The grand final of the NRL and NRLW, Australia’s top-tier rugby league competitions, will remain in New South Wales (NSW) for another year after the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) confirmed this year’s showpiece events will be held at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.
The NSW Government announced the 2023 grand finals will be held on October 1 through a one-year deal, with discussions currently taking place over hosting future matches.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald news outlet, the one-year deal is worth more than AUD10 million ($6.73 million) to the ARLC and NFL.
John Graham, NWS minister for Jobs and Tourism, said: “We all love a grand final, but this event has become so much more, making a big social and economic contribution to the state.
“This event attracts thousands of fans from interstate and overseas who also visit Sydney’s many attractions, enjoy shows and arts, eat and drink in our world-class restaurants, supporting jobs in the visitor economy.”
The NRL grand final is traditionally played in Sydney, the game’s heartland where most NRL clubs are based, but Brisbane, Queensland, stepped in to host the 2021 edition due to covid-19 restrictions in NSW.
The grand final returned to Sydney last year on a one-year basis, with ARLC chairman Peter V’Landys floating the idea of moving to a “Super Bowl-type concept” via which the grand final could be moved around the country, with Queensland in the running to host a future edition.
V’Landys' comments came amid a dispute between the ARLC and the NSW government over the state government’s decision to abandon its deal to upgrade its aging suburban stadiums.
The ARLC and NSW had an agreement in place for Sydney to host the grand final until 2024 in return for an AUD800 million investment into stadiums across the competition, including Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval, Penrith Stadium, and Shark Park.
However, Sydney’s hosting rights were thrown into doubt last year when NSW premier Dominic Perrottet announced the government would no longer honor its pledge, with funds needed to support the state’s flood crisis.
At the time, V’landys criticized the move as an “excuse” and said it was unfair for the game to be “pitted against flood victims, adding: “The NSW government has AUD123 billion infrastructure spent. Ours was AUD300 million.
“It was hardly a drop in the bucket. It’s not even a rounding error, so to say they need that for flood victims is a bit rich. There was a deal on the table, there was an agreement.”
A one-year deal was then struck for Sydney to host the 2022 grand final in August, ending the public spat.
Commenting on this year’s deal, V’Landys said: “We are respectful of the new [NSW] Labor government’s priorities at the moment and its focus on the state budget, which is why we have agreed a short-term deal which gives all stakeholders certainty about this year’s grand final, and provides all parties the time required to continue discussions about a long-term partnership."
The 2023 NRL season started on March 2 and will end with the grand final on October 1, while the women’s edition started on July 22 and will also end with its grand final on October 1.
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