Needs of the many against loyalty to a sport: Sydney’s stadium upgrade dilemma

Steve Mascord Columnist

By Steve Mascord, Steve Mascord is a Roar Expert

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214 Have your say

    I always had a slight problem with the Papua New Guinea government putting so much money into rugby league.

    In a country which lacks many basic services, can you justify a reported $1 million per game to attract the World Cup – or the hundreds of thousands that have no doubt been paid in consultancy fees associated with the sport over the years?

    How much of governing is about keeping people happy (so they might vote for you again) and how much is about providing the core services we expect from our tax dollars?

    But it always seemed an esoteric argument, restricted to the developing world.

    That was until colleague Peter FitzSimons tweeted that he was starting a petition against the rebuilding of Sydney’s stadia.

    I instinctively retweeted – I was intrigued by the whole idea that people could be opposed to these things that, in my world, enjoy unanimous support.

    As is the way on social media, many people attacked Fitzy and others who agree with him – like Mike Carlton – as wanting to “keep rugby league down”. Since rugby league is the major benefactor of these stadium upgrades, and Peter, in particular, is strongly aligned with the rival code he played internationally, then I can see how these conclusions can be reached.

    But given my own misgivings about Papua New Guinea, I can also imagine arriving at the conclusions altruistically. Surely this money can be better spent elsewhere?

    The debate brings into play a host of things that don’t normally cross my radar – like non-rugby league politics.

    How should a government be run? To what extent should policies be populist versus service-oriented? Should taxpayer money be invested in schemes that earn more money, which is one of the arguments in favour of a $2 billion rebuild at ANZ and Allianz?

    The NRL gets $2 billion in TV rights. Should they not spend some of that on stadium upgrades rather than having the taxpayer foot the bill?

    It is possible to ponder these subjects without being a traitor to rugby league or whatever sport it is you follow. This isn’t a black and white issue, there are many nuances.

    But having said all that, will I be signing Peter FitzSimons’ petition? Probably not.

    An artist's impression of the Allianz Stadium rebuild

    (Image: Facebook/Allianz Stadium)

    I probably wouldn’t sign one against the Papua New Guinea government investing in rugby league either. One one hand, I have a pang of guilt over what could be perceived as wastage – but on the other, I still have a loyalty to the sport.

    It’s easier to just sit back and do nothing.

    The truth is that while I am, as my thoughts above illustrate, a bit of a bleeding heart lefty, I am still not terribly socially conscious. It’s a difficult contradiction to explain, I know.

    I’ll try. I feel sorry for people but don’t often act as part of a wider group to help them.

    On an individual level, I’d like to think I’d help someone who needed one of those hospitals we are neglecting to build a stadium – I’d scoop them up off the side of the road, call an ambulance for them, etcetera, etcetera.

    But at any level beyond one-on-one interaction, I am basically selfish. I don’t care if Amazon or Google don’t pay tax. Nothing to do with me, good on them.

    The world outside my five-metre radius is basically beyond my control. I’ve got enough to worry about inside that area.

    Perhaps not the sort of thing you expected to read here. But while I find the stadium rebuild troubling, I don’t find it troubling enough to oppose it.

    Steve Mascord
    Steve Mascord

    Steve Mascord has covered rugby league in 15 countries and worked for most media organisations that regularly feature the sport, on both sides of the globe. He started off as an 18-year-old cadet at Australian Associated Press, transferring to the Sydney Morning Herald just in time to go on the last full Kangaroos Tour in 1994. He spent three years at Sydney's Daily Telegraph from 2006 before going freelance at the conclusion of the 2008 World Cup. Steve is the author of the book Touchstones, host of the White Line Fever podcast, partner in international rugby league merchandise start-up Mascord Brownz, and proprietor of, and He is married to Sarah and splits his time between London and Sydney.

