Rugby league boss Peter V’landys has accused the New South Wales Premier of using “human tragedy” to renege on a handshake agreement to revamp suburban stadiums.
- NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says he must prioritize disaster funding over stadium grants
- However, rugby league boss Peter V’landys has accused Mr Perrottet of making excuses for backing out their deal
- Mr V’landys claims the deal included hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade stadiums in Manly, Cronulla and Leichhardt
Mr V’landys is threatening to move the NRL grand finale from Sydney as a result, saying the sport had been “strung along” by the state government for three years.
He says Premier Dominic Perrottet this year promised to upgrade local grounds across the city as part of a deal to keep the game’s showpiece in the Harbor City until 2042.
“We shook hands. We looked each other in the eyes and we did a deal,” Mr V’landys told Nine radio this morning.
“He said, ‘You don’t need to have it in the budget, I can do it outside the budget’. And he reneged.”
Mr V’landys claims the deal included hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade aging stadiums in Manly, Cronulla and Leichhardt.
Mr Perrottet said circumstances had changed and his top priority is supporting people impacted by the state’s recent flood crises.
“Sydney will always be the home of rugby league,” Mr Perrottet said, and it would be on Mr V’landys to justify to supporters any plan to move the competition decider.
He said the government “remains committed” to upgrading suburban stadiums, but funding commitments would now be “staged” due to higher priorities, including the pandemic.
“That would be incredibly disappointing if we lost the grand finale,” Mr Perrottet said this morning.
“But the reality is I have to make decisions in the best interests of the people of New South Wales, and we have gone through a very difficult time as a state and … I have over 1,000 people without a home, based on the flooding that we have seen across New South Wales.
“The cost to the taxpayers in respect of that event is going to be significant, and my job as Premier, when circumstances change, priorities change as well.”
In a statement last night, the Premier said it “should come as no surprise” that supporting those devastated by major floods in NSW was “my top priority”.
The government had spent and committed $1.8 billion on sporting infrastructure for rugby league clubs, including centers of excellence and three new stadiums, Mr Perrottet said.
“The new state-of-the-art Allianz Stadium will open next month, Parramatta has a new, modern stadium and there is a commitment to build a new Penrith stadium so that the Western City has a world-class sporting venue,” he said.
“Sydney will always be the home of rugby league and, if Peter V’landys wants to take the Grand Final away from his home, then he can explain that to the fans.”
However, Mr V’landys hit back, accusing Mr Perrottet of making excuses for backing out of the deal.
“I used other excuses back then [in negotiations] to reduce the amount he was going to spend on these community assets,” he said.
“They’ve left it right until two weeks before we have to sell tickets to the grand finale.
“To use human tragedy to spin themselves out of it is unheralded in my eyes.”
The rugby league supreme says the sport’s administration could now seek to revive scrapped plans to redevelop Stadium Australia at Homebush for $800 million.
Those plans were shelved, with the money to be spent on the suburban grounds policy instead.
“It’s a legally binding agreement that we had with the state government,” Mr V’landys said.
He said disagreed that the game should fund stadium upgrades, arguing suburban infrastructure was a “community asset” that could inspire kids to play the game.
Mr V’landys said the proposals for Manly and Cronulla, “combined”, weren’t as much as the $300 million commitment to building a new stadium in Penrith.
Yesterday, the Sports Minister and Penrith MP, Stuart Ayres, said that building a new stadium in his electorate fit with the government’s three cities plan for Sydney.
Mr Ayres this morning resigned as a minister after weeks of pressure linked to former deputy premier John Barilaro’s appointment to a lucrative trade position based in New York.
West Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis backed Mr V’landys’ stance, saying the club would be “bitterly disappointed” if the agreement to revamp Leichhardt Oval was dumped.
“Leichhardt was supposed to get looked after and we’ve been putting together a compelling argument for a new stadium as well,” he said.
“The stadium policy from Peter V’Landys is absolutely the right one.”