The Sydney Swans will play all home games at the SCG from 2017 under a new 30-year agreement.
The shift is a major blow to the 80,000-seat ANZ Stadium at Homebush, which regularly attracts crowds in excess of the SCG’s capacity and holds the record for the biggest crowd outside of Victoria, when more than 72,000 people watched the Swans lose to Collingwood in 2003. Last week, ANZ Stadium floated plans for a $350 million precinct upgrade.
The Swans played three home games at ANZ, and their preliminary final against North Melbourne, which drew 48,000 spectators. The new deal at the 48,000-seat SCG also includes any potential finals matches.
But despite a $200 million upgrade to stands around the SCG, the games at Homebush often draw larger crowds. When 37,000 fans watched them play Geelong, it was the biggest crowd at the SCG in nine years, only bettered by 41,317 against Port Adelaide a few weeks later – the third best crowd ever at the ground.
All but three of the Swans 20 biggest capacity home ground games since 1997 were held at ANZ Stadium. The average crowd since games began at Homebush in 2012 is 41,196, and while the average fell from just over 2000 people in 2014, to 32,693 at ANZ, it still beat the 2014 home game average of 32,594.
Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham said member feedback was one of the catalysts for making the SCG permanent.
“It was clear our members and fans located in Sydney, broader New South Wales and in fact Australia, wanted the SCG to be our one and only home,” he said. “The SCG was our home when we first arrived in Sydney, we train every day at the ground and there is no doubt it remains the spiritual home for our Club in Sydney.”
The decision will undoubtedly creates a physical separation between the Swans and upstart rivals the Greater Western Sydney Giants, whose homeground is also at Sydney Olympic Park.
Sydney Swans CEO Andrew Ireland said matches at ANZ Stadium has been important for the growth of the code and helped pave the way for the new team in Sydney’s west.
He admitted fans will likely miss out as games at the SCG sell out, pushing for fans to commit to membership.
“We understand that under this new agreement, there will be more sold-out games than ever before, which means the need to secure seats as a member will be more important than ever before,” Ireland said.
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