Opposition Leader Luke Foley has ridiculed suggestions Allianz Stadium is a potential death trap, claiming the government’s push to knock down and rebuild the venue could jeopardise the 20-year commitment to stage NRL grand finals in Sydney.
As revealed by Fairfax Media, Sports Minister Stuart Ayres is expected to ask cabinet for more than $2 billion to knock down and rebuild both Allianz and ANZ stadiums on Thursday. It’s hoped the move will finally provide clarity around funding in the protracted stadium war, although it’s unclear if there will be an official announcement or an indication of which venue will be done first.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has stated she is not wedded to the $1.6 billion figure originally pledged by predecessor Mike Baird, although it remains to be seen if the money required to rebuild both venues from the ground will be forthcoming.
The NRL has stated transforming ANZ Stadium into a world-class rectangular stadium must be the priority, with the commitment to staging grand finals in Sydney contingent on that being the case.
Fairfax Media revealed in July that the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust had raised concerns about the safety of Allianz Stadium with the government, prompting a renewed examination into the feasibility of a total rebuild of the venue. Speaking at a ceremony marking the official commencement of construction of the NSWRL’s centre of excellence at ANZ on Wednesday, Ayres said the prospect of the Allianz being shut down was a real one.
“The occupancy certificate is that we have until 2019 to correct a number of the occupancy safety and security issues in the stadium,” Ayres said. “That will require investment one way or the other. If we can’t meet those ???requirements it is highly unlikely a certifier will give us an occupancy certificate.”
Foley slammed the safety concerns as rubbish, labelling them part of a campaign to divert funds from ANZ.
“They have dropped stories to the papers saying people are going to die, yet they still play there the next Saturday,” Foley said.
“Do you think any government, if people were at risk of dying in a government-owned venue, would open it the next weekend for a footy game? It’s just rubbish.
“It’s just Ayres trying to sabotage the cabinet decision to prioritise the Olympic Stadium and send the dollars east.”
Construction on a new stadium at Parramatta, at a cost of $350 million, has already begun. Foley wants total stadia spending capped at $1.6 billion and the priority given to demolishing and rebuilding ANZ, with any remaining funds then channelled towards Allianz. The Labor leader feared a failure to prioritise the Olympic venue could see the NRL’s showpiece event go interstate.
“The grand final should be played in Sydney,” Foley said.
“We think the government is risking the future of grand finals in Sydney by taking so damn long to make a decision. It’s year seven of this government and we still don’t know what their stadium policy is. Yet again we’re told we may get one later this week. How many times have we heard that?”
The sequencing of the works will have ramifications for all stadia tenants. If Allianz and ANZ are out of commission at the same time, the SCG could again play host to a league grand final.
Some have dubbed Thursday D-day amid hopes an announcement will clarify the government’s strategy. However, the “D” could well stand for more delays as the government decides how much to commit to the projects.
“The Premier has said numerous times that she is not wedded to $1.6 billion,” Ayres said. “We want to get this right. We need to make sure that this once-in-a-lifetime investment delivers for NSW for the next 30 or 40 years. I am not going to be rushed into doing that unnecessarily. We are pretty close.”