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    The Crowd Says (214)

    • December 6th 2017 @ 7:42am
      In brief said | December 6th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Steve, I fear your view represent the majority thinking which is precisely why Australia is going to hell in a hand basket while we all sit idly on our hands. No country on the planet is less socially engaged than Austraila.

      One of the underlying issues with the stadia rebuilds is poor planning. I attended a training day on policy facilitated by a senior and influential public servant from the old school. He pointed out that Australia has gone from a world leader in policy development several decades ago to an international joke today. We systematically unpicked several major policy developments and found they were unashamedly being written on behalf of lobby groups, not the greater community. Quite simply we are being played for fools.

      Does this matter? Only if you care about the future of this country. We are destroying ourselves effectively from within. The impacts of today’s decisions will be the reality we face over the decades to come.

    • December 6th 2017 @ 7:47am
      Busty McCracken said | December 6th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      I am a mad passionate rugby league fan but think the stadiums being knocked down and rebuilt is a massive mistake and a total waste of money.

      A: Homebush. Yes the public transport to/from by sydney standards, but there is NOTHING there to entice people other than the game itself. In Melbourne or Brisbane a trip to the footy is a night out in the city. You are surrounded by pubs and restaurants so can have pre post drinks etc. Until they resolve this the stadium will always be a white elephant.

      B: Sfs. Sort of in the city but once again not a great deal to around it but certainly a much better option of they could just fix the transport issue. 15 minute walk from central station is a bit of a pain in the arse.

      • December 6th 2017 @ 8:07am
        DH said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

        I agree.

        You don’t need to look at this as health or education v sport.

        It’s about planning stadia for Sydney’s future.

        SFS needs to be replaced, but why does Homebush?

        Will the planned spend actually achieve what it sets out to do, or will the problems of transport and surrounding uses still plague them?

        I think another problem is that the Govt refuses to put its hand up and say they stuffed up in the planning of Homebush and why is this time any different? I realise it’s not the current Govt, but they need to acknowledge why it’s a failure before they try to convince people that this time they’ve planned it properly.

    • Roar Guru

      December 6th 2017 @ 8:07am
      Wayne said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      Will put it out there, how many people don’t go to the game due to “not being a world class stadium”?

      Probably the same people that miss “standing on the hill”

      • Roar Guru

        December 6th 2017 @ 12:09pm
        Dutski said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        100% Wayne. People appreciate the facilities when there, but nobody goes for the stadium.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 5:48pm
          McNaulty said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

          I don’t go to ANZ because I know there is no atmosphere and the view is poor. I would go if I was closer to the action.

    • Roar Guru

      December 6th 2017 @ 8:14am
      Redb said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      Good article, refreshingly honest. I tend to subscribe to the same political views/ideology. I’m not a rugby league fan, but I would say if Steve is voting no, its the right call, have to go with your gut.

      However, the razzing of the whole stadium especially one that is only 17 years old is absurd. The MCG which is 100+ years old has been rebuilt several times, new stands, new surface & infrastructure.

      Has others have alluded, is someone back pocket getting filled?

      • December 6th 2017 @ 8:32am
        AR said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        The MCG, despite being a State Govt asset, has famously received very little Govt money.

        The most recent upgrade was for the 2006 Comm Games and the Vic Govt chipped in something like $75M of the $450M total.

        The bulk was provided by the MCC Trust itself, using its own money largely from AFL generated revenue.

        Dockland Stadium was obviously built with zero Govt money.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 1:56pm
          Crosscoder said | December 6th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          What about the Perth and Adelaide stadiums, did Gil and Andrew pay for them?

          • December 6th 2017 @ 4:23pm
            Matthew said | December 6th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

            Funnily enough they did as the RL has only thrown in to Townsville and not Newcastle, not Brooky nor Melbourne rectangular etc..

            • December 6th 2017 @ 5:40pm
              Crosscoder said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

              So matthew Gil and Andrew forked out $550m and $1bn.I call BS mate.
              They paid smallish figures compared to the final outlays.Exactly what Masters stated,pretending vast sums contributed.

