The Parramatta Eels have threatened to play their 2019 NRL home games away from the new $300 million Western Sydney Stadium with an agreement yet to be reached.
The club has been negotiating with VenuesLive, the operator of the stadium, for six months but in a letter to club members said he refuses to sign the unacceptable commercial deal.
The 2019 NRL fixture is due to be released next week and it’s expected the venue for all Eels home games including the first in round 6 will now be listed as TBC.
The situation is not uncommon for new stadiums, with the Western Australian Football Commission, on behalf of the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers, taking nearly three years to reach an acceptable agreement with Optus Stadium.
The letter by Parramatta Eels CEO Bernie Gurr to fans on the club website went on to say,
“Our view that the current proposal is unacceptable has been confirmed after an extensive six-month due diligence process conducted by myself and other members of the management team. The due diligence process has included the engagement of a reputable consulting firm. Together we have benchmarked the commercial terms of the current offer against offerings currently being received by NRL and other sports at a range of stadiums across multiple states of Australia.
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“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.
“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.
“The club will also not compromise on key areas that are important to our members and supporters such as:
- Affordable food and beverage pricing and options
- A clear public transport plan for WSS to enable members to attend games smoothly
- Reasonable event costs to ensure affordable pricing for members and casual ticket holders
- Expanded opportunities for our corporate partners to help drive revenue for the club
- Better technology to enhance game day experience
“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 also said on the club’s website the club has played home games on the site since 1947 and expects to do the same in 2019 once a fair agreement was reached.
The Wests Tigers will also play three games per season at the new stadium while its other primary tenant will be A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers.
Meanwhile, construction of the new stadium came to a grinding halt recently, after NSW’s big wet forced the construction site to flood. Several days of heavy rain left a large amount of muddy water covering the playing field at the site.
It’s believed the flooding hasn’t caused any delays with the stadium still on track to be completed in time for Anzac Day 2019 however it remains to be seen if the Eels can reach an agreement with VenuesLive and run out onto their new home. The entire upper tier's precast structure is complete, while roof – including the membrane fabric – is largely in place as well.