The NSW government just spent $300 million on a new football stadium -- and now the team it's built for doesn't want to play there

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
  • The 30,000-seat Western Sydney Stadium, built on the site of the former home ground for the NRL team Parramatta, is due to open in early 2019.
  • The footy club’s CEO today told members they’d spent six months negotiating with the venue operator but “the current proposal is unacceptable”.
  • The club has a range of concerns including the cost of drinks, food and tickets at the venue, as well as the financial implications for the team.
  • With the NRL’s 2019 season calendar due out next week, Parramatta home games could be marked as TBC.

The Parramatta Eels don’t want to play rugby league at the new $300 million Western Sydney Stadium (WSS) next season because the deal being offered by the company running the venue will cost them financially.

The delay striking a deal means that when the 2019 NRL season drawer is released next week Parramatta home games will be marked as TBC on the venue. The side has been playing home games at ANZ Stadium at Homebush during the construction period after the old venue and adjacent swimming pool were demolished to make way for the 30,000-seat venue.

Eels CEO Bernie Gurr wrote to club members today saying that the board and management had been dealing with the commercial agreement for WSS for six months but were “offered commercial terms by the stadium operator that are not acceptable to the Board of the Parramatta Eels Club or the Parramatta Leagues Club”.

Gurr said the club had benchmarked their offer from operator VenuesLive against other NRL deals and stadiums and “the current proposal is unacceptable”.

“The current proposal if accepted would adversely affect the ability of our Club to invest in our Football Department including our NRL team and our junior elite football programs,” he wrote.

“The current agreement at ANZ has adversely impacted the Club financially and we are not prepared to accept a new agreement that will continue to impact the Club negatively for the next 25 years.”

Infrastructure NSWConstruction progress at the Western Sydney Stadium in August 2018.

The club’s concerns range from the cost and options for food and drinks, ticket costs, both for members and casual visitors, public transport plans, a better deal for corporate partners and better tech on game days.

“In the interests of arriving at a fair and reasonable deal, we are continuing our discussions with the stadium operator in an attempt to resolve this matter quickly so that our Members and supporters have a clear understanding of the WSS schedule for 2019,” Gurr wrote.

The Eels were expecting to play their opening game at the stadium in late April next year – the site has been their home ground since 1947 – but are prepared to play elsewhere until “we have a fair and reasonable commercial arrangement”.

Western Sydney Stadium, is owned by Venues NSW, on behalf of the NSW Government. VenuesLive, the company operating the venue, also looks after the government-owned ANZ stadium at Homebush as well as Perth’s government-owned Optus Stadium.

NSW sports minister Stuart Ayres announced VenuesLive had won the contract to manage the venue in April this year. The deal includes managing events and catering, securing event content and ticketing.

In response to the announcement from Gurr, a VenuesLive spokesperson told Business Insider every attempt is being made to strike a deal in time for the release of the 2019 NRL draw.

“The Eels are one of the great Sydney sporting clubs with one of the biggest supporter bases in the NRL, and the club has an enormous opportunity playing out of the new 30,000-seat Western Sydney Stadium from 2019,” they said.

“While a deal has not been reached at this time, we remain committed to working with the Eels to ensure their Members and fans get to see all that the magnificent new Stadium has to offer in season 2019 and beyond.”

The failure to secure a deal in time is another embarrassing moment for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Ayres amid the ongoing controversy over nearly $2 billion in expenditure on three football stadiums with 30km of each other.

Last week Ayres revealed the design for the $729 million rebuild of Sydney Football Stadium, which is about to get underway with a 2022 completion date, while the $810 million refurbishment of ANZ stadium, which begins next year, will transform the site into a rectangular field, and is due to be completed by 2021.

The government had planned to spend $1.3 billion on knocking down and rebuilding the 19-year-old former Olympic stadium, but following a major community backlash and an analysis of the business case, Berejiklian changed her mind in March this year in favour of a refurbishment.

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