              The NRL has already thrown in $750,000 feasability study toward the SFS without a brick being laid.

              How much did the Blacktown council and the state Govt waste there, before GWS upped anchor.

              • December 6th 2017 @ 10:20pm
                Alicesprings said | December 6th 2017 @ 10:20pm | ! Report

                The AFL plays a smart game.

                Puts in a token payments (usually around $10m) for redevelopments and then magically tenant club get management rights over the stadiums. Its not rocket science.

                The reality is the NRL are living hand to mouth and can’t afford that cash which defies belief.

              • December 7th 2017 @ 9:05am
                Crosscoder said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

                Alice Springs .You got it.also the AFL were smart enough to screw the ACT Govt under Mr Barr ,for the AFL (as GWS would play 3 games there each year.)They got $2.35m per annum over 10 years.Make for improvements to a few schools in the area huh!
                And they put in $5m toward Adelaide Oval which cost the SA Govt $535m’
                Ype smart cookies indeed.

              • December 7th 2017 @ 9:59am
                chris said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

                They play a smart game and then scream blue murder when people call them out. They are very much like the Liberal party in adopting the “look over there!” tactics.

              • December 7th 2017 @ 11:21am
                Cathar Treize said | December 7th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

                And then their supporters are out calling ‘blue murder’ when other sports get AFL type funding for new facilities. Smells too much hypocrisy round here

      • December 6th 2017 @ 8:46am
        valhalla said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        someone on this website the other day used coded language to suggest this policy was an afl stich-up

        • Roar Guru

          December 6th 2017 @ 9:16am
          Redb said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          that makes no sense to link the AFL. I was thinking more government and/or construction links,etc

        • Roar Guru

          December 6th 2017 @ 9:54am
          mds1970 said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          How could it be? Rectangular stadiums are no use to the AFL.

          • December 6th 2017 @ 11:09am
            Sydneysider said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

            “How could it be? Rectangular stadiums are no use to the AFL.”

            Tony Shepherd is chairman of GWS and also on the board of the SCG Trust.

            Conflict of interest?

            I’m sure the AFL would be very happy for the SFS to remain as is, with no improvement to it’s roof so spectators get smashed in bad weather.

            It’s ok for you guys because you don’t care for the other football codes. mds1970 is at least a resident of NSW so he can voice his disapproval.

            I think there is going to be pressure from other cities with new stadiums who can attract big events (new Perth Stadium, Adelaide Oval) as well so the NSW state government is looking at the big picture.

            I don’t mind if the Olympic Stadium at Homebush remains, but the SFS needs to be rebuilt.

            • December 6th 2017 @ 11:14am
              spruce moose said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

              “I’m sure the AFL would be very happy for the SFS to remain as is, with no improvement to it’s roof so spectators get smashed in bad weather.”

              Yes, because the Olympic Showground stadium has a retractable roof to keep the 7 giants fans dry on a wet day…

              And of course, the amazing dome like structure that is Carrara Stadium. No one gets wet there. And the SCG, and the 40,000 MCG fans without adequate rain coverage…

              • December 6th 2017 @ 11:41am
                Sydneysider said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

                At the end of the day, I expect both stadiums to remain as they are for the next 20 years because the petition to stop the redevelopments will be too strong to ignore.

                And for those that don’t live in Sydney or NSW to continue to care how NSW state government money is spent even though they don’t live here.

              • December 6th 2017 @ 12:00pm
                jamesb said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

                “And for those that don’t live in Sydney or NSW to continue to care how NSW state government money is spent even though they don’t live here.”

                Sydneysider, that’s a good point. Perth has just about completed a new stadium. As a New South Welshman, has it affected me? No.

                Other states can do whatever they want with their tax payer funds. But for some reason, people from interstate do care about how NSW spend their government money. Why?

