Reduced capacity on the cards for rectangular ANZ Stadium

1 August 2017

A redeveloped ANZ Stadium could have a capacity as low as 65,000 – a scenario that would hurt Sydney's chances of attracting major events in the future, such as a football World Cup final.

More than 12 months after the state government announced a $1.6billion Sydney stadia plan, the allocation of those funds remains uncertain beyond a new stadium at Parramatta being built at a cost of $360 million.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has backed predecessor Mike Baird's pledge last year to prioritise redevelopment of the Olympic stadium, which was bought by the state government last year for around $200m, over an upgrade to Allianz Stadium. However, amid reports of a cost blowout that would see the price of a new ANZ Stadium balloon from a projected $750m to more than $1bn, a business case for the redevelopment of the venue is being prepared for the NSW government.

It is understood that one lower-cost option being considered for presentation is for the stadium seating to be reduced from a planned 75,000 capacity to between 65,000 and 70,000.

The ground's current capacity is 83,000 but there are concerns about what impact such a significant reduction could have on Sydney's ability and pulling power when it came to vying for major events.  Should Australia ever be awarded the football World Cup, for instance, FIFA's stadium requirements demand that the opening game and final of a World Cup be played at a venue with a capacity of at least 80,000.

News of the alternative being floated as the ANZ business case is finalised comes as NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg calls for work to begin on the stadium before a projected start date in 2019.

Greenberg has also sought a meeting with Berejiklian in the next fortnight to stress the code's desire for the stadium to be a world-class rectangular venue amid a push by Tony Shepherd, the chairman of Greater Western Sydney Giants as well as the SCG Trust, for it be oval shaped in order to be able to stage AFL and cricket matches.  After years of lobbying and intense debate, the NSW  government last year decided to rule in favour of providing the majority of its stadia investment into ANZ Stadium over Allianz Stadium.

It ended an ambitious push from NRL powerbrokers, NSW sports minister Stuart Ayres and the SCG Trust to build a new 60,000-seat stadium at Moore Park.

A 30,000-seat stadium at Parramatta was agreed upon as the first priority, with construction under way to have the new venue up and running in time for the 2019 NRL season. It was predicted the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium would then begin at the completion of Parramatta Stadium and take four years to finish with matches to be played at the Olympic venue throughout the construction phase.

However there is an option to now close down the stadium for two years, halving the construction period to fast-track the redevelopment and allow play to resume in 2021.

During the reconstruction of ANZ Stadium, it's likely the NRL would  take Sydney State of Origin matches to the SCG, with the grand final likely to go on the road to Brisbane for at least one year during that period.

It is understood SCG Trust powerbrokers are lobbying  to get the state government to backflip on its original allocation, pushing for a 40,000-seat stadium on the existing site instead of their original bold proposal for a 60,000-seat stadium on Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust land.

Allianz Stadium tenants, the Roosters, Waratahs and Sydney FC, all turned against Ayres last year after claiming they were "cheated" during negotiations in which they were given guarantees a new stadium would be built on a different site to their current home.