NRL boss Andrew Abdo has confirmed that there are no plans to review the league’s venue policy for future finals series, despite the possibility of many disappointed fans being unable to attend the highly anticipated clash between the Cronulla Sharks and the Sydney Roosters. The elimination final, scheduled for Saturday, saw almost all seated tickets sold out within an hour of the members’ pre-sale, leaving only single seats available by midday. Although a limited number of tickets have been reserved for the general public on Tuesday, it is expected that the match will sell out shortly after they go on sale at 10 am.
With a combined average crowd of 36,000 this year, the Roosters and Sharks have a total of 34,000 club members. However, due to the redevelopment of the adjoining leagues club, PointsBet Stadium has a reduced capacity of only 13,500, making it the smallest ground in the NRL this year. Despite this, the league allows clubs to choose where they host their first-week finals match, and there is little incentive for Cronulla to move the match away from their traditional home. Relocating to a larger venue such as Allianz Stadium would provide the Roosters with a home-ground advantage, and since clubs do not receive gate takings for finals matches, it is not financially beneficial for them.
In 2011, the NRL moved away from using suburban grounds to avoid fans being locked out of finals matches, but they made a comeback in 2019 due to the redevelopment of several major stadiums. Former CEO Todd Greenberg previously stated that the league would consider returning to bigger stadiums once the major venues were back in operation. However, Andrew Abdo emphasised that there is currently no intention to make any changes. He stressed that the first week of finals is about rewarding the club for their ladder finish and the fans who supported them along the way. Abdo believes that the capacity constraints highlight the league’s advocacy for government investment in suburban grounds, expressing their desire for investment in Shark Park to increase capacity over time and enhance the overall fan experience.
Both Roosters and Sharks members were given equal access to tickets on the day they went on sale. This means that there is a possibility of the away team’s supporters outnumbering the home team’s fans on Saturday. Despite this, Sharks captain Wade Graham confirmed the team’s appreciation for the opportunity to play at their home ground for the first round of the finals, highlighting the significance of the venue to the players and fans. He expressed hope for future developments that would provide a stadium that the community truly deserves. Conversely, Roosters captain James Tedesco expressed no concerns about playing at the smaller venue, acknowledging that it was fair for the Sharks to have the advantage since they finished higher on the ladder.
In conclusion, while there may be frustrations regarding the limited capacity at PointsBet Stadium for the upcoming elimination final between the Cronulla Sharks and the Sydney Roosters, the NRL has maintained its venue policy and does not plan to reconsider its stance. Cronulla fans can look forward to the home-ground advantage, while the league emphasizes the need for investment in suburban grounds to enhance the fan experience. Both team captains, Wade Graham and James Tedesco, have shared their thoughts on the matter, with Graham expressing the hope for future improvements and Tedesco highlighting the fairness of playing at the smaller venue.