              • December 6th 2017 @ 12:42pm
                RandyM said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

                Perth has the WACA and Subiaco already, wonder why no one has questioned the need for this new stadium across the river? Perth a city with less than half the population of sydney apparently requires 3 oval stadiums within 10 KM of each other.

              • December 6th 2017 @ 12:37pm
                spruce moose said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

                Not quite sure where that’s coming from Sydneysider.

                I live in Sydney. And I’ll freely admit to signing the petition and writing to my local MP too.

                I’m just livid with this decision.

                It’s not so much that the SFS will be rebuilt, I could one day make peace with that. It’s just that there is the grim inevitability that they are going to spring up a whole stack of apartments as well at the expense of parkland. It’s in the nature of this government – build a public asset, and then give the developers a toy to play with too.

              • December 6th 2017 @ 12:49pm
                Tony said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

                RandyM…..that is because Perth needs a bigger stadium. The 2 AFL teams fill Subiaco week in/week out with crowds of 35,000, with hardly any seats for visiting fans. This is the opposite to what Sydney needs – their plans are for reduced capacity. To pit it in perspective – Sydney crowds average 15,000…..compared to Perth 35,000+

              • December 6th 2017 @ 1:29pm
                Perry Bridge said | December 6th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report


                The WA plan is to NOT retain Subiaco Oval stadium. The field will become a community oval and the stadium and surrounding lands are to be redeveloped as the Subiaco East component of the proposed Subiaco Redevelopment Scheme 2 that is open to public comment until Jan I believe.

                I’m not sure what is on the cards for the WACA.

              • December 6th 2017 @ 4:26pm
                Matthew said | December 6th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report


                You are bizarre

                RAS own the rights to Spotless and Big Bash and WSW are playing there at the mo. The GWS have committed to Spotless unlike RL clubs who will move games to get the cheapest deal – GWS getting average RL crowds whilst paying more for tickets.

              • December 6th 2017 @ 4:54pm
                spruce moose said | December 6th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report


                Perhaps have a closer read of the thread before typing…

          • December 6th 2017 @ 11:10am
            Sydneysider said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

            “How could it be? Rectangular stadiums are no use to the AFL.”

            oh really? What about AFLX being played at the SFS next year?

            • Roar Guru

              December 6th 2017 @ 1:34pm
              SportsFanGC said | December 6th 2017 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

              In reply to RandyM above –

              Subiaco has been decommissioned and won’t be retained as a Stadium once the Perth Stadium is fully operational.

              The WACA is pushing for a small redevelopment to ensure that WA Cricket and smaller inbound cricket tours and potentially WAFL Footy continues to be played there. Maximum capacity of 20-25K.

              All West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers games, all Perth Scorchers games, all Cricket Tests, ODI’s and T20 games involving England, India and South Africa along with marquee events (State of Origin, Wallabies and Socceroos) will be played at the New Perth Stadium from 2018 onwards.

              The other stadium NIB is used by Perth Glory and is completely suitable for their Membership and Crowd size.

              So Perth ultimately will have 2 Oval Stadiums and 1 rectangular Stadium, completely suitable for the sports culture of that city.

          • December 6th 2017 @ 11:12am
            valhalla said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

            and awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay we go lol

        • December 6th 2017 @ 11:08am
          valhalla said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          indeed …. but when has reason and logic been a consideration when the chance at having a swing at the afl was on offer

          • December 6th 2017 @ 12:02pm
            jamesb said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

            Don’t worry, AFL fans take a swing at the NRL as well…..

            • December 6th 2017 @ 12:38pm
              valhalla said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

              not in the least bit worried ….. not my state …. not my taxes being used

              just …. you know …. amused at the tin foil hat reasoning being employed

              • December 6th 2017 @ 4:15pm
                jamesb said | December 6th 2017 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

                “not in the least bit worried ….. not my state …. not my taxes being used”

                Ok, that’s fair enough. The thing I’m confused about is why are people from interstate so concerned with how NSW spends its government money?

