The SFS rebuild is a complete waste of money

spruce moose Roar Guru

By spruce moose, spruce moose is a Roar Guru

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    Last week, the NSW government caved in and gave the green light for a complete rebuild of the SFS, alongside the that of the Olympic Stadium, at the exorbitant price of $705 million.

    History will look appallingly on an SFS rebuild. This will rank as one of the great white elephant projects Sydney will embark on. And that’s a big feat for a city that has built the cross-city wind tunnel and is embarking on a $30-billion big dig for more freeways of which only one is absolutely viable (Northconnex) – all with taxpayer money, of course.

    Sydney needs a replacement football stadium at Moore Park about as much as Pitcairn Island needs a nuclear weapons program. We are talking about a rebuilding a stadium that is presently 80 per cent full or more two or three times a year at most.

    The rugby league Anzac Test gets a steady 40,000 audience, while the Sydney Derby in football gets about that too. The odd international rugby union game may sell out but that’s about it.

    Otherwise, the three principal tenants: The Roosters, the Waratahs and Sydney FC are now very familiar with the sight of empty seats, or covering large bays with advertising tarpaulin.

    Oddly, despite its age, it remains one of the best rectangular stadia in the country, with only the superb Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and AAMI Park in Melbourne being superior. The sight-lines from each end are great, a large amount of the stadium is protected from the elements, and the new HD television screens at either end are second to none.

    It is without question an appalling place if you need to take a pee, with long queues at half time a given even if the stadium is empty. The bars and spaces around the bars leave a bit to be desired, and god knows how you navigate in and out of the stadium if you have a disability.

    However, if the NSW government, or the SCG trust, are thinking that crowd numbers are low because of the issues above, or the laughably hard-to-believe safety and security concerns, then they are cheerfully deluded.

    The bare fact is that if a stadium of that size hasn’t been able to pull an average crowd greater than 15,000 for its events for the past decade, why do people think an identically sized new stadium would?

    Artists impression of the refurbishment of Allianz Stadium. (Source: Supplied)

    (Source: Supplied)

    This is a white elephant.

    Don’t be fooled by high attendances that will inevitably come in the opening year – along with congratulatory pats on the backs by the NSW ministers and the SCG Trust – people love going to something new. Remember when the Olympic Stadium could pull 110,000 to almost anything when the nation was gripped with the pre-Olympics buzz of the stadium?

    The lustre will inevitably wear off. It always does. It’s Sydney.

    The herd moves on quickly in this town and moves on even quicker if their tenants either have the smallest fan-base in Sydney (the Roosters), chronically underperform (Waratahs) and the final team unable to convert unprecedented success into sustained crowds (Sky Blues).

    A renovation should have been the way to go. A renovation could have addressed all the issues, and at the same time reduce the size of the stadium to make it a more boutique and intimate experience.

    The seats behind the goal could be reduced by half, the sideline wings could be trimmed out extensively on the upper tier (especially the Nick Shehadie wing that just bakes in the sun otherwise) and seriously upgrade the facilities. Awnings over the north/south ends to trap in the noise and protect fans from the elements would be welcomed too.

    The decision to rebuild an empty stadium with a $705 million like-for-like replacement is simply astonishing, and will be one that this government will long be remembered for in time. Sadly, for all the wrong reasons.

    What could have been done with the rest of the money? Perhaps putting it into schools, public transport or hospitals could have been an idea. Or another toll road. Sydney could always use another taxpayer-funded toll road.

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    The Crowd Says (90)

    • November 29th 2017 @ 5:41am
      Sports Prophet said | November 29th 2017 @ 5:41am | ! Report

      Can’t help but agree. Upgrade was all that was required here.

      Roof, toilets and digital upgrade were all that was required.

      I wouldn’t even have wasted time or money reducing capacity as suggested.

      • November 30th 2017 @ 6:15am
        Norad said | November 30th 2017 @ 6:15am | ! Report

        Plenty of government money spent on AFL stadiums last 15 years and no one bleats about what else the money could have gone too. Now witthin reach of new rectangle stadiums for NRL & football the media turns against building stadiums as a waste of money.

