The financial implications of a “dead rubber” State of Origin game at Accor Stadium between NSW and Queensland on July 12 could be disastrous for the sport. Should NSW lose the second game on June 21, the third game could lose out on $3.5 million in ticket sales alone, with thousands of discounted tickets potentially being sold as the game will be nothing more than a pride match. Accommodation, bar and restaurant revenue, merchandise sales, and TV viewership figures are all also likely to suffer should the series be already wrapped up by Queensland before the third game.
In 2016, when NSW hosted a third game with the series already lost to Queensland, 61,267 fans attended the match, 20,000 short of capacity. The NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) officials worry that such poor attendance could be repeated if the series is already decided when the teams take to the field at Suncorp Stadium. Dave Trodden, chief executive of the NSWRL, has urged his team to ensure that they keep the series alive and give fans the chance to fill the stadium for the final game in Sydney.
A sell-out at Accor Stadium (formerly ANZ Stadium) in Sydney typically generates revenues of around $15 million. QLD currently lead the series 1-0 after their win over the Blues in Adelaide on June 9, but should NSW win the second game, officials know that the decider will be an 80,000-plus sellout at Accor. If this happens, the NSWRL, NRL, and Queensland Rugby League will split the gate takings. The Blues collect the sales of their Blatchys Blues membership. This number will vary between 5,000 and 13,000, depending on whether the game decides the series.
Despite the potential financial losses that a “dead rubber” could cause, Trodden has suggested that a victory for Brad Fittler‘s team may not automatically extend his time as coach should he go on to lose the series. However, a comeback series victory would see Fittler extend his contract up until 2024. Trodden has praised Fittler for his work in reviving the game in NSW, particularly in rural areas.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has called for the NSW team to remain focused on winning both of the remaining games, highlighting that there is always something to play for in State of Origin matches. Adelaide Oval drew a crowd of more than 48,000 for the opening match of the series, including over 15,000 fans who travelled from interstate. Melbourne will host an Origin game next year, while Perth may be a possible venue for one game in 2025.