        • December 6th 2017 @ 5:24pm
          Mat said | December 6th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

          I don’t know if it is a stitch up but Baird decided on an ANZ rebuild and Allianz refurb last year which I agreed with and which didn’t create the outrage this latest development has.

          Strangely though the main backers for a rebuild at Moore park as well are Tony Shepherd, GWS CEO, and Stuart Ayres, a former AFL development officer.

          I’m not suggesting a conspiracy theory here but if this proposal falls apart Shepherd and Ayres will be most responsible and AFL HQ and supporters will be rolling on the floor laughing.

          • December 6th 2017 @ 6:35pm
            Bananaman said | December 6th 2017 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

            This benefits the scg trust and nobody else sfs will be knocked down and rebuilt first in the meantime an election is won by state labor with the catch phrase schools not stadiums and anz stadium gets knocked on the head!!!

    • December 6th 2017 @ 8:22am
      not so super said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      the original plan was fine – rebuild a showpiece at homebush and refurb SFS. the SCg powerbrokers didnt like that and pressured the gvernment. their claims of fire hazards and needing 400 more toilets are BS

      • December 6th 2017 @ 9:12am
        Sammy said | December 6th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

        I don’t think the SFS / Allianz can be easily refurbished.

        Under NSW Law, any attempted building refurbishment can trigger a range of mandatory fire safety upgrades to bring the entire building in line with current building regulations.

        Allianz Stadium does not comply with current fire safety regulations. The Stadium was poorly designed and it incorporated too many cost cutting measures that were sold as “Value Engineering” measures.

        So Allianz Stadium must be either rebuilt or left to rot. Given that it is part of the State;s premier sporting precinct (along with the SCG and Royal Randwick Racecourse) we don’t really have a choice but to rebuild it.

        Now – where should the funds comes from ??? – that is the real debate.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 11:17am
          spruce moose said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          “Allianz Stadium does not comply with current fire safety regulations. The Stadium was poorly designed and it incorporated too many cost cutting measures that were sold as “Value Engineering” measures.”

          Well, that’s obviously a pile of lies.

          Public assets that don’t comply with fire safety regulations aren’t allowed to be considered places of public entertainment, and thus would therefore be NOT allowed to operate.

          • December 6th 2017 @ 3:00pm
            Sammy said | December 6th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

            Not true spruce moose.

            Regulations (including the deemed to satisfy provisions of the BCA / NCC) can change over time, and so can the performance criteria used to assess alternative fire safety solutions that are a form of value engineering.

            It is very common for buildings to be identified as “compliant with the old regulations, but not compliant with today’s regulations” and they can remain like that for years and years.

            These buildings can receive their Annual Fire Safety Certificates because they generally do not need to be brought-up to to current code requirements unless they undergo a significant refurbishment.

            So any refurbishment of Allianz would trigger a fire safety upgrade, causing the Architects to say “it would be much easier if we started again”.

        • December 6th 2017 @ 11:19am
          RandyM said | December 6th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

          If SFS is such a death trap then why the hell is it still being used??

          • December 6th 2017 @ 12:38pm
            spruce moose said | December 6th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            Because the trust + Sammy is lying!

            • December 6th 2017 @ 4:27pm
              Matthew said | December 6th 2017 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

              Spruce obviously has never run a business

              • December 6th 2017 @ 4:59pm
                spruce moose said | December 6th 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

                Are you Stuart Ayres’ son by chance?

    • December 6th 2017 @ 8:23am
      peeeko said | December 6th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      But at any level beyond one-on-one interaction, I am basically selfish. I don’t care if Amazon or Google don’t pay tax. Nothing to do with me, good on them.
      this is a big deal as it reduces the tax pie and curbs public expenditiure and stops taxes being lowered for you

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