Consolidation the key for NRL stadium debate

Adam Bagnall Roar Guru

By Adam Bagnall, Adam Bagnall is a Roar Guru


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    Consolidation is the key to the NRL enjoying excellent crowds every weekend once Western Sydney Stadium and Allianz Stadium are brought up to scratch.

    At the moment, we have suburban grounds that are long past their use-by-date (Leichhardt Oval, Lottoland), have extremely limited parking available for families (pretty much every small suburban ground), or are too far away for opposition fans to travel to (my first live NRL game was at Penrith Stadium, and I shan’t be travelling there again any time soon).

    To solve this crisis, the NRL needs to bite the bullet and consolidate home grounds.

    Western-based teams (Tigers, Bulldogs, Eels, Panthers) must play all their home games at the new Western Sydney Stadium, which will hopefully enjoy a more attractive name in the near future.

    Artist's impression of Parramatta Stadium

    An artist’s impression of Western Sydney Stadium (supplied)

    Eastern and Southern teams (Roosters, Souths, Sharks, Dragons, as well as the Sea Eagles) will play at Allianz Stadium.

    The downside is that clubs give up home-ground advantage, but that’s a bit of a myth, seeing as most crowds are fairly quiet during games, apart from the usual “get em onside”. Crowds in Australia are nowhere near as vocal as those in England, watching the soccer.

    So if you have 15,000 fans packed into Kogarah, but they aren’t making too much noise, where is the home advantage? As a Dragons fan, I’ve been to plenty of Kogarah games and apart from about 20 members of the Dragons Army, there isn’t too much singing or chanting to create a really hostile atmosphere.

    That aside, clubs also lose a sense of community by no longer playing home games in their local area, or do they?

    The Rabbitohs have been homeless for 20 years, but enjoy record membership. The Bulldogs throw a token game Belmore’s way, but have largely abandoned their spiritual home, as have the Tigers.

    The Dragons still take games to Wollongong, where they also train at the university, as well as Kogarah, but both grounds lack facilities like free WiFi, parking, public transport access, etc.

    I was considering taking my dad to the Dragons-Tigers match later this year, but he is getting on a bit, and I’m not too sure I’d want him walking up Jubilee Avenue post game.

    By playing their home games at a neutral venue, clubs are really looking after their fans by way of first-rate facilities, comfortable seating, easy access to and from the ground, and it would bring the game into the 21st century. Free public transport for anyone going to these venues would also attract fans.

    For me, it would mean extra travel from Port Kembla to Allianz Stadium, but is that really such a big ask? If I get to see my team run around in one of the best stadiums in the country, then no, not really.

    Fans will protest of course, the really angry ones will only type in capital letters, but most won’t be able to come up with an alternative. What we can all agree on is that getting 13,000 fans in a stadium that can fit 80,000 cannot be allowed to continue.

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    The Crowd Says (98)

    • May 16th 2018 @ 6:57am
      AGO74 said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      Re your last paragraph getting 13000 in a stadium that holds 45000 shouldn’t happen either yet the roosters rarely get that. If you make Manly or the sharks play there and make there fans travel you won’t even see crowds above 10,000 even if it’s the nicest stadium in Australia.

      • May 17th 2018 @ 9:54am
        Fred said | May 17th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Terrible article – Leichhardt Oval is past its use by date according to who? Not the fans!

        Sydney is not Melbourne! We like suburban grounds.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:02am
      AR said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      In a perfect world, sporting clubs that are privately-owned should play out of facilities that are privately-funded.

      If a sporting club is member or community-owned, and well-supported by the surrounding community, then I have no problem with government building and funding stadiums. It’s a public good.

      The problem that arises is when 1 professional sports club uses one publicly-funded stadium, barely fills it every fortnight, but expects the government (local, state, federal) to keep pouring millions into it.

      That’s been the case with Sydney NRL clubs for decades…and it’s insustainable.

      So whilst I don’t agree with the reasoning behind the authors article, I agree with the end point.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 2:38pm
        BrainsTrust said | May 16th 2018 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

        The suburban grounds have had hardly any money poured into them and are mostly run down..
        These days AFL clubs seem to be able to command training faciltiies at 30-100 million dollars a pop.
        That sort of money would fix up the suburban stadiums

        • May 16th 2018 @ 6:24pm
          AR said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

          “The suburban grounds have had hardly any money poured into them and are mostly run down..”

          You must be joking.

          Every single suburban NRL club in Sydney (with the exception of Shark Park) has built and funded with public money for decades.

          • May 17th 2018 @ 10:06am
            BrainsTrust said | May 17th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            Cronulla was one of the more recent to get government funding.
            Geelongs ground has easily received about 10 times the money that has been put into rugby leagues suburban grounds.
            Kogarah is the most modernised but has limited seats. Cronulla has more seating with different aged stands and I would rate that the best . Generally your looking at different aged stands , limited seating with hill areas taking about half the capacity. Instead of demolishing whole grounds and building designer stadiums at exorbitant expense all that needs to be done is to put up an extra grandstand increasing seating and corporate facilities.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:03am
      Gurudoright said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      You want people from Penrith to go to Parramatta, Manly and Cronulla to Allianz for “home” games. Yeah ok. *rolling my eyes*

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:08am
      lesterlike said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      I’d rather see the NRL die than have 9 teams play out of 2 stadiums. Take away the uniqueness of each home matchday atmosphere and you might as well get rid of each teams own culture and just have Team A vs Team B. If anything, the NRL should be giving up on these delusions of grand modern stadiums and instead focus on building their own grounds up.

      Imagine trying to pitch all the super league clubs having to play out of Elland Road and Old Trafford. Fans would first laugh at you and then be furious and threaten to burn down head office.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:22am
      bazza said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      You do realise the fans don’t have to be noisy to lift the team.
      Playing on the ground you train and is your home and play the most means more cause it’s your ground.
      Parramatta doesn’t have alot of parking and is a decent walk from the station.

      It’s hard with some of the grounds being old but really i didn’t actually see the problems with some of them they seem fine.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2018 @ 8:33am
      BA Sports said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      So you won’t go to Penrtih from Wollongong for an away game but you will go to Allianz from Wollongong for a home game….

      Forget away fans, home grounds should be based on supporting the home fans access and enjoyment as a priority. You can’t control the away fans and how far away he or she live from your ground and thier willingness to travel.

      And if the NRL went to 2 grounds in Sydney and kept 9 teams, then it would truly be an almighty farce. If you are going to play out of two grounds then why not just have two teams in Sydney?

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 9:30am
        spruce moose said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        I read that bit about Penrith stadium with a raised eyebrow too and then went onto google.

        According to google maps, it’s a quicker journey from Port Kembla to Penrith stadium than it is from Port Kembla to the SFS.

        Yet another mistake by the author.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 11:28am
          Adam said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

          My apologies, I should have mentioned I was living in Padstow at the time, it was quite a trek on the train.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 5:31pm
          BrainsTrust said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

          Well Wollongong actually lines up with Parramatta, and there is no traffic on the Appin way and Northern road, and generous speed limits. Thats by car what about train. The train to Central from Wollongong is slow as. Even though you can get a decent fast train to Penrith don’t expect one at night on the way back. The worst thing about going to Penrith stadium is the slow all stations services at night on the way back. Though its a while since I went to Penrith stadium maybe the timetable has changed.