over 6 weeks that it runs.

        This is what every city fights for and NSW can see more and more of these dollars going to Brisbane and Melbourne. $2.5 billion is a big number but is soon raked back from these comps. So you have to stop thinking NRL gates and think about the big comps.

        That said, I am skeptical that NSW has got it right.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 3:42pm
          Christo the Daddyo said | November 28th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

          I can’t see Australia ever being awarded a football World Cup, and there’s no sign of another Rugby World Cup anytime soon either. Some vague mumblings about world cups isn’t nearly good enough to justify this sort of expenditure, surely?

        • November 29th 2017 @ 11:09am
          elvis said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

          So if 40,000 fans come for a world cup in 15 years time, you think they are all going to spend $60,000 each to make up 2.5 billion? Pure fantasy, except the public swallow rubbish like this from our pollies as most of them are incapable of doing simple sums.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 29th 2017 @ 12:42pm
            William Dalton Davis said | November 29th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

            40,000? Over 600,000 went to Brazil for the World Cup. A far more dangerous part of the world. Regardless it’s not like the stadiums are being built for one event or for one sport. The Football, League and Rugby codes will all be occupying these stadia in one way or another, plus concerts, plus events.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 3:28pm
              elvis said | November 29th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

              i hope you aren’t using Brazil as a positive example, it cost them 15 billion to hold the world cup, most of which was never recouped. Even with 600,000 tourists lol. Why is it everyone who advocates wasting public money can’t do simple sums….

              • Roar Rookie

                December 1st 2017 @ 2:16pm
                William Dalton Davis said | December 1st 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

                No I’m not using Brazil as a positive example. If you read my comment I simply pointed out that your estimation of 40k grossly undervalues the numbers that flock to the FIFA World Cup.

                Also thought I’d be quick to point out that IBISworld, a global research firm, claimed that a World Cup would be worth over 35 billion dollars to the Australian economy. So unless we plan on dismantling all of western Sydney and rebuilding from scratch I’d say the Australian taxpayers would get their money’s worth out of it even if it were closer to 20.

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 2:09pm
        Mango Jack said | November 28th 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

        What is the justification for rebuilding Allianz? Stuart Ayres talks about women’s toilets and some vague points about safety. Really? The SCG is over a hundred years old. I bet when it was built there were BA women’s toilets, esp outside the Ladies Stand. They managed to retro-fit them pretty easily. And they’ve upgraded the ground incrementally over the years quite successfully.

        We would all like world class facilities in every aspect of society, but the reality is that money is limited and compromises need to be made. Spend a few million upgrading the stadia and transfer the rest to our health budget.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 5:15pm
        Dave said | November 28th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

        I just don’t understand why you have to knock it down at all, why not just renovate it. It is by far the best ground ever built for the viewing of footy – every single seat has a great view.

        • Roar Pro

          November 28th 2017 @ 7:03pm
          Alexander Clough said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

          I completely disagree with that, especially when you’re stuck under one of the overhanging balconies with a pole obstructing your view. Or you’re stuck in row 5 on the sideline with it storming and you’re completely exposed to the elements.

          Suncorp and AAMI have far better views for rectangular sports venues and actually have a proper roof.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 8:07am
      jamesb said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      Parramatta Stadium and the SFS should’ve had a make over and attend to any safety requirements. In Parra’s case, they could’ve also increased capacity by 5,000 if needed. Both didn’t need to be demolished, and if they did it right, both venues could’ve had another 20 years of life.

      With ANZ, it should always be a number 1 priority. And yet, hearing opposition leader Luke Foley, he is not too keen on rebuilding ANZ. From his point of view, I guess he is just trying to make a point of difference to get into power.

      ANZ should’ve been made permanently rectangular straight after the Olympics. That’s what Manchester did after the 2002 Commonwealth Games with Manchester City’s home ground.

      Instead it has become a jack of all trades and master of none. You are so far away from the action, it’s like watching from another suburb. I don’t understand why ANZ needs to be demolished. Couldn’t they have constructed the seating in a rectangular form internally?

      • November 28th 2017 @ 8:45am
        peeeko said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        agree James. there seems little wrong with SFS and to knock it down to appease the eastern suburbs power brokers is criminal

        • November 28th 2017 @ 4:04pm
          BA Sports said | November 28th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

          Maybe it is Ray Warren – The only thing wrong with the SFS is they forgot commentary boxes when they designed it. So as a last minute add, they were stuck at the top of the western grandstand and it is a long walk up those stairs to that commentary box…

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 4:30pm
        JGK said | November 28th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

        Foley is fine with rebuilding ANZ (Western Sydney) but not Allianz (which would only help the late sippers).

    • November 28th 2017 @ 8:32am
      Haradasun said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      They should have used the site at Barangaroo. Imagine an international sports stadium on the point with the backdrop of the harbour. And with plenty of retail nearby and in walking distance from town.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 8:47am
        peeeko said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        great idea

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 8:50am
        spruce moose said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        It’s a nice idea in theory, but there just isn’t the space.

        The cost in land reclamation to put a football stadium on site (along with all necessary adjoining amenities) would have been extremely expensive.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 28th 2017 @ 9:07am
          Grobbelaar said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

          More than $2.3 billion?

          • Roar Guru

            November 28th 2017 @ 9:25am
            spruce moose said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

            Perhaps not, but certainly more than the $750 to replace Allianz (which is also a complete waste of money).

            If they were to build something at Barangaroo, they would need to have kept ANZ. Barangaroo would never, ever be in a position to safely handle an 80,000 seat stadium. They do actually require enormous amounts of clear space in every direction in case of evacuation.

            The era of building a big stadium in the middle of a city is over.

      • December 1st 2017 @ 9:53am
        Cam said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Above the rail lines next to central?

    • November 28th 2017 @ 8:53am
      AR said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      Spending $2.3Billion to knock over 2 stadiums and rebuild those two stadiums on the same spot with the same (actually, smaller) capacity is the single biggest waste of public money I can recall. Ever.

      But it’s the sheer scale of the waste on ANZ/SFS that has left most people ignoring the extraordinary spend on Parra Stadium.

      Think about it. Parra Stadium has 2 tenants with modest crowds – Eels (about 12.5k per home match) and WSW (about 13.5k).

      And yet, these two privately-owned clubs were gifted $300Million of public money for a shiny new stadium…despite never (or very rarely) filling out their old one.

      And…the Eels have been actively transferring their home games to ANZ for years.

      Compare it to AAMI Park – yes, 100% Govt funded also – but it cost significantly less to build and services 4 clubs, including the largest soccer club in the country.

      I am a supporter of government-funded stadiums. If a city has a track record of sports fans turning out in droves, packing the stands, adding to the economy, restaurants and all that – then great. It’s a public good.

      But when a city is famous for not turning up, it just beggars belief that the government will shell out billions on newer, shinier, white elephants.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 28th 2017 @ 12:01pm
        William Dalton Davis said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        Ever heard of the rabbit proof fence?

        • November 29th 2017 @ 6:48am
          AR said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:48am | ! Report


          This is similar territory…if the government was ripping up the old fence and replacing it with a newer shinier fence.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 29th 2017 @ 8:52am
            William Dalton Davis said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

            That implying the fence wasn’t a massive waste of money in the first place. Nearly a million dollars in 1907. Insane idea.

      • December 1st 2017 @ 1:45pm
        Whites said | December 1st 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        AAMI Park and the Western Sydney Stadium are the same size and pretty much cost the same when accounting for inflation from 8-10 years ago.

    , ,