        • November 30th 2017 @ 9:44pm
          Sports Prophet said | November 30th 2017 @ 9:44pm | ! Report

          Well they were partly funded by the respective state governments which is no bearing on NSW public funds.

          Furthermore, which AFL stadiums were not required? The difference is that the SFS does not need to be demolished and rebuilt. Simple, more affordable cosmetic changes is all that is required.

          • December 1st 2017 @ 9:29pm
            Norad said | December 1st 2017 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

            No need for any AFL stadiums in NSW and QLD.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 6:05am
      CC_Roosters said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      Absolutely agree. Mainly a vanity project for the crooked scg trust and their chief cheer leader Ayers.

      A massive joke at NSW expense, which sadly most of us seen coming with the backroom deals by the top end of town commonplace in Sydney.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 6:46am
      AR said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      Over the past 30 years, the average attendance at SFS (for NRL games) is 12.4k people per match.

      That’s barely over a quarter full. For 30 years.

      The solution?

      Smash and down and rebuild it to the same capacity.


      • November 29th 2017 @ 8:36am
        jamesb said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        You do realise that the NSW Waratahs and Sydney FC also use the stadium.

        The NRL’s preference has been for ANZ. If public money is not going to be spent on suburban grounds, then at least make ANZ rectangular. That should’ve been done straight after the Olympics. And yet, my gut feeling tells me that ANZ will remain the same.

        And that would be a screw up. Couldn’t give a rats about Parra or the SFS.

        • November 30th 2017 @ 8:30am
          AR said | November 30th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

          “You do realise that the NSW Waratahs and Sydney FC also use the stadium.”

          Of course I do jamesb – hence “(for NRL games)”.

          Last season the Waratahs played 7 matches with a home crowd average of 14.5k.

          SydFC, despite all its recent success, will register its fifth consecutive crowd drop at the end of this season – about 15k when you factor in the home derby crowds.

          So we’re talking about 1/3 full – tops.

          I’m ok with Govt handouts for suitable stadia, but splurging this amount of taxpayer money when we *know* there is no demand for such a stadium in Sydney, is just disgraceful.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 12:18pm
        Christo the Daddyo said | November 29th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

        I was thinking a good capacity for a redeveloped Allianz would be around 25k, but based on the figures you provide they’d still need to tarp off 10k seats for most games!

      • November 29th 2017 @ 1:21pm
        Sydneysider said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        that’s an astonishing figure AR.

        30 years of rugby league played at the SFS and the average is 12.4k, does that include NRL finals matches?

        If so, that is damning statistic.

        I still think the ideal size is 35k – 25k club mode, 35k championship mode.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 29th 2017 @ 8:52pm
        Don said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:52pm | ! Report

        There are a few factors here that could and should result in some changes to NRL attendances and also why the SFS is in line for the rebuild ahead of Homebush.

        The NRL has already flagged that we will see double headers strategically throughout the season and these would almost certainly have been promised for several years contingent upon the SFS being rebuilt. We need to reconsider the notion that historical NRL attendances will be the norm ongoing.

        Corporates form a very significant part of the income stadiums generate. The SFS is decades behind in this regard. I know the average fan in the cheap seats has no regard for the suits in boxes and behind glass, but these facilities raise serious income. The corporate facilities at the SFS when compared to the SGC, Suncorp, MCG and others are really poor. Adelaide Oval currently and what the new Perth stadium will offer make them look second rate.
        You can’t ask big $ for just some good seats away from the masses, a waiter and some bistro food anymore.

        The ARU has long held and tight links with the SCG Trust and, for a few years while Homebush is being rebuilt we would have seen the ARU having to play Bledisloe Cup games and top tier tests in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth for a few years unless the SFS was rebuilt first. And these games drive serious corporate support. Rugby is already struggling for attendances in Sydney but NZ, England or SA tests are still a consistent annual income and awareness generator. They can’t afford to not have quality games in Sydney and corporates won’t pay top $ for a substandard offer at the old SFS.

