New NRL boss Todd Greenberg has moved to assure football fans that rugby league will continue to be played at the game’s beloved suburban grounds, despite the governing body’s commitment to its stadiums policy.
The NRL is confident of meeting “content requirements” set out by the NSW government in order to satisfy the criteria for the $1.6 billion investment into Sydney’s sporting infrastructure by Friday’s deadline.
The government is keen for the NRL and its clubs to commit to around 60 games a season at a re-built Allianz Stadium and a refurbished ANZ Stadium. Pirtek Stadium will also be rebuilt.
Those projects will be completed by 2020 at the earliest.
Even if clubs such as Manly, Cronulla and St George Illawarra play some home games at Moore Park or Homebush, Greenberg said suburban footy will remain a vital part of the NRL landscape.
“We understand the history and the heritage of the the game, but we also understand we have to think about what rugby league will look like in the future,” Greenberg said.
“We have to look forward and have aspirations to grow the sport and to grow the fanbase.”
“This is not the end of suburban footy, there will always be games at suburban venues but clubs have to understand they have to grow.
“To grow we have to attract more fans. This is about the next generation of fans.”
The NRL has been discussing the proposal with affected clubs over the past week.
Greenberg was confident the clubs and the NRL would be able to reach an agreement that is for the good of the game moving forward.
“We are exactly where we thought we would be,” Greenberg said.
“Playing in great stadiums with great facilities is great for the club but more importantly it is great for fans.
“We are aligned with the government to get this once in a generation investment across the line and the clubs are thinking on that.”
NSW sports minister Stuart Ayres said the deal hinged on the NRL committing to playing more games at the big venues.
“Our stadia network is the most significant investment in sport in this state’s history outside of the Olympics. I would argue that it has the capacity to have a much longer lasting impact than what the Olympics did,” he said.
“If the NRL can give us a commitment on the amount of content that comes to those stadiums, that’s what we’re looking for.
“Without that content, it’s very difficult for us to deliver a business case to treasury, which would release the funds.”