Rugby, football chiefs want a say in NSW stadium spending

With Australia set to be awarded hosting rights to the 2027 Rugby World Cup next week, Rugby Australia and World Rugby will announce the venues to host the championship games next year.

Only Sydney (Accor), Melbourne (the Melbourne Cricket Ground) and Perth (Optus Stadium) have venues big enough to host the final under World Rugby stipulations, and Accor Stadium is the only rectangular venue in that group.

Football Australia chief James Johnson with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.Credit:Getty

But any assumption that Sydney was a shoo-in to host its second World Cup final went up in smoke last month when word spread that World Rugby types were taken with Melbourne’s Olympic Parks precinct, containing the MCG, AAMI Park and Melbourne Park tennis precinct, all just a couple of kilometres from the centre of town.

RA chairman Hamish McLennan said it would be premature to enter into debate about potential venues for the final before the tournament had been formally awarded, but conceded that stadium investment would come to bear.

“Investment in infrastructure is absolutely a key factor in where the top games will be played for the Rugby World Cup if we’re successful,” McLennan said.

Putting a retractable roof on the 80,000-seat Accor Stadium has been on and off the agenda for successive NSW Liberal governments since 2016. The latest plan, a $600 million upgrade due to start in 2020 was shelved when the Covid-19 pandemic hit that year, but as recently as last month sport and tourism insiders were confident a modified upgrade would be funded this year.

Government insiders insisted no decisions had been finalised on what the government would and would not prioritise in its stadiums package.

But the speed of V’landys’ cooling off after his blistering attack on the Perrottet Liberal government last week has led many stadium, sports, events and tourism insiders to conclude that last Friday’s meeting with the Premier ended in victory for the powerful ARLC chairman.

V’landys has opposed a $250m spend on Accor for a roof and new seating, pushing instead for hundreds of millions of dollars to be pumped into upgrading suburban grounds such as Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval, the privately-owned Shark Park in Cronulla and Kogarah Oval.

That turn of events would leave football and rugby in a difficult spot, with Australia’s largest rectangular venue now entering its second decade in its unimproved form.


It would also be a peculiar stance for the ARLC given Accor’s status as the home of State of Origin and the NRL grand final.

The stadium is critical for football – particularly as FIFA, in contrast with World Rugby, takes a much dimmer view of playing major international matches at non-rectangular venues. Accor will host the final of next year’s Women’s World Cup and is the site of many of the Socceroos’ greatest moments, including the 2015 Asian Cup decider and their penalty shootout win over Uruguay in 2005 that broke their long World Cup hoodoo.

Because of its size, it is also the stadium of choice for visiting club teams like Barcelona, who will face the A-Leagues All Stars there later this month, and was set for the first Old Firm derby played outside of Scotland until Celtic’s arch-rivals Rangers pulled out of November’s Sydney Super Cup.

The ground was the site of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, the 2002 Bledisloe Cup decider – the last time Australia held the trophy – and the Waratahs’ 2014 Super Rugby win.

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