        Soccer in Aus will continue to grow and “event” matches like end of season EPL and Euro sides will happen more and more. The same corporate requirements are stipulated for the big end of town…

        The NRL GF generates serious $ (and votes) for Sydney and to lose it for 3-4 years would make a serious dent in budgets and as many votes lost as “wasting money” on stadium rebuilds.

        I’ve lived in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne over the years. Brisbane is my home and we were fortunate that the current stadium design was dictated by maximising seats on no more than the existing Lang Park footprint meant steeper rakes to the stands, closer seats to the field and maximised cover.

        It’s an economic decision that comes down to alot more than just the what families and punters in the cheap seats who think the pies are too expensive and the beer should be colder (they are and they should be..) believe should be done.

        And I know fans will hate this but; a certain sell out at the SFS can generate as much and even more $ as 65K people at Stadium Aus does. You can charge a higher $ for seats because of demand and the costs for operating the event are lower. Not a popular thing to talk about. But reality nonetheless.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 10:17pm
          Marco said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

          I get what you are saying. But the NRL keeps on saying it will be good for the average fan.
          But the average fan doesn’t give a rats about corporate boxes. The suits better know what they’re doing. The fans just want to go to the game in a decent stadium at a decent price . Prices will rise. To me the stadiums just need a spruce up and keep the costs reasonable.
          This issue seems to be really getting a community backlash against the decision makers including the NRL who have really pushed for new stadiums.
          Maybe it’s time to get critical about the product that is played in the stadiums and not just blame the quality of the stadiums.
          I can’t think of anyone who thinks this is money well spent.

          • November 30th 2017 @ 7:00am
            jamesb said | November 30th 2017 @ 7:00am | ! Report

            I think you are trying to make the NRL the bad guy here. In your post, there was not one reference to the SCG Trust. There the ones who have really pushed for the SFS to be rebuilt, while the NRL’s preference has been ANZ. And it remains to be seen if ANZ gets rebuilt anyway.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 7:02am
      Not so super said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      Agree, the way that the NSW government has bowed to the SCG trust is disgusting
      Will SCG members be asked to put money in ?

      • Roar Guru

        November 29th 2017 @ 11:27am
        spruce moose said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

        Will SCG members get a rebate on membership when one half of their resource is out of action?

        More importantly, will there be an expanded membership base as a result of the new stadium, or will it STILL have such a low cap so as to keep the waiting list long?

        • November 29th 2017 @ 12:14pm
          Christo the Daddyo said | November 29th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

          “Will SCG members get a rebate on membership when one half of their resource is out of action?”

          Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!

          “will there be an expanded membership base as a result of the new stadium, or will it STILL have such a low cap so as to keep the waiting list long?”

          Same capacity is being proposed, so why would the membership numbers change? And as an aside, there are far more members than there are seats for them to sit in. So I would disagree with your use of the phrase “such a low cap”.

          • November 29th 2017 @ 1:54pm
            spruce moose said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

            I think there are enough seats for members – it’s when people bring in guests where it becomes a critical issue.

            But point taken…it’s high time the trust start reserving more seats for members.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 5:10pm
              Kangajets said | November 29th 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

              Why doesn’t nsw government look after people that work in welfare and with disabilities.

              Those of that have jobs are barely on 20 bucks an hour . But the same nsw govt can spend billions on stadiums

          • November 29th 2017 @ 3:38pm
            Brainstrust said | November 29th 2017 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

            Sydney has a small cap because they want to encourage people to buy in and take over the queue, they also have two classes of membershiip which makes no sense given the Roosters crowds, it should be one fee for both stadiums, not a higher more expensive level of membership for the SFS which helps explains why there is less people at the SFS.
            Melbourne on the other hand have got a different approach, the fees are lower, they have a massive membership and while the waiting list is for eternity while your on the waiting list you get associate membership which allows you to attend everything apart from the Test matches and AFL grand finals.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 7:04am
      Sammy said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      If the rebuilt Allianz Stadium can only attract the current crowd numbers then your assertion of “white elephant” might prove to be correct.

      But I would imagine that all stakeholders are expecting both crowds and utilization to increase after thre rebuild and completion of the SE Sydney Light Rail.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 7:47am
        BA Sports said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        You can put all the public transport infrastructure in the world in; end of the day it isn’t in our culture to use it. Maybe it will be one day but this fascination of trying to make our public transport systems replicate the systems in London, Paris and New York where they have been part of the fabric of those cities for over 100 years seems futile.

        For most the situation will be if I am expected to use light rail to get to the ground, then I will need to get a train to Central to get the light rail. If I need to go to Central station I will need to get a train from my local station. If i need to get a train from my local station, i will need to get a bus to that station (maybe two). WHo wants to try and sync up all of those timetables? When we are all time poor and looking out the window at the cold weather who is going to do all of that to go to a game? Would they do it in London? Yes, New York, often. But Sydney. No. …It doesn’t work for the masses and will have a nominal effect when it comes to attendance at Moore Park.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 1:32pm
          chris said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          Exactly! And after the latest train timetable debacle in Sydney, things will only get worse. This city is in construction mode and will be for the forseeable future. Any wonder people are opting to stay home on weekends. Who wants to be subjected to road works, closures, awful timetables etc on the weekend as well!

          • November 29th 2017 @ 1:56pm
            spruce moose said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

            welcome to the rugby league tab chris. i can only hope you are as welcoming to others on the football tab in future. note how no one has sought to belittle your opinions here…

            • November 29th 2017 @ 2:44pm
              jamesb said | November 29th 2017 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

              To be fair to chris, even though its on a rugby league tab, it’s not a rugby league article.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 3:37pm
              chris said | November 29th 2017 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

              The context of your statement moose is a little off. If I was suggesting ways of improving league or who should coach the blues etc etc it would be more appropriate for you to comment as such.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 5:23pm
              Kangajets said | November 29th 2017 @ 5:23pm | ! Report


              Don’t worry mate plenty of bullies on the rugby league tab too

              This is a stadium article . I just can’t believe Sydney people voted this government in. They have neglected so many vital things in nsw. Sydney does need or deserve the money spent on the 3 stadiums.


        • November 29th 2017 @ 3:45pm
          Brainstrust said | November 29th 2017 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

          Actually Melbourne they use public transport to get to games. It helps their stadiums are close to city railway stations. Sydney is spread out , however the traffic in Sydney is getting worse and worse, if the light rail is direct and fast then people will be using it. Strangely enough Swans supporters seem to be about 10 times more numerous than other supporters on public transport before games. Is that because most of them are actually from Melbourne/

          • November 29th 2017 @ 8:58pm
            Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

            So glad I live in Canberra. I know the Canberra haters won’t agree but I only have a 5 minute drive to the bottom of Bruce Ridge followed by a 10 minute walk up the hill to Bruce Stadium.

            While I haven’t been to Sydney Football Stadium it seems to offer a lot more than ANZ stadium in terms of closeness to the action. I would be concentrating on re-modelling ANZ first and maybe give the SFS a face lift rather than a complete rebuild.

            Canberra is going through the process of deciding whether to relocate NRL to a site in the city with a potential indoor sports stadium – similar to the glasshouse stadium in Dunedin NZ. The Dunedin Stadium cost about $220 mill to build back in 2011 and has a capacity of about 30,000 for sport and 35,000 for concerts. This would seem ideal for the Canberra market but the ACT government has gone a bit quiet on this proposal due to the cost of the asbestos home buyback that could cost up to $1 billion.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 7:26am
      Greg Ambrose said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      I don’t know if it is a good or bad idea, I’m not armed with enough knowledge. I do recall over the years however many projects being labelled as White Elephants so I take that label with a grain of salt.

      Darling harbor was bagged for years and I can remember an expert of sorts years ago declaring it a symbol of the type of overspending that was going to see Australia heading down the gurgler. Barrangaroo, the Opera house, toaster apartments etc.

      Actually I’ve just changed my mind, the money would be much better spent at Brookvale oval.

      • Roar Guru

        November 29th 2017 @ 11:38am
        spruce moose said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        Interestingly enough, Darling Harbour was built at the same time as the SFS. One received a revamp, the other is to be